Friday, January 22, 2010

Bisexuals on television

Chances are that, at some point over the weekend, you will be watching television. Maybe you’ll be looking (in vain) for some bi characters in drama, or out bisexuals reading the news, presenting gardening programmes, pretending to be Teletubbies, and everything else we can see on the small screen.

Today there’s been a report in the Guardian that the BBC is to ask The Public what they think of the representation of LGBs on TV and radio. Interesting. But they are even asking homophobes. Yuk. I don’t care what homophobes think, and I don’t think the BBC should care either.

It’s interesting, though, that they are asking about bi representation. Is this really about bi representation, or are they just adding in a B with the L and the G, not really meaning to give the B word any attention at all? It wouldn’t be the first time “bisexual” has been added as a casual, inessential addition to Lesbian and Gay. (No T though, I wonder why not?)

The other thing I am wondering after reading the above is: who are these bisexual people on television? Maybe I am watching the wrong programmes but, reality shows aside, I can only remember the L Word – only available on Living (a hard to view on a cable/satellite TV channel) in the UK – where there has been bi characters in recent years.

Part of me thinks that there is a dire need for positive images of bi people – but one person’s positive representation is another’s weirdo/ slut / sop to straight society / bimbo. We are as individual as people of any other sexuality – probably more so – and deserve to have a range of people representing us. Another part of me thinks that anything is better than total invisibility.

Still, according to a GLAAD report discussed in the Bisexuality Examiner last July there are now more bi people in US TV dramas, and some of them are definitely viewable outside of the US. They include:

* True Blood (Evan Rachel Wood is pictured above)
* Grey’s Anatomy
* House
* Bones
* Brothers and Sisters

Plus a whole heap of others I’ve never heard of. Mind you, I’ve never seen any episodes of those listed above either (my TV preferences being mainly for CSI and similar). I’ll give them a look

S/He’s so Real
Reality television has the upper hand here.... Big Brothers across the world often have bi characters, presumably on the assumption/hope that they will do something outrageous and up the viewing figures. Then there’s A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, where her bisexuality is a part of the story (and apparently there is now a spin off involving bisexual twins Rikki and Vikki. Of course there is). The most recent The Real World (on MTV, which I don’t have access to) apparently has two bi characters, one boy, one girl.

A boy! Finally.

As I have written endlessly, I’m not at all happy with the proliferation of female celebrity so-called bis (most recently, Kylie Minogue is declaring her interest). And most of the bis/bi characters listed above are – no, really! – women.

But a good bi woman – by which I mean someone who is genuine, authentic, sincere, not trying to excite men or increase her audience – could do a heap of good for other bi women. Likewise good bi female characters in drama.

I think we’ll have to wait a long time (or until something significant changes) until bi men can do anything like that.

So which bi characters or individuals are there on television – British or otherwise, drama or factual – who you think is worth watching? And as for the radio....? I listen to the radio almost all the time, and the last time I heard an out bi presenter or character was.... probably never.


JM said...

The only show I'd add to the list is Torchwood.

Queers United said...

There is a long way to go for fair and bi visibility on TV. I am pretty happy with the way MTV's Real World has shown the 2 bi housemates thus far.

Unknown said...

I don't know if you'd count this as recent since it's been off the air a while now, but Lindsey on (US) Queer As Folk was bi. Her internal conflict between dyke identity, biphobia, and hetero-identified privilege was a significant story in season four that continued to resonate in season five. It impressed m at the time, because it was not the standard trope of bi female as fetish object for straight man. Though the story dealt with her feelings about entering into that role too.

mizztcasa said...

the real world

mike, the guy is so kind and genuine.

he's secure about his sexuality even though he's only recently came out. he's also a christian.

the girl (i forgot her name) is sweet...and wild!

she's enjoying her single life, loves being independent, and doesn't seem to be using her sexuality as a tool either.

Sue George said...

Thanks all. Can anyone think of any out bi presenters etc? I realise that's asking a lot...!

Anonymous said...

I completed the survey. I pointed out that the only bi characters I knew of were on Torchwood/Doctor Who, and before that in the Russell T Davies series Bob & Rose. I also pointed out that the only discussion I'd heard on Radio 4 regarding bisexuality was on Woman's Hour where - I kid thee not - the discussion was between Jenni Murray, a woman who specialised in research on poly relationships, and a woman who had once gone on a date with a guy and decided not to trust him because he told her up front he identified as bi. The whole conversation boiled down to, "All bi people are poly, which isn't always a bad way of having relationships, but it's usually about men getting control" + "I just don't trust bi people because I don't think they can have monogamous relationships" (I sent in an email at the time, explaining that many of us are, in fact, monogamous, that our poly (straight, gay, and bi) friends actually have a wide array of ways of having relationships, and that the whole "discussion" was an utter farce and desperately offensive).

I also begged them not to assume that Bs are just subsets of L&G, to be rendered invisible by just "including" Ls & Gs (OK, mainly Gs), and to actually create complex characters.

Who knows whether or not it will be listened to, but the more Bi/Queer people and our friends who are prepared to make passionate, articulate pleas for sensible representation, the better for everyone.

I understand that there will be a gender-based survey at some point, in which questions of sex, gender, and gender identity will be asked - when, though, I do not know.

Sue George said...

Yes - I'd forgotten Bob and Rose (gay man falls in love with woman drama). I liked that one but it was years ago now.
And I remember the Woman's Hour piece too. Bad. There must have been other similar items but I can't remember or never heard them.
Clearly we are scratching around for mere titbits...

Ludicrous said...

To tell you the truth, I had to think hard to find the "bi" character in House - even I have the first 4 seasons in DVD and plan to buy the other one tuned on French TV right now (5th season) as soon as it appears in store.
I could say I am a House fan.
But the bi character - damn! Let me laugh a little.
It seems that bi characters are, as you said, reduced to the female alternative, which suits the western society conception of a "sexy woman".
But they are never a main character (except for TV serials such as the L world).
And worst, their bisexuality is never an opportunity for the director to address a bi audience - it's only a way to create a "mysterious" character, whose bisexuality will usually be considered as "alien".

Anonymous said...

The characters Santana and Britney on the TV show Glee are bisexual. They are interested in boys, but the show has also referenced their own sex life with each other. Seeing as Glee is such a popular show, I was very excited to learn that Santana and Britney have sex with guys and girls!

Sandy Dee said...

I would also like to add Torchwood as every character in the main 5 person cast has a relationship or sexual encounter with a member of each sex. I was also very excited to have been watching Gossip Girl and the openly gay character Eric is down to earth and liked. When he falls for a guy called Elliot who then turns up at a party with a girlfriend he is understandably upset. However, Elliot asks him to dance and when Eric questions "But I thought you liked girls?" Elliot simply replies "Yeah. I like boys too. And I like you. How about that dance?". No big fuss is made the simplicity alone showed the acceptance. I am however a little disappointed to be watching the new episode of Skins and still have "gay" "batty boy" "lesbo dyke" used to casually insult the characters. At the moment my problem with bisexuality on television is that it is often presented (as in Glee) as a temporary experiment before going back to the straight partner. I'm all for bicuriosity but I believe that some decided bisexuals (like Elliot on Gossip Girl) should have it accepted as a life choice rather than indecision.

Anonymous said...

I think the reason the T isn't incorporated with the L, G, and B is that L, G, and B are about sexuality; T is about gender. They're completely separate issues. I wonder why they're even smushed together into LGBT. What does transgenderism have to do with homosexuality and bisexuality?
NOTE: I'm not trying to be offensive. Really, I'm not.