What's the line between friendship and romance? This is a big question that we'll address throughout this series, but today, I want to explore it in the context of heterosexual male friendships. Specifically, I want to explore it in the context of the 21st century's offshoot of the buddy comedy—the "bromance."
I used to be a regular Glee viewer. For the first two seasons, it was possible (though not necessarily easy) for me to look past the cringe-worthy storylines and enjoy the musical sequences. But as each new episode aired, it became harder and harder to not feel angry about the one-dimensional characters and Ryan Murphy's obvious lack of ability to write for women, people of color, and people with disabilities. And honestly? With the exception of Kurt, the show's handling of queer issues has been disastrous, too.
I stopped watching Glee after seeing Season 3's episode "I Kissed a Girl," during which Santana performs Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" as if it were a song about lesbian reclamation rather than performative bisexuality for the sake of male spectators. (Don't worry, we will address Perry's song and what negative messages it sends about bisexuality later in this series!) But this episode wasn't the first time the show dropped the ball on queer representation. Season 2's episode "Blame It on the Alcohol" stands out as a prime example of Glee missing the mark on bisexuality, particularly bisexual men.
I have never been much of a reality television viewer, and any lingering desire I may have had to watch reality shows disappeared after I read Jennifer Pozner's Reality Bites Back earlier this year. But as soon as I heard about the new season of America's Next Top Model, I realized I had to give it a shot. That's because Cycle 18 of ANTM features not one, but TWO openly queer women. And one of them is bi-identified Laura LaFrate.
Yesterday, I wrote about one of the worst bisexual characters I've ever seen. By contrast, I want to spend today focusing on one of the best bisexual characters I've ever seen: Dr. Calliope (Callie) Torres on Grey's Anatomy. I'm not a regular viewer of Grey's; though I understand why many viewers love it, the show just isn't my cup of tea. But I will absolutely give it credit for its excellent depictions of women, people of color, and queer people, all of which culminate in the nuanced depiction of Callie. Her characterization manages to avoid the stereotypes commonly found in explicitly bi characters, allowing her to be a positive, realistic, three-dimensional bi woman.
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.
I'm an affectionate person, almost everyone I've dated or been friends with commenting on that. But whenever I am out in public with my fiancée, I become self-consciously affectionate. Not because I'm concerned about what nasty thoughts people might think about seeing such queerness, but because of what they fail to think.
This post is about what I consider to be one way of being the change I want to see. I think of it as a small public education intervention that I do almost every day.