Degrassi: Next Class came back for another bingewatch season on Netflix. We get some bi plot again as well as lots about being outed to a homophobic parent, teen pregnancy, being queer and a Muslim refugee… Really, at ten episodes a season this show throws in the kitchen sink, to the point where you could have someone on Eastenders watching it and remarking what hard and complicated lives the kids at Degrassi live.
Last season’s bus crash cliffhanger left Tristan (who we met in BiMediaWatch at last year’s school president hustings had said no-one would want a president who couldn’t decide if they were gay or straight) in a coma while boyfriend Miles (at whom the biphobia was aimed – and for such an issues education kind of show we’ve never had a preachy roll back on that bit) pines for him.
Miles winds up cheating on Tristan with Lola, which does get us a bit of bi discussion as she talks about losing her virginity to a boy who has a boyfriend, and after the hustings plot it’s a far more bi-positive scene.
But now we have the fine old trope of the cheating bi boyfriend, and I’ll not spoiler how that works out when Tristan wakes up and Miles has to work out what to say.
“Going Straight” was a play on Radio 4/Extra putting the lie to the common idea that bisexuality is a “stopping off point” on the way to being gay or lesbian. It’s sixteen years since Alan Davies appeared on TV as a gay man who falls for a straight woman in Bob and Rose, and this visited similar themes.
At its heart it felt like the story of two sisters Sophie (straight) and Emma (gay). Emma meets a man and they wind up in bed, which develops into a fling, and the responses of people close to her make for a good reflection of how people can surprise you when coming out.
In the past her sister has always sounded supportive while their dad somehow blamed his daughter’s homosexuality on their long-deceased mother. But when Emma tells them both they react in the reverse of what she might expect.
“Do you ever wonder why you want your sister to be a lesbian?” their father asks in response to her sister’s biphobia.
He turns to his other daughter and asks what this means for who she is now.
“Bisexual?” he asks Emma.“Yeah”“What do you mean, ‘yeah’?” yelps Sophie.“I don’t mean. I mean. It is complicated. Non binary gender, trans, all that. It’s not straightforward. Straight.”
Emma’s allyship proves to only go as far as the “L” in LGBT. “I give up. I truly give up. People fighting for you, defending you, loving you, and this is what you say.”
One of the things I’ve long thought about bisexuality is that through varying relationships we can be more clearly reminded about homophobia than gay and lesbian people, as some of our relationships are more socially accepted than others. Emma reflects on going out on a date with a man after years with women and no longer getting homophobic remarks or being read as friends rather than a couple: “When you go out, for a drink say …you are not in the closet or out, you’re just a person.”
Straight girl friends try to sound supportive:
“They say we are all bisexual really”
“Yeah you can cross over, cross back”
“I have the odd fantasy thing… I’m a great believer in experimenting”
We are all bi really: one of those double-edged swords of support. If we’re all bi really, you aren’t bi really and it can’t really be causing you any problems.
Emma hears all the biphobia from her sister and internalises it; wrestles with her conscience and the idea she’s betrayed her oppressed fellow queers: “Is it true? Are you sleeping with the enemy?”
It’s a good hour and a bit story of the dilemmas of being true to yourself in a world that wants people to be more simple, and more unchanging. The programme should still be on the iPlayer when this issue of BCN lands on doormats – try www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08jlm8w
Imposters (for anyone whose TV package includes Virgin Media on Demand) is a fun show about three people who work together to steal the fortunes of the wealthy. To spoiler it a little, it’s a bit like an evil Charlie’s Angels.
Further spoiler alert – episode two ends with the first two husbands rocking up at what they think is their wife’s home, to find a strange woman answering the door. When shown a photo of the woman both of the men have married and asked “do you know this woman…” she replies, “she’s my wife.”
Yes, dipping into the big bag of bi cliche with the bisexual you can’t trust and who will leave you a wreck. But hey, it’s what the show is all about, so complaining about negative representation there is a little bit like complaining that the bisexual character in a mafia show has affiliations with the mob.
Netflix has hired Bill Nye of 1990s The Science Guy to make a new programme about science, Bill Nye Saves The World, episode nine of which looked at gender and sexuality with nerdish excitement. “Sure, this might make things confusing for those who insist everyone must pick an M or an F. But people: we have to listen to the science, and the science says we’re all on a spectrum… It’s more complicated but it’s more honest and it’s more interesting” is a lovely educational line. We travel from the abacus of gender, sexuality, sex and expression to a slightly peculiar analogy of ice cream flavours to explore the effectiveness of ‘gay cure’ therapy, via a short debate on the ‘gay gene’ (“Is there such a thing as a gay gene? No.”). BCN readers might be familiar with a lot of the ground covered but it’s good to have something you can view on demand to help other people start thinking and talking around some of the issues. Though you might want to fast forward through the Rachel Bloom song which is, er, not up to her usual standard…
While we’re on that channel though, and spoilering next issue’s BiMediaWatch, let’s note that Sense8 is about to land on Netflix with its second season.
Doctor Who in the past decade has given us a couple of bi characters in Jack Harkness and River Song, and the new upcoming run has attracted a lot of press for the first ‘gay companion’ joining the show. It depends what counts as one of the Doctor’s companions but it feels a little erasing of recent show history – Jenny and Madame Vastra both had a certain sidekick quality and gave every impression of also being lesbians.
Finally looking forward to upcoming TV, in May BBC3 will be adding to their on-demand content a series called Queer Britain with Riyadh Khalaf taking us on a tour of LGBTQ life. We’re promised it will touch on racism, body image, homelessness, faith and suchlike. We’ll have to see whether the B makes it into the mix in any of those.
Meanwhile in the inky press… “That whole certainty about whether you’re straight or gay or whatever. You’re not confused if you’re bisexual. It’s not confusing at all. For me, it’s quite the opposite,” says actress Kristen Stewart in The Guardian ahead of the release of her new film Personal Shopper.
Veterans of bisexual sloganeering will recognise the message of the old “I’m bisexual; you’re confused” teeshirts in there.
Also in print Texas’ LGBT paper the Dallas Voice carried a query on its relationship advice page in its March 17 edition.
“I don’t see enough information about bisexuals even though we make up over 50 percent of the LGBTQIA community. I’m curious as to why that is and why homosexuals and heterosexuals still want to say, ‘make a choice’.”
It got an interesting reply from Cassie Nova:
“I think many of us don’t fully understand it and that’s why people say you should make a choice. Unfortunately, labels make things easier for some to handle. To be honest, if I were single, dating a bisexual man would scare the hell out of me. I’m not talking about once you are in an established relationship, but when it’s new, how do you compete with the opposite sex? I don’t have what she has. It is mentally a little overwhelming thinking about how hard relationships can be and feeling like you have to watch out for a whole other gender.
“I know these thoughts are based on fear and jealousy and it’s not right but that doesn’t mean they are not there. It would seem like a bisexual person would have to work double-duty to build trust. I’ve actually never thought about it till now but being bisexual has to be harder than being straight or gay. Stay strong and carry on!”
Perhaps the place of an advice columnist is to work through an issue out loud like that, to take readers on the same journey. It’s a shame that the next step down that road couldn’t have been taken too: that the whole thing about dating a bisexual is that you totally can compete with the “whole other gender” because, well, that’s kinda what being bi is all about.