BiMediaWatch: April 2018

Will and Grace returned after a hiatus of 12 years, and the last few episodes are available on Channel 4’s 4od player. The show about the friendships between two inexplicably wealthy gay men and two similarly successful straight women had three episodes with bi themes in a row.

Both Grace and Will discover they are dating the same guy, who they met as their tutor at a bread-making class. So begins a slide toward a threesome involving two people who really can’t cope with the idea of having sex with each other present, let alone with one another, but each trying not to be the one who ‘blinks’. What will happen when they get past the bedroom door?

A week later we’re on bi themes again, this time with a gay guy who – through the well worn path of sitcom miscommunication – has to ask himself whether he would have sex with a woman. New office staffer Larry is a gay man who winds up thinking he has to sleep with Grace in order to bed Will.

A week later and we’ve got a married man who has his first ‘experience’ with a man with Jack, cheating on his wife. I didn’t say this was all going to be ground-breaking bi representation, did I?

Police comedy Brooklyn Nine Nine already gave its viewers* a big bold bi coming out scene from intensely private officer Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz). Queer and telly-addict press got excited at the start of March with the prospect that Gina Rodriguez (eponymous star of Jane The Virgin) will be guest-starring in the show, with the possibility that she will be Rosa’s girlfriend or at least a fleeting love interest.
I have mixed feelings about this: I was enjoying Rosa’s bisexuality being something she talked about and was therefore real, rather than having to be woven into who she dates to be real enough. On the other hand they would be totally cute together.

Next over to Riverdale, where as so often Netflix is giving us the bi goods. Last year Toni Topaz came out as bi – landing actress Vanessa Morgan as a BCN coverbi. Then in March Madelaine Petsch, who plays Cheryl Blossom, outed Cheryl on her YouTube channel.

“She doesn’t understand feelings very well, and I think she’s mucking up a friendship with romantic feelings, because she’s never really felt love before.” she explains, leading on to a related question: “What is Cheryl’s sexuality please settle the debate”.

“She’s still figuring out what her sexuality is.” Petsch explains.

“Cheryl is definitely interested in both women and men, so I would say she is bisexual.

“I think you’re going to see a lot more of her figuring out who she is.”

Well, that turned out to be a spoiler not for the distant future but a couple of episodes’ time. We gained another bi character as Cheryl Blossom came out, but with an unhappy plot twist where her sexuality is discovered and she gets sent to be ‘fixed’.

The same theme of being sent somewhere to have your same-sex attractions cured came up in Will & Grace as it happens, and the contrast between the two is quite marked: where in Will & Grace it was played for laughs with obviously queer people running the camp, in Riverdale it was a much bleaker affair run by stern nuns who seemed to equate curing children of their waywardness with doling out chores. There has been some fan backlash to how Cheryl keeps getting the raw end of life in this way, but perhaps it’s better to have the misery and stupidity of ‘gay cure’ laid out bleakly rather than always a camp joke.

The first season of Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix alluded fleetingly to bisexuality with a tiny bit of flirting between neighbours, but season two dropped it right into plain sight. Neighbour Lisa, whose husband Dan was one of the first victims of zombie Sheila (Drew Barrymore), has found a new girlfriend. It’s her missing cop husband’s partner, Anne. This is just accepted by the other characters without a beat. Drew’s been out as bi for years and I imagine that probably helped steer the writers in whether bisexuality was real and whether it was scandalous. It reminds me of how I like answering the “which do you prefer” question upon coming out by mentioning personality traits rather than a gender. In Lisa’s case, her preferred type seems to be cop. Or possibly just owns a police uniform.

Within the show’s universe, of course, not asking questions about your neighbour’s new girlfriend may be a good tactical move when you are trying to avoid mentioning that you ate her husband. “Don’t you miss your husband and his tasty thumbs?” might be a dead giveaway.

*… At least the ones in the USA, as we are a couple of seasons behind here.