Depictions of Bisexuality in Television/Film

Bisexual people are criminally underrepresented in mainstream media. Bisexuality is often referred to flippantly or treated as a joke, if mentioned at all. But what about the bisexual characters that do exist? How are they portrayed and how does their sexuality factor into their characterization? Examples include Frank Underwood from House of Cards and Oberyn Martell from Game of Thrones. For these two characters, bisexuality seems to be an extension of their personalities (Frank’s greed and hunger for power–he uses sexuality to control people; Oberyn’s hedonism and laissez-faire attitude–there is also the issue of racist stereotypes at work here). Other series with bisexual characters include Orange is the New Black and Pretty Little Liars.

Another concern: when are we going to call a spade a spade in reference to bisexual characters? Why do writers refuse to actually use the word "bisexual"? Only ever having characters describe themselves/others as being "fluid" sexually, or providing vague descriptions ("I like what I like," etc.) is a cop-out.

What’s at stake here? Increased (and better) representation of bisexuality in television and film is necessary. It is vital that bisexual people (especially young people) be able to see and identify with characters like themselves. Being able to see oneself in a fictional character can be comforting and empowering. Increased visibility will help bisexual people feel less marginalized and assure them that their identities are valid.

  • This is an excellent topic. As a bisexual woman, I find it appalling that there is almost no representation of bisexuality in mainstream media. I think it would be interesting to expand on that concern that you discuss in your second-to-last paragraph; why are people so afraid to say the word "bisexual" on television? – Kathleen Lassiter 9 years ago
  • I think this is a great idea. Perhaps, you could also look at certain elements of bisexual representations which should be avoided or seen as too stereotypical (e.g. Brittany from Glee). Also, maybe, look at comedic characters which are bisexual (e.g. Pam from Archer, GOB from Arrested Development, etc.) and whether comedy originating from a person's sexuality should be considered valid. – Matthew Sims 9 years ago
  • Another character that could be explored is Dorian Gray from both the most recent film as well as the television series Penny Dreadful. He's shown to be bisexual in both instances and he rather uses this to his advantage. Another course you could take is whether a bisexual character leans toward one sex more than the other. One would expect that if a bisexual character were to be a lead in a Hollywood film they would end up with a woman (as is what (kind of) happens in the Dorian Gray film). – Jamie White 9 years ago
  • On the show The 100, Clarke's bisexuality was a natural evolution of her character as she made an alliance with another powerful female leader and they were forced to learn how to merge their separate followings. The 100 airs on the CW Network which has a primarily teenage audience and Clarke's sexuality is depicted in a very honest way to viewers about a teenage girl growing up. – katrinafowler 9 years ago

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