Sexualized Saturdays: Spotlight on Bisexual Characters

In honor of Bisexual Awareness Week and Bi Visibility Day, today I would like to talk about my favorite canon bi characters. Unfortunately, bi characters are so difficult to find, and even when you do, most of them fall under the same harmful stereotypes, not to mention that the word bisexual isn’t even used in the vast majority of cases, making it harder for people find and identify or identify with the characters. So, with that in mind, I also want to share some of my dreams for better bi representation.

When I start thinking about bi representation, the first two characters that immediately come to mind are Magnus Bane (Shadowhunters) and Callie Torres (Grey’s Anatomy). I have written about my love for Magnus before, so I would like to talk a bit about Callie Torres now. Her story is especially important because it shows a bisexual coming out story of someone who is well out of their teens. It takes a while for Callie to embrace the term bisexual and she starts using phrases such as “not lesbian enough” and “I’m a lesbian now, sort of” at first, but eventually she uses the word bisexual to describe herself. Additionally, the show doesn’t define Callie by her sexuality: she is a seriously kickass surgeon, a friend, and a mother. What’s more, even though Callie’s got a bit of a bad-boy vibe, she is a genuinely kind and nice person, which breaks the trope of bi characters with questionable morals and is the kind of representation I love.

That being said, devious and sometimes ruthless bisexual anti-hero types can be fun too. That’s why I also love characters such as John Constantine (Hellblazer). I have been slowly working my way through the Hellblazer comics, and I can’t help but love the reluctant hero who seems to always get in trouble. This trouble often threatens others as well, and it falls to Constantine to save everyone. We soon see he’s not above using dark stuff and morally dubious deals to do it. It’s a shame that his bisexuality hasn’t been featured in the comics more prominently (and went altogether unmentioned in the short-lived TV show), but it seems that this might change with the new Constantine: Hellbazer comic series.

annalise-keating

Inspirational. (gif by swanshope)

Another favorite bisexual anti-hero of mine is Annalise Keating (How To Get Away With Murder). She can do immoral, illegal and horrible things to reach her goals, but I still can’t help but root for her, because when it comes down to it, Annalise does what she can to protect her students, including giving instructions on hiding the body of the person they killed and framing someone else for the murder. However, as the show goes on, Annalise’s motives become less clear and take on selfish undertones. But I don’t begrudge Annalise trying to protect herself either, because we have so many selfish men in real life and on TV, whereas women are socialized to put the needs of others (especially men) before their own. So it’s also nice to see female characters who break the gender rules. Annalise regrettably hasn’t used any labels so far, but her bisexuality is revealed when her ex Eve returns and they rekindle their relationship. Annalise is a complex, nuanced character, and her bisexuality and relationship with Eve adds another facet to it, especially considering how happy she is with Eve in contrast to all the darkness and drama surrounding her life.

Before I move on to the second part of this post, I would like to highlight one more bisexual character—Sara Lance (Arrow, Legends Of Tomorrow). Her character is noteworthy for a few reasons. First, she appeared in the show after being presumed dead (fridged). Secondly, she was brought back from death when she did actually die later on. Queer female characters are dying on our screens with alarming frequency, and even though I’d prefer if Sara didn’t have to die in the first place, I appreciate that she is deemed important enough (to her sister, but by extension the creators) to resurrect her. This is the sort of gendered trope subversion I really like.

I could go on about my favorite bisexual characters for a while, even though there are not many, and while I highlighted the positive sides of bi representation so far, there is a lot of space for improvement as well. So, I also want to talk about what I wish for more of in the bisexual representation in media.

First of all, I wish more characters would use the words such as bi and bisexual to describe themselves in canon. I have talked before about the importance of seeing characters on TV use specific labels for their sexuality, because it helps people identify with them and normalize the labels for the general public. It’s especially important for the bisexual label, which carries many negative connotations for many people, and having characters who are attracted to more than one gender dance around labeling themselves just reinforces the idea that the bisexual label is somehow shameful or dirty.

Related to that, I would also love to see confident bisexual characters who do not stand for biphobic behavior and comments such as ‘being gay now’ or choosing a side. Brenna Carver (Chasing Life) comes perhaps the closest to that, having corrected people labeling her gay on a few occasions and explicitly identifying as bi, whereas Piper Chapman (Orange Is The New Black) failed rather miserably in trying to explain that sexuality is a spectrum. I don’t mean to say that all bi characters should be confident in their sexuality and label, but aside from the two examples at the beginning of this post, I really can’t think of any characters who would use the bi word with confidence. Given the stigma surrounding the bi label, we really need more such characters.

I also would love more bisexual characters in media geared towards younger audiences. steven-universe-sapphire-rubyKorra and Asami walking off together into the sunset was wonderful, but their relationship, while clear to those of us who look out for these things, is still just barely above subtext. I’m not trying to diminish the importance of these two bisexual girls, I’m saying we need more, and better. I’m just asking to portray the same-gender relationships of bi characters in cartoons the same way their different-gender relationships are portrayed. As Legend of Korra and especially Steven Universe demonstrate, you can show growing feelings, intimacy, and romantic love between same-gender couples without having to sexualize it.

Honestly, I wish for many more things, but what it comes down to, really, is that just having more bisexual characters in mainstream media in general would fix a lot of problems—provided they’re not all cast off the same mold and treated with respect. If we had many bisexual characters, it wouldn’t matter if a few of them disliked labels or were hypersexual, because there would be other different bisexual characters to balance it out. As it is, though, characters such as Magnus Bane, Callie Torres and others mentioned in this post are a good start, but here’s hoping that this time next year I can write about a bunch of new great bi characters.

Meanwhile, which are your favorite bisexual characters? What do you wish for in bisexual representation? Share your thoughts in the comments!


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4 thoughts on “Sexualized Saturdays: Spotlight on Bisexual Characters

    • Oh yes, Daryl’s storyline is so cute!

      ETA: So, I’ve been thinking about this and Daryl’s story line is also very important to me for a few reasons. First, as you point out, he uses the bi label A LOT (that song is so great!). He is also a man who discovers his bisexuality quite later in life (at least compared to all the other characters I mentioned in this post) which is something you don’t see often on TV (this is the first case for me, at least). And lastly, it’s just the fact that he actually does stick with the bi label, because it’s so often that the characters who discover their attraction to the same gender, just go ‘I’m gay now’, which, fair enough, can happen, but it happens to a dis-proportionally large number of characters.

  1. No mention of Captain Jack Harkness?

    Admittedly, one could argue he’s more “omnisexual” than “bisexual,” plus he plays up the whole “promiscuous bisexual” stereotype … but he’s still a rather fun character, and notable for popping up before many of the other characters mentioned here.

    • Oh, I love Captain Jack Harkness! Part of the reason I didn’t mention him in the post is, as you point out, the question of his label (although he undoubtedly fits under the bisexual umbrella in the broader sense); another related part being the whole thing with him being introduced by the Doctor as a man from the future where people have moved on from putting themselves in sexuality boxes (or something along the line), which creates the situation where everyone is basically bisexual, negating the meaning of the label, if that makes sense. However, in the context of our society, Captain Jack is very much bi or omnisexual, and I do love his character because even though he’s portrayed as the bisexual who would sleep with anyone that breathes, he’s also a well fleshed-out character, a bit of a carefree jerk with a heart of gold but also someone who has deep feelings, often for more than one person at a time.

      But there’s only so many characters one can fit into a blog post🙂

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