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.
Designer Tom Ford once told Details magazine: "There’s one indulgence every man should try in his lifetime. If you’re straight, sleep with a man at least once, and if you’re gay, don’t go through life without sleeping with a woman."
Gucci's sartorial savant could—pardon the following phrase—"get away with" that—pardon the following adjective—"edgy" quote since he's an out gay man. Having already wandered away from the heteronormative fold, of course it's fine for him to explore both male and female physical contact. A straight guy saying that? Whoa, buddy, you've gotta be gay. Because male bisexuality doesn't exist, right? Oh, wait.
The first panel of the third row is by far my favorite, contrasting the dominant culture’s reaction to two forms of sexual attraction. From private conversations I’ve had with gay men in the past I know that some of them believe that this is evidence that same sex attraction is easier for women than men, but both reactions are harmful and disgusting. In the second, the sight or idea of two men being affectionate (or even sitting "unnaturally close to each other, effeminately rubbing elbows and exchanging doe-eyes") makes the viewer repulsed, angry, uncomfortable, or violent and leads to immediate policing by word or action. But in the first a personal act of affection is being extruded through another person’s fetish and commodified for that person’s pleasure and consumption. Having a narrative forced onto your love life isn’t fun or easy for anyone. Additionally, the same man declaring two women kissing is hot can become violent very quickly if his advances are met with anything less than enthusiasm.