College senior majoring in English and math, and a literature, film, and TV enthusiast.
- Plebian Penman
- Sharp-Eyed Citizen
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Larry is ignorant. There is no question about that. But having Larry be the only character to mention bisexuality IS wrong. I’ve read a lot of arguments claiming that various characters should be excused for their ignorance because of their SES, but this begs the question: exactly which socioeconomic status do people think a character should come from in order to have an understanding of bisexuality (and a plethora of other topics that I’ve seen this argument used to defend)? The show features characters from so many different backgrounds. Is there no one who might understand bisexuality? And ignorance can certainly be a crime, but I won’t go into that now.
This show is not mirroring bisexual erasure in society to prove a point. To do that, the show would have to offer some sort of commentary on bisexual erasure. It doesn’t. It simply continues to erase bisexuality, and that DOES matter. It leads to more people internalizing the notion that bisexuality is not a unique identity in itself, thus perpetuating the bi erasure that is already prevalent in society.
In a perfect society, where prejudice was nonexistent, labels might not be necessary. Unfortunately, our society isn’t perfect. Labels provide a sense of identity to marginalized people. They can provide a community where people can find support amidst a society that doesn’t understand them. I find that most often, the argument of “why do we need all these labels?” is used by people who don’t want to bother with learning about identities other than their own. You mention the spectrum of sexuality, so you understand that sexuality is not binary; obviously, there are more sexualities than just gay and straight. The identities you mentioned fit perfectly in a non-binary understanding of sexuality: they are labels, and there are people who identify with them. “Do we need all of these labels? Are they that important to fulfilling one’s identity?” Yes. “Does anyone even KNOW what label best fits them?” Yes, people who label themselves do. “Can these labels change?” Yes. That’s the idea of fluid sexuality, which I mentioned in my article.
I realize that you don’t mean to be offensive, but it’s hard not to take offense at the notion that Piper’s sexuality is a reflection of her personal issues. You say that “HER bisexuality is just another manifestation of HER confusion.” That is one of the toxic ideas that I was attempting to combat with this article. Bisexual people are not “confused.” Any of Piper’s confusion surrounding whether she wants to be with Larry or Alex doesn’t have anything to do with their respective genders or confusion about her sexuality. Piper’s trouble with deciding who she wants to be with is a reflection of her indecisiveness about what she wants out of her life (simply put, travel and adventure with Alex, safe but bland with Larry), but her confusion is NOT about whether she is attracted to either of them. Again, bisexual people are not confused.
Finally, you are correct in saying that it’s not fair to judge a person solely on their sexual orientation. I’m certainly not doing that with Piper, and most of the criticism I’ve read about her focuses on other aspects of her identity—for example, how she’s a self-proclaimed “emotionally manipulative narcissist.” I’m not judging her on her sexuality; I’m judging the way the show handles it. The writers deftly handle so many different issues, so why can’t they acknowledge the bisexuality of any of the characters?
I completely agree…I don’t think I could keep watching if they killed Grace off!
That Pam quote is exactly what I was thinking!
Couldn’t stop listening to this soundtrack after seeing the movie! I like your analysis, particularly of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
You make a lot of good points, particularly the idea that being in prison forces these women to confront their demons. I disagree, however, with your claim that prison becomes a sanctuary and refuge. The inmates face deplorable conditions, and while it’s true that they might not have a place to go on the outside, this is largely due to having been in prison in the first place. Generally speaking, that’s a problem faced by many people in the U.S. who are sent to prison–once they are released, it is far more difficult for them to find jobs, housing, etc. afterward, particularly if they don’t have a support system like Piper does. But I can see how, once incarcerated, these women are afraid to go back to a world that will treat them so harshly.
This is a really interesting article! Your analysis of Red is particularly apt.
“Ward was clearly a victim of abuse in his youth, but that does not justify his villainous acts. There are plenty of people, and characters, who experience troubled childhoods and grow up to not murder people. Skye, for example. The idea that one justifies the other is a troubling and damaging idea. Revealing more traumatic back-story while showing his remorse in an attempt to redeem the character seems an absurd idea at this point.” You hit the nail on the head here. Such a plot is toxic—when writers excuse villainous acts because of past abuse or trauma, it only serves to further the idea that the villain has no choice in their actions. A redemption arc like that would only cause more people to internalize the idea that a traumatic past justifies future violence.
This is a great article! I especially love that you honed in on how good impressions are rooted in truth and in not being mean-spirited. Both of those aspects are crucial to a good impression.