Bisexual Representation in TV Shows: A Rant

Today I’m here with a topic that is a little bit different but has grown very dear to me. I know it has already been discussed but I still wanted to give my opinion on things that I, as a bisexual person, find good or offensive or anything in between.

This is me, being offended and trying not to be offensive.

Before you go any further, I just wanted to let you know that I am going to discuss four different shows: Friends, Outlander, The 100 and Orange is the New Back, so in case you want to avoid spoilers on any of those, you might want to stop reading. Now you have been warned.

In a world where we need more diverse representation, it’s even harder to get the good kind of representation. There’s also the question of whether it’s better to have bad rep than no rep at all which is also quite problematic but I’m not going to discuss that question because I’m just here to talk about the problematic stuff I may have encountered. TV shows have often been blamed for killing off their gay characters (as well as people of colour) for schock value, and while it is a big problem, it’s far for being the only one when it comes to representation. While shows tend to include more gay characters (though let’s not get too excited about that, because we’re not quite there yet) there is something else that fails to be as common – at least in my opinion – and that is good bisexual representation.

The first show I wanted to discuss is Friends because I absolutely love this show, and I am currently rewatching season one. As much as I love it, I also recognize it has many flaws, the lack of diversity definitely being one of them. And there is one that particularly bothers me, and that is Carol, Ross’s ex wife, who left him for another woman. The thing is, this whole situation includes a lot of amazing elements. I absolutely love Carol and Susanne, and I love the fact that they get married and raise a kid together. All the more so considering Friends started some twenty years ago. There is however something that is overlooked: the fact that Carol is most likely bisexual. Like, come on, she clearly used to love Ross, and they have been together for eight years. They got married. She tells him at some point when she is pregnant that she did love him, but moved on. And it’s not even implied that she might be bisexual or pansexual? Ross keeps saying stuff like “Carol has become a lesbian” which I find incredibly offensive. First of all, you don’t “become a lesbian” like you become, say, a teacher for example. (There is also this episode when the Geller parents are saying that he should have guessed long ago that she was a lesbian or something… I call bullshit. She did love him. But love doesn’t always last forever.) And second of all, tell me if I’m wrong, but the sheer possibility of Carol being bisexual or pansexul isn’t even mentioned in the show, while she clearly is? Sexuality is fluid, it can change, it just happens. But “becoming a lesbian” is a very, very bad formulation. Carol loves men and women. She is most likely bisexual, or pansexual, and it’s a pity it’s not mentioned in the show.

When you are bisexual, or pansexual, and you fall in love with someone, you don’t choose a gender, you choose a person. You don’t stop loving women because you’re dating a man, and vice versa. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

The second show I wanted to discuss is Outlander. I have watched the first season and I do not plan on continuing any further because so many things about it make me uncomfortable. I am also reading the first book, but I’m not sure I will even finish it. I absolutely love the concept of the story and the whole time-travel thing but it has so many things that make me uncomfortable, I just can’t anymore. Of course Claire’s situation is intense and complicated and I’m not going to discuss that. But the show includes romanticized rape and I have no time to deal with that. It is just disturbing. And then there is the matter of Captain Randall, the arch-villain of the story, who SPOILERS rapes or attempts to rape (I don’t even know anymore at this point) both Claire and Jaime, which again is disturbing. So yeah, the guy really seems to like sex. And is a super villain. And is really into raping people apparently. There is too much disturbing things when it comes to him though I thought he might at least partly be misunderstood (though this doesn’t excuse any of his deeds. Again, I only base myself on season one.)

Anyway. What I wanted to discuss is the fact that Captain Randall, the (presumably) bisexual character of the show, is the villain. He is the bad person who wants it all and who wants to have sex with both men and women. (Just like Carol is the bad woman who broke Ross’s heart.) And we fall into this trope again, where bisexual are villains, are most likely to cheat, and just want to have sex. This is because of representations like this one that there are so many prejudice about bisexual people (admitedly when people accept that we exist). And it’s a pity.

The next show I wanted to discuss is Orange is the New Black which is, again, a show that I have not finished yet, but unlike Outlander, I haven’t given up on it so far, I just didn’t get the time to carry on. I am honestly bothered by several things that come up in Piper’s portrayal when it comes to her sexuality: on the one hand, there is Alex saying “I shouldn’t have fallen for a straight girl” and on the other hand we have Larry saying “I didn’t know you used to be a lesbian”. And again, sexuality is fluid, and you don’t necessarily have it all figured out, and it’s not a bad thing, and it doesn’t make what you feel invalid. (If you have it all figured out then kudos, you’re doing amazing sweetie!) It is so obvious that Piper is bisexual (or pansexual obviously) and yet it hasn’t really been mentioned, and there are so many clichés, it’s frustrating. Now I know I haven’t seen everything yet, and I’m planning on doing so, meanwhile hoping it gets better.

