BiMediaWatch: Teentastic TV
Success! Last issue’s BiMediaWatch column’s grumbled about how BCN cover star Alex Kingston’s Doctor Who character River Song was bisexual according to the show’s writer’s twitter account yet this was never canon within the show itself. On the Christmas Day special we were treated to a proud aside in her reflections on her life about “my second wife”. A properly canon bisexual female character to match up against John Barrowman’s role as Jack Harkness’ nearly ten years ago.
This month I’ve been mostly watching teen drama, and feeling glad there weren’t mobile phones and facebook when I was at school.
Long-running Canadian counterpart to Grange Hill Degrassi has had a couple of openly bi characters for a while.
With the 2016 run on its new home of Netflix the writers had to cram everything into ten episodes rather than the two dozen or so of previous years, which might explain the way they decided to go about addressing biphobia.
At the start of the new school year two of the three candidates for student president are ex boyfriends: one bisexual, one gay. Cue a competition for the role, with biphobia and some bi-self-affirming.
Tristan – gay – launches his campaign under the slogan of everyone’s gay best friend, inspiring Miles to go with I play for every team posters. A clinch between them is followed by Tristan spotting Miles being flirty with a girl student. At the candidates debate this explodes into the accusation that Miles is dishonest and “can’t even decide if you like boys or girls.”
The biphobia twist is left open, without any clear resolution or comeback on the idea that bisexuals should make up their minds, which might be disappointing but is an honest reflection of experience for a lot of bi people.
Like any good teen drama it’s full of Issues: while the biphobia has been playing out we’ve also been helped to think about whether masturbation is OK, drug use, telling partners you may have given them an STI, and parental pressure not to have gay friends.
It’s grand to see biphobia, including from gay people, depicted on a show aimed at teenagers who may be trying to deal with it. Some of the fan postings I follow angsted that surely a gay person wouldn’t express sexuality prejudice – a sad realisation many readers will relate to.
Then we have another bi subplot; exploding the idea that everyone is bisexual really – and the related dodgy-research myth that even if not everyone is bisexual, all women are. Zoe and Grace are close friends who kiss. Propelled by one’s desire for the other they wind up in bed… after which Grace has to confess that it didn’t feel right; that it didn’t move her the way boys do.
Being teen drama, Zoe then gets revenge by making out with the boy Grace is interested in, but it’s all wrapped round a good message about trying things you might like and being able to say no to doing them again after.
The fifth season of Teen Wolf has been back teasing around the B, including the casual asking of whether someone might be dating “a woman. Or a man,” without dropping a beat.
But after bi queerbaiting the fanbase the show retreated back from actually making a central character come out as bisexual. Actor Cody Saintgnue was a touch off-message talking to the Advocate about it, commenting that “Bisexual characters… people don’t know what to do with them because they don’t know what you are. It’s cool to break labels and get people more familiar with what that is.” I’m good with the first half. Bisexual though, that’s definitely a label. Maybe he meant binaries not labels?
Over to Channel 4 for January’s six-part comedy Crashing with requited, frustrated and hotly denied attractions flowing in every direction. ‘Probably-going-to-turn-out-bi’ character Sam’s antics make me think of the phrase “a face in search of a slap”, and there’s bonus cliche points for a predatory bi twist in episode six, but no-one comes out of this one well. At thirty minutes a pop it’s an evening’s bingewatch on the 4ODplayer.
Bi Telly Futures
Good news from Netflix on another show we have a love/hate relationship with: Orange Is The New Black is back in June with Netflix promising three more seasons.