Visi(bi)lity: Finding Realism in Rose By Any Other Name
One of the best parts of writing for Bitch has been hearing from folks who read the series, particularly when they recommend media I've never seen before. Such is the case with Rose By Any Other Name, a web series that recently finished its second season. Produced by Kyle Schickner of FenceSitter Films, the series follows Rose, a woman coming to terms with her bisexuality after falling in love with a man, Anthony (played by Schickner). The episodes chronicle Rose's relationship with Anthony as she struggles to find a way to talk about her identity with her lesbian friends, the new acquaintances she's met in a bisexual support group, and Anthony himself. The show is incredibly funny and emotional, but most importantly, it's honest.
I watched the pilot episode, as well as all of Season Two (though you can bet I'll be catching up on Season One soon). More than most bi-centric movies and television shows I've watched, Rose By Any Other Name depicts a reality to which I relate, even if the specifics of the experiences differ. Actually, a lot of aspects of the story do mirror my own experience—a woman who identifies as a lesbian falls in love with a man, they keep the relationship concealed from friends initially, said woman has difficulty owning the label "bisexual," etc. These are all experiences I went through about five years ago. And, in a sense, Rose By Any Other Name resonates with me because it's the first show I've seen that not only reflects these experiences, but does so in a compelling, authentic way.
Even if my own experiences didn't so closely resemble Rose's, however, I believe I would still respond strongly to this show, largely because there's a complexity to the storylines that is not typically found in traditional episodic television that tackles bisexuality. Rose feels authentic because she knows she doesn't have all the answers yet. She isn't fully accepting of herself, but she also isn't lying to herself or trying to suppress feelings she knows she has. She's a woman on a journey, and the series allows her to take that journey at her own pace, without forcing it.
Similarly, the other characters are believable in their complexities. Though Rose's friends don't understand what she's going through, and though they aren't aware of their own biphobia at times, it's clear that the decisions they make are done to help her, rather than to consciously harm her. I wish Anthony didn't come across as clueless about queer issues as he tends to, but the fact is, that's probably realistic, too. A lot of straight men who get involved with queer women, especially those transitioning from self-identifying as gay to self-identifying as bi, probably lack the knowledge and expertise to support their lovers in the way that they need. But what's most important is that, despite his cluelessness, Anthony comes across as someone who genuinely loves Rose and wants to support her, even if he doesn't always know how. Rather than convincing himself that he "changed" her, he's happy to love her just as she is.
The beauty of web-based media is that it opens the doors to voices traditionally shut out of the mainstream. If bi folks have difficulty finding images in cinemas and on television screens that authentically resemble their feelings and experiences, it's no surprise that they may have an easier time finding said images on the Internet. Anyone from reputable independent filmmakers, like Schickner, to amateur producers looking to find an audience can shoot episodic media for online distribution. And without the politics of networks and Hollywood production companies complicating the process and imposing restrictions on what can and cannot be explored, filmmakers are able to tell the stories they want to tell, knowing they will be seen without making compromises. Rose By Any Other Name is indicative of a shift happening in media, where the truly bold and innovative stories are being told online. It's good to know that, when mainstream media sources lack the right images, there's another, more accessible place to turn to find them.
If you're looking for a funny, frank look at bisexuality, I highly recommend checking out Rose By Any Other Name. You can watch Season Two on YouTube. Discovering this show has made me wonder what other bi-centric web series are out there. Do any of you have favorites to recommend?
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