And finally, one more show I wanted to discuss is The 100. It has been called out for killing off POC and gay characters as well as a bunch of clichés which definitely are present, and I won’t deny no matter how much I love this show (sometimes I’m not even sure why I like it to be honest but anyway). One good thing about The 100 is that it has an openly bisexual lead character, and while it has never been officially stated in the show that she is bisexual, she has been romantically and sexually involved with both male and female characters on screen without her sexuality being questioned (like Carol or Piper) and this is something I greatly appreciate. I know this show can have many problematic aspects but at least it is doing okay when it comes to bisexual rep as far as I’m concerned, and it feels good to have a character I can identify with, at least to some extent.

And that’s about it for what I wanted to discuss today. It has been a bit longer than I expected at first but I got a bit carried away and I hope you enjoyed anyway. Maybe this article was offensive (I hope not), but I am offended and I feel like this needed to be discussed. I just wanted to add a little perspective on all of this. These shows overall contain a lot of great stuff, but there is still the matter of the bisexual representation that bothered me and I wanted to let it out. Please feel free to comment if you want. Let me know if you know of any show with good bisexual representation that I should watch! And that being said, I hope you have a wondeful day ♥

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Passenger: My Review

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For some reason I was in the mood for time-travel adventure reads in the summer, and along with The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (which I reviewed here) I also read Passenger by Alexandra Bracken. I had heard a lot about this book on Bookstagram and in the bookish community in general, so it raised high expectations for me, and I was slightly worried it would be overhyped, but I absolutely loved the story.

Title: Passenger
Author: Alexandra Bracken
Publication: January 2016
Genre: YA, Time-travel, Historical fiction
My rating: ★★★★☆

The story:

Etta Spencer lives for her violin and puts it before everything else until one night she is thrust away from everything and everyone she cares about, only to discover that not only is she away from them through both time and space, but also that this was something her mother knew was going to happen.

Nicholas Carter has been trying to avoid the Ironwood family for most of his life, and dreams of living his independant life at sea with the help of the man who raised him. But again and again, the time-traveling family crosses his paths and destroys things he cares about. When his path crosses Etta, he is once again forced onto the path of time-traveling, in an adventure that could change the way the entire world functions.

My opinion:

Let me start by saying I absolutely loved this book. It was fantastic. It was a book that had been on my TBR for quite some time (ever since it was released I believe) and I am so glad I finally read it because it most certainly did not disappoint.

I’m a sucker for time-travel novels even if I often find the concept of time-traveling a bit confusing, and I absolutely loved the way it was executed here: it was rather well-depicted, and the fact that it could have heavy consequences was also made clear, which perfectly makes sense, and was well-inserted into the story. Kudos to Alexandra Bracken for creating such an amazing, well-crafted universe.

I really loved both main characters. Etta is a 21st century young violin prodigy, and Nicholas is an 18th century captain who also happense to be the illegitimate son of a slave (something that obviously has a major impact on his life, but I also believe it was quite well-depicted in the book. Let me know if you think I am wrong, I may have missed something).

A lot of people said the book was slow-paced and that it took some time for the pace to pick up. I honestly wasn’t bothered by it. I just really liked that the setting and the concept were well-described. One thing that I regretted though was the development of the relationship between Etta and Nicholas. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE them together. I think they really match and that it’s beautiful they managed to find each other through space and time. However, I do think that the relationship was a bit rushed and honestly happened way too fast. It seemed to much of an insta-love, while it could have been much more slow-paced. On the one hand, this is something that I often see in YA and even if I don’t like it, I can understand that it is for the purpose of the story. And on the other hand, this book was not your typical YA, so I guess that makes up for it. (And honestly, Etta and Nicholas are a match made in heaven, and they have so much to learn from each other, it’s beautiful).

As I just said, this book was not your typical YA novel, and I think it’s one of the things that made me fall in love with it. If you love time-travel, pirates and adventures, then this is something I can only recommend to you. Feel free to share your opinion if you also read (and loved!) this book ♥

Similar recommendations:
The Girl from everywhere by Heidi Heilig
Inherited by Freedom Matthews (review)