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Bisexuality in Cinema

Updated on February 3, 2016
Laura Harring and Justin Theroux in David Lynch's "Mulholland Dr."
Laura Harring and Justin Theroux in David Lynch's "Mulholland Dr."
Laura Harring and Melissa George in David Lynch's "Mulholland Dr."
Laura Harring and Melissa George in David Lynch's "Mulholland Dr."

Where Are My Bi Babies?

Ah, the dreaded B-word. In a world where many find it difficult to believe that one can appreciate both Star Wars and Star Trek, it comes as no surprise that bisexuality is a subject oft omitted by the media.The rising popularity of healthy(ish) homosexual characters in film is a victory for the LGBT community, to be sure, but for those who see their sexuality as a different shade of gay, good representation can be hard to come by. A healthy, mentally stable bisexual character seems to be exceedingly rare. If this case is as it appears, how else is bisexuality portrayed in the movies we know and love? Let's take a look.

Whoopi Goldberg and Margaret Avery in Steven Spielberg's "The Color Purple"
Whoopi Goldberg and Margaret Avery in Steven Spielberg's "The Color Purple"
Margaret Avery and Danny Glover in Steven Spielberg's "The Color Purple"
Margaret Avery and Danny Glover in Steven Spielberg's "The Color Purple"

Gay or European: the Open-To-Interpretation Device

In the beloved comedy Legally Blonde, aspiring lawyer Elle Woods thinks that a witness is lying because she believes he is gay - a fact that would contradict what said witness claims. She is quickly chastised by her coworkers, who say that they cannot use stereotypes to defend their client, especially since the stereotypes are American, which the witness is not. A similar approach is also often used in regards to bisexuality (or homosexuality, for that matter). Sure, a person is kissing another person of the same sex, but that doesn't mean they're gay or anything. It's probably just...it's set in a different time...with a different culture...they're just really good friends. When this device is used, the director usually gives the audience enough evidence to appease the open-minded, but also just little enough that the audience can turn a blind eye if they want to. This is a clever way to appeal to a wider audience, but fails to truly represent bisexuality, as its very existence in the film is questionable..

Leilani Sarelle and Sharon Stone in Paul Verhoeven's "Basic Instinct."
Leilani Sarelle and Sharon Stone in Paul Verhoeven's "Basic Instinct."
Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone in Paul Verhoeven's "Basic Instinct."
Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone in Paul Verhoeven's "Basic Instinct."
Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis in Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan"
Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis in Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan"
Natalie Portman and Vincent Cassel in Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan"
Natalie Portman and Vincent Cassel in Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan"

The Slut Device

Hey, more game, more scores, right? And more scores, more pleasure and/or manipulation? Right. yeah, sure. That's definitely the extent of this sexual orientation. While it is always nice to see characters owning their sexuality, those subject to this device are bisexual almost solely for one of three purposes: 1) to appeal to the pleasure of the audience (much like pornography), 2) to show the character's predatory traits, or 3) to act as a way to manipulate another character. This not only induces stereotypes of those who identify as bisexual, but also suggests that bisexuality itself is a term that implies x-rated "dirty deeds", promiscuity, and manipulation, thus failing to represent bisexuality in any positive way.

The Not-Quite-There Device

Yeah, they look pretty damn attracted to both sexes. Yeah, they don't just "sleep around." Yeah, they're at least semi-confident in their sexuality. But are they really bisexual? This device plays on the character's mental status to blur the lines of candid sexuality. If a character is not quite sane, does that make their presented sexual orientation not quite accurate? Maybe so, but it still remains a bit of a letdown, for, not only is the true nature of the character's sexuality questionable, but it also associates sexual orientations such as bisexuality with mental illness.

Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey in Peter Jackson's "Heavenly Creatures"
Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey in Peter Jackson's "Heavenly Creatures"
Jed Brophy and Melanie Lynskey in Peter Jackson's "Heavenly Creatures"
Jed Brophy and Melanie Lynskey in Peter Jackson's "Heavenly Creatures"

The Phase

Perhaps the most famous device to dismiss anything outside of heterosexuality, the Phase relies on naivety, age, sexual curiosity, and so forth to deem homosexual behavior as invalid. As its name implies, the Phase suggests that the "abnormal" sexual activity is just a passing fancy or affliction, much like the allergies of infants or the tendency of children to scream their head off. Clearly, this is reason to dismiss the LGBT community altogether. Don't worry, it'll pass. I mean, some people die of old age with their partner by their bedside, but it'll pass. Someday. Clearly. -_-


The Bisexual Concludes

Although I love pretty much any movie featuring bisexuality, it's safe to admit that as far as representation goes in cinema, the bisexual community has a ways to go. Filmmakers, I'm calling on you!

Bi the way...

Do we need better representations of bisexuality in cinema?

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If you are bisexual, do you feel well-represented by the films you have seen?

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© 2016 AS

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