Royal Television Society debate highlights poor bi portrayals

Last night’s Royal Television Society debate on LGBTQ representation on TV highlighted the negative representation of bisexual people.

This is not a new problem. “It’s as if show writers only see the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bisexuality,” according to veteran bi campaigner Jen Yockney MBE. “Bis who are working out who they are or who are in multiple relationships with people of different genders either all at once or in close succession.”

Creative plot writing could show bi characters beyond those well-worn tropes, but too often that seems to be beyond scriptwriters. Have characters talk about past attractions and relationships, about who they fancy without intent to pursue. Have them rock out the pink, purple and blue for Bi Visibility Day in September and get involved with local bi spaces like BiPhoria or be joining in their local prides at other times of the year.”

Well, at the RTS debate the panel seemed to admit to the problems Jen highlights, as production execs from a host of channels and shows admitted that the B is just not yet there – and as BiMediaWatch notes in BCN most issues, where there is bi representation it tends toward a few repetitive and negative cliches: bis are untrustworthy, relationship-wreckers, confused and confusing.

BBC Head of Continuing Drama, Oliver Kent, commented that “We could be better at exploring … bisexual characters. I don’t think we’ve quite got that right yet.”

Hollyoaks boss Bryan Kirkwood reflected that, “Our audience absolutely seem to accept the L’s and the G’s. Not so much the B’s so far.”

Taking a specific example of bi representation, Iain MacLeod, who produces Emmerdale, observed that “We took the view with the character of Robert (Sugden) that his sexuality was low on the list of things that were most interesting about him.

He added of Sugden: “He’s devious, manipulative and self-serving and has been since birth.”

Devious, manipulative and self-serving… and you make his character bisexual. A fine bit of going with the lazy stereotype there, Emmerdale, but you are far from alone!