Full disclosure: I love Paul Verhoeven’s movies. I’m a fan of RoboCop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers...and, yes, even Showgirls. (Stay tuned for more about Showgirls later in this series.) These movies may not be cinematic masterpieces, but they are entertaining, escapist fun. So when I decided to give Basic Instinct a try, I was actually looking forward to it. I expected to enjoy it, even if only in a campy sense.
As I’ve read through the comments on my first two posts (thank you for those, by the way!), I’ve noticed an interesting trend that relates to what I want to talk about today: A lot of folks seem to have mixed feelings about the word “bisexual.” Some are uncomfortable using it because of the way others react to hearing it; some prefer other words to describe non-monosexual attraction, such as pansexual, queer, or fluid. I understand the reasons why “bisexual” doesn’t work for everyone (for a long time, it didn’t work for me, either), and I’m not interested in dictating language choice or policing identities. Labels are personal, and different people react to words differently. However, I am interested in exploring the reasons why people choose the labels they do and, similarly, the reasons why many people resist the label of “bisexual.”
In 2005, Brittany Blockman and Josephine Decker took a road trip across the United States and interviewed people about bisexuality. The result of their project was a documentary film: Bi the Way. In order to understand the fictional images of bisexuality that fill our cinema and television screens, it’s important to take some time to analyze the ways in which bisexuality is depicted in nonfiction media. Bi the Way is a good starting place, since it’s a film that allows its subjects to speak honestly and freely, without an overt agenda from the filmmakers. But is that enough to make it a compelling film that advances realistic bisexual visibility?
Over the next eight weeks, I will explore both progressive and problematic depictions of bisexuality in order to see how far we’ve come and how much progress still needs to be made. Together, we will look at examples in film, television, music, celebrity culture, and new media. And, with any luck, we will be able to start a discussion about what the media could be doing to increase realistic and positive depictions of bisexual identities and, by extension, advance bisexual acceptance.