In a recent conversation with a classmate, I engineered a concept for a television show that will knock the viewing public on its collective behind. I’m no genius, but I believe the shock value of this pitch will be enough for networks to clamber over each other in their haste to pay me millions for it.
All right, picture this:
A picaresque, verdant animated forest. A cartoon butterfly weaves drunkenly through the air, high on life. A tinny trumpet blares an excited jazz lick as suddenly, in a flash of color, sporting an inflammatory jeans-and-tee combo, Barbara the Bi-corn appears!
Barbara the Bi-corn?!
That’s right, my friends. This mysterious creature draws a faithful audience every Thursday night, as we explore the intricacies of her mythical existence. See Barbara cope with the inexplicability of attraction toward more than one binary! Watch her assuage the expressions of friends and coworkers as they become bemused and befuddled over her inability to choose whether to be straight or gay! Marvel at her increasing irritation as she fields comments of assumed promiscuity and flakiness!
Hard sarcasm aside, you may be asking yourself, “Why the hell would someone propose an animated series to air the grievances of a bisexual woman?”
Well, first off, I’ve always wanted to create an animated series with a kickass title card and theme song. Secondly, I pride myself on being unique, and little is more unique nowadays than a bi character on your television screen.
On the surface, this may seem like a specious claim. There are so many fictional guys and gals who have
kicked it with multiple genders, aren’t there?
“Bi-erasure is only one phenomenon in the junkyard of abysmal things societal xenophobia has perpetuated“
There’s Piper Chapman, from Netflix’s sensational Orange is the New Black, whose interest in both schlubby Larry, her fiancé, and Alex, her drug-dealing ex-girlfriend, has spawned turf wars. And what about Sarah Lance, of the comic book adaptation Arrow, who has had relationships with both Oliver and Nyssa al Ghul? Frank Underwood, of the Emmy-nominated House of Cards, who drunkenly attempts to rekindle a romance with his male former college classmate. Delphine Cormier, of Orphan Black, who experiences her first same-sex relationship. Callie Torres, of the long-running Grey’s Anatomy, married twice, and cheated on twice, by different genders.
The list seems to go on forever, doesn’t it? However, out of all these characters, only one is both a) still living and b) open about her bisexuality. That’s right. One.
Callie Torres’ slightly intoxicated speech on last week’s tumultuous episode of Grey’s (Ep 11×05, “Bend and Break,”) provoked a cheer from this viewer. “It’s called LGBTQ for a reason. There’s a B in there,” she claims, “and it doesn’t mean Badass. Okay, it does a little, and it also means Bi.”
While I would love not to be surprised about this sort of confession, I cannot recall another instance, in my television-viewing lifetime, where a series regular on a major television network such as ABC, much less a woman of color, has used the “b” word to describe herself.
In Callie’s case, it was a long time coming, as it emerged after six seasons of Callie dating both men and women, and being equally screwed over by both. Hey, if bisexuals can be as troubled in their relationships as heterosexuals can, then they can have just as much screen time, right?
The issue of media representation for those in the LGBTQIA spectrum is not a new one, and while progress has been made since the invention of serialized television, the vast majority of queer characters introduced since then have either been categorized as strictly homosexual, written off within a few episodes, cisgender, white, or a combination of the four. Does that seem representative of the LGBTQIA community to you? If so, that’s interesting, and I encourage you to investigate your community more fully.
Bi-erasure is only one phenomenon in the junkyard of abysmal things societal xenophobia has perpetuated, but the platform that television offers is invaluable. Amidst rotting our brains, it can also provide viewers with an avenue to understanding. If we are able to tune in every week to watch an openly bisexual character experience as much turmoil, joy, and ridiculous melodrama as her heterosexual and homosexual counterparts, and not have her identity be written off as wishy-washy or invalid, perhaps we won’t need a Barbara the Bi-corn.
It is my hope that other characters will join Callie Torres in her somewhat inadvertent quest to inform and impart wisdom on the nature of sexuality, and the way the LGBTQIA community is perceived. We can start small — even within the same network. Here’s looking at you, How to Get Away with Murder, Once Upon A Time, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Let’s get some solid representation all up in here.
Bonus: Callie and Meredith’s “Vagina,” song.