BiMediaWatch August 2017
Atomic Blonde opens with David Bowie’s Cat People (Putting Out Fires). The rest of the film works hard to ingratiate itself to a bi audience too.
Charlize Theron plays an MI6 agent on a mission without a James Bond array of prescient gadgetry. It’s Berlin at the end of the 80s and around us the world is on the brink of huge change but the spy game is still in full flight.
The film came out at the start of August and there’s been the usual film promotion going on which also got bisexuality talked about on TV. Theron has been a key player in making the film happen – including adding what gets talked about as a ‘bisexual subplot’ which was not part of the original graphic novel. On which note, it feels like brilliant failure to understand what bi means when same-sex stuff is the bit that shows a character is bi: the assumption of heterosexuality as a baseline is so ingrained.
Director David Leitch undermined the bi-positivity of the role, claiming that the same-sex tryst is in there because “if you are a spy you will do whatever it takes to get information”.
But in TV interviews Theron has argued that it was important characters like hers in the film were openly and visibily bisexual because bisexuality is “not represented enough in cinema”. She also talked about having explored her sexuality when she was young and come down on the straight side.
Good ally work. And a film with plenty of twists, though the fight scenes didn’t work for me.
Underwater Queer Quarter
In August Newsweek reported on bisexuality in dolphins, under the headline “More Gay Dolphins Observed Off Coast of Western Australia”.
Bisexual erasure happens underwater too, as they warned readers that, “homosexual behavior in the animal kingdom is rife.”
And those clicking dolphins are a bunch of fin-lifters. “One of the best-known examples is among bottlenose dolphins, with both males and females having encounters with members of the same sex.”
This was all prompted by comments by Krista Nicholson, of Murdoch University, Perth, who had told her local paper the Mandurah Mail that “Apart from homosexual behavior, males, unlike females, in Shark Bay have also been recorded to perform synchronous displays. In Shark Bay, where male dolphins form lifelong alliances, socio-sexual interactions between males are more common than between females or between the sexes.”
The original report then explained that the Mandurah Dolphin Research Project had observed “big groups of dolphins engaging in what looked like homosexual behaviour” outside of mating season.
The Mandurah Mail was happy with that, but Newsweek dug around to find a past quote from a dolphin watcher who suggested this was just practising courtship behaviours ready for being an adult and getting frisky with dolphins of another gender.
Heaven forfend that they be getting flirty for its own sake.
Defined by our partners?
The Guardian kicked off August with a (somewhat binary) piece on bi erasure in the LGBT community. “Research from the US Pew Research Institute in 2013 found that more than 80% of bisexuals end up in straight relationships, which I think tells you something, not about the fleeting or transient nature of bi identity, but the slow-drip pressure to conform when there simply aren’t enough bi relationships to model your own on.”
If I were in a mixed-gender relationship with someone heterosexual I’d not call it a straight relationship myself: all that past of thoughts and actions that have queered my assumptions about what being with someone means would still be carried forward in who I am. And there’s a strong case to be made, in a dating pool that is perhaps 80% or 90% people of a different gender than yourself, and with most of those people not identifying as bi, that you end up in mixed-gender and mixed-orientation relationships less because of social pressure and more because of maths. But it’s a good area of argument to open up in the mainstream press.
Late Night Auntie
BBC World Service had a documentary on bisexuality too; a rare bit of B in the BBC’s gay season for the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act and partial decriminalisation of sex between men. Interestingly it was from the same production stable as the Tom Robinson documentary on bisexuality a couple of years ago. Producer Ashley Byrne commented: “Bisexuality can mean different things. There are people who identify more straight or gay, but still feel bisexual. Others who feel completely 50:50 and others for whom sexuality is fluid and has shifted hugely over time.
“Being Bisexual is one of the few programmes in the entire current season of programmes on the BBC around LGBT that focuses exclusively on bisexuality. Bi-invisibility is a huge issue which goes under the radar. The B in the acronym is often overlooked in society and the media. So it’s great to be able to do this programme. Let’s hope it’s the start of a few more programmes across all media to look at bisexuality.”
It felt a little thin in its coverage, perhaps on account of trying to cram so much in: perhaps due to the World Service remit we darted around between Israel, Iran, South Africa and England without getting very deeply into bi life in any of them. It did highlight Tel Aviv’s Pride which this year has been reported in some places as a Bi Pride event, but which is more of an LGBT Pride that for once is putting the bisexual strand at the front of the march and talking about bi issues rather than considering them to be tacked-on.
The Sun ran a feature about a three-person relationship that seems to be blossoming and working well for all three and, well, not really to be news but they made for a good photo and that’ll do.
Under the headline “triple threat: Married couple who added a girlfriend to their family say being in a threesome makes them BETTER parents” – yep, this is the kind of threat that doesn’t seem to have anything threatening about it at all, just a 50% better chance of the kids being picked up from school – we find that “Parents-of-two Matthew, 31, and Michelle, 30, from Huntington Beach, California, met Courtney, 26” and they’ve all been going steady for a while. Michelle and Courtney have excellent hair: one does the pink and blue bits, the other purple, so if you put them together you kinda get a bi flag.
On the upside, it’s a pretty positive poly story, though as you scroll through photos of the two women kissing it’s also a reminder of how much more unlikely the same piece would be with more than one man in the thruple.
But it’s a classic of the question unasked that reinforces a certain narrative about bisexual people. Courtney tells the paper, “It’s the best of both worlds. I love having a male and female partner and they both show love and affection in different ways.”
Now I’m sure she does and I’m sure they do. But maybe ask Matthew directly if he finds that too – I bet he finds some differences between Courtney and Michelle, and that they each show love and affection in different ways. But I guess asking that wouldn’t fit a lazy “women are like this and men are like that” narrative, nor a tired “bisexuals need one of each to be happy”. Sigh.
Looking forward to Netflix shows to come, Riverdale’s second season will have a bi character with reports that Vanessa Morgan (The Shannara Chronicles’ Lyria) has signed up to play pink-haired Toni Topaz. That airs from October in the US so don’t stay pinned to the sofa too hard while waiting for it to pop up on demand here in the UK.