In an effort to build a space for queer people like myself, every Tuesday I’ll be posting opinion pieces, listicals, reviews, and more focused on the LGBT community (and occasionally about the Latinx/WOC community since I am Latinx.) Welcome to Queerly Not Straight! Enjoy and leave a comment below if you have a suggestion for what I should cover next.
If there’s anything I know about bisexuals, it’s that we can’t be funny when it comes to our sexuality. As soon as it’s made clear that we like men and women during a comedic sequence, the pitchforks come out and the Twitter callouts start happening.
Don’t get me wrong, I know where it’s coming from. Bisexual representation was practically nonexistent when I was growing up and it’s not until the past couple of years (or really the last year) that I’ve seen positive bi characters. And if these bisexual characters were in any comedic scenes, it was to portray a hyper sexual lifestyle like we’re some sort of succubus or incubus.
Newsflash, the only hypersexual succubus out there is A) Bo from Lost Girl and B) she’s not real or an actual representation of the kind of lifestyle I lead as a bisexual woman. Love Bo, always will because we’re used to having scraps, but she was detrimental to the way that people perceive bisexual people, because on that show everyone was prey.
Bo’s sexuality was constantly tied with comedic relief and funny situations. For many, it was empowering to see a woman in charge of what and whom she wants. But for me, a bisexual woman, every episode of Lost Girl had at least one moment where I face palmed while muttering, “This is not me. This does not represent me. Holy shit, is that more sex?”
Hypersexual characters like this make bisexuals seem like a joke or something that can be used for another’s entertainment and pleasure. (And remember, I can still love Bo while understanding that there are EXTREMELY problematic aspects of her character and the show that she’s on. It’s possible, people.) But her appetites were so strongly tied with laughs and fun, that it’s practically impossible for some to seperate the hyperseuxal from bisexuals.
This brings me back to my initial point about bisexuals not being able to be funny when it comes to their sexuality. They can’t tease about liking men and men, talk about liking men and women, or point it out that Jane is as cute as John. And there’s no denying that it’s because of characters like Bo from Lost Girl and the lessons straight people have learned from it. But it’s also because no one has taken the time to flesh out these characters to be anything more than their sexuality.
Then came Eleanor Shellstrop from The Good Place.
She breaks the mold on a weekly basis on that show and she just did it again when it was confirmed that she’s a BISEXUAL WOMAN!
What makes it different this time and why I’m not up in arms about Eleanor wanting to kiss a woman or swoon over Tahani’s legs, is that it’s A) not a joke TO ELEANOR and B) the smallest part of her personality. Eleanor means everything she’s saying. It’s a fact that she thinks the perfect person would be Stone Cold Steve Austin’s head with Tahani’s body, or vice versa. And she’s not doing this to be edgy or because The Good Place thinks that Eleanor is a hypersexual bisexual that can be used for laughs.
Eleanor breaks the mold on bisexuals on TV because it’s just a part of who she is. No one bothers to really talk about, think that it’s weird, or side eye Eleanor when she swoons over Tahani. It’s not like Lost Girl where the sole focus is on who Bo is sleeping with this week. The fact that Eleanor likes men and women is just part of her and we’ve got more important things to deal with so let’s move along!
That’s the key to writing great bisexual characters who aren’t here to be the comedic relief or for you to get your jollies off to when Eleanor wants to kiss a woman instead of a man. Fleshing out bisexual characters is what allows them to be funny, open, and honest about who they are interested in. It’s what allows us not to hide anymore or feel shamed for liking men and women, because the people we know, have positive and full representations on what bisexuals are really like.
It’s also what allows characters like Rosa Diaz from Brooklyn Nine-Nine to be celebrated and honored. Rosa’s bisexuality is but a small part of her and we know it. She’s not being used as comedic relief or to check mark a box. And she doesn’t change from the badass we have always known and loved, because likes men and women. Rosa Diaz just IS bisexual. That’s it. Her sexuality doesn’t all of a sudden make her a predator and viewers learn from her that we are multifaceted people with lives, hopes, and dreams like everyone else.
That’s why I love Eleanor’s reveal as bisexual on The Good Place. It just is a part of her. She doesn’t change because now we know. And her attraction to Tahani isn’t a plot that The Good Place is using to stick a good ol’ bisexual joke in. Like the sky is blue, and how Tahani’s hair is perfect, Eleanor just IS into men and women.
Yes, Eleanor might still be a hot mess who’s trying to right her life. But she’s a fleshed out character that teaches viewers that we are so much more than who we want to snog in a simulation created by a God like robot/entity named Janet. We love, we try, we laugh, and it’s about time we got to make fun, tease, and laugh about who we want to sleep with.
Not because we are comedic relief.
But because our lives are just as silly, fun, and rich as everyone else’s. And our sexuality, or who we want to bone, is only a small part of that.
Queerly Not Straight posts every Tuesday with opinion pieces, listicals, reviews, and more focused on the LGBT community (and occasionally about the Latinx community since I am Latinx.)
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