Bisexual Characters On TV: Stereotypes And Subversions

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*SPOILERS AHEAD*

For those of us who struggle to find pleasure in reading, we look to the screen as a means of escape. We long to hide away from normality and have a breath of freedom, whether it be in dystopian realms or historical eras. However, none of this would be possible without having a relatable character for us to invest in these fictional worlds, and to look to in times of comfort. Sometimes it’s our polar opposite, other times it’s the character whose situation seems the most recognisable. However, like with much of the LGBTQ+ community, positive bisexual representation is hard to find; often hidden behind harsh stereotypes and layers of bi-erasure. Sometimes bisexual characters are promiscuous cheaters, other times they’re presented as going through a ‘phase’ or trying to get attention. Like anyone else, bisexual individuals are normal and valid. For me, these are the characters that have captured my heart and managed to subvert basic media stereotypes and tropes. Fair warning: they’re all from drama or supernatural shows, apparently they’re the only genres I watch.

The Unlabelled Bisexual

For me, the most prominent feature of bi-erasure in television is the refusal to mention the word on-screen. Some characters are assumed to be bisexual, but as viewers we will never know due to this ambiguity, unless confirmation comes from cast and crew. It’s a harmful portrayal, and presents the idea that bisexuality isn’t as valid as other sexualities.

A more positive example though, due to the context of the show, is Sterling Wesley (Maddie Phillips) from Teenage Bounty Hunters. In the season finale, she shares a heartfelt moment with her sister Blair, where she describes herself in the “blue-pink-purple part” of sexuality, of course a reference to the iconic colours of the bisexual flag. While she never explicitly comes out as bisexual, it’s understandable due to her conservative background in which sexuality is a very new concept for her. Her self-discovery with April is fresh and vulnerable. As a sixteen-year-old, she’s a role model for a younger generation, especially those from more conservative religious backgrounds. It will forever be a shame that the show being cancelled means we won’t see this explored further, but it’s a step closer to bisexuality being mentioned on-screen, and that’s what counts.

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