Bisexual Erasure in Television and Film

Bisexual erasure relates to the larger concept of symbolic annaliation, whereby not showing a certain group of people in media, that group is effectively being erased from the public’s consciousness. This can be used, knowingly or unknowingly, to perpetuate systems of oppression and maintain the status quo. Bisexual erasure mostly happens in three ways, misrepresenting bisexuals as just people that love sex so much they don’t care who it’s with, misrepresenting bisexuals as deranged maniacs that don’t care about societies’ views on homosexual relationships, or by having characters that display bisexual behaviour that turn out to not be bisexual. The effect of this is warping public perceptions of bisexual people as either crazy people, or someone that is going throw a phase. This denial of bisexual indentity needs to recognized and stopped, especailly in a time where other LGBT identities are getting more and better representation in media.

Thomas Hadley: 

Ramona Flowers

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World features the titular character falling in love with the manic pixie dream girl, Ramona Flowers. This means that he has to fight all of her ex-boyfriends  exes, one of whom is a girl. Ramona explains this to Scott as, “I was just a little bi-curious.” Which is odd, because throughout the movie, Ramona is seen wearing clothes that almost exclusively stick the colors of the bi-pride flag, pink, purple, and blue. This line may have been used because the line following it is, “Well I’m just a little bi-furious,” said by her ex female lover. While the wordplay is nice, it still shows the trope of characters that display bisexual behavior aren’t really bisexual, even here when the costuming is telling you otherwise.

Frank Booth

The antagonist of David Lynch’s film Blue Velvet, Frank Booth, is a violent and deranged drug addict, drug dealer, kidnapper, rapist, murderer, and bisexual. This characters even helped name the trope “anything that moves”, where a bisexual character is a sexual maniac that will, “fuck anything that moves!”  This portrayal of bisexuality looks at it not as a regular person’s sexual identity, but as someone who doesn’t see homosexual sex as taboo, because they see nothing as taboo. This is called the “depraved bisexual”, and only serves to make people think that all bisexuals are just sex-crazed, ultra-fetishist, sociopaths.

Samantha Jones

Sex and the City, a show that exists at the center of post-feminst ideology also happens to engage in the “anything that moves” trope in the form of Samantha Jones. Out of the four main characters, she is the one that is shown most prominently as a non-monogamist that just wants sex and no relationships. She also happens to be the one shown to engage in a same-sex relationship. This would be enough to show that the writers engage in the aforementioned trope, but a line said by her early in the show sheds more light on their thinking. Samantha says, “Soon everyone will be pansexual. It won’t matter if you’re gay or straight. Just if you’re good or bad in bed.” This could be read as a progressive statement about LGBT acceptance, but the more logical read of this quote is that Samantha only cares about raw sexual pleasure, and not sexual attractions.

Blaine Anderson & Kurt Hummel

Glee, a show whose cast is almost as controversial as its content doesn’t escape this list. In one episode, the homosexual character Blaine Anderson is shown to be questioning his sexuality and may be bisexual. Another homosexual character, Kurt Hummel, tells Blaine that, “Bisexual is a term gay guys use in high school when they want to hold hands with girls and feel normal for a change.” While it is true that many gay men pretend to be straight to hide their sexuality, I have never heard of anyone pretending to be bi for the same reason. And by the end of the episode Blaine is confirmed to be wholly gay, with the creator stating, “kids need to know he’s one of them.” But, the show already has multiple gay characters, so there is no reason why this bi-erasure had to happen.

Rafael Farias: 

Kate Veatch

Throughout the entirety of the film the Kate Veatch character was used as a potential love interest in order to produce a sense of sexual tension between her and the film’s male leads. Both the protagonist Peter La Fleur and antagonist White Goodman are intent on pursuing Kate and are not shy about showing their interest, most especially Goodman. It is revealed at the end of the film that Kate is in a committed relationship with a woman who she is seen kissing/ embracing after Average Joe’s victorious win over Globo Gym in a Las Vegas Dodgeball competition. A dejected La Fleur is surprised to learn that Kate is bisexual when she then finishes kissing her girlfriend and begins to make out with him. Although she does not act outright sexual throughout the film, the filmmakers go out of their way to make her a sex object that’s purpose is to be alluring to the men in the film. This is problematic because it does not round out her character as a real person but instead as an object to be desired.

Jennifer Check

Jennifer Check is a demonically possessed highschool student that acts as a seductress in the film by utilizing her sexuality in order to lure her victims to their deaths. For the most part she preys on horny young men, but is unopposed to seducing her lifelong friend Anita (“Needy”) in order to attain what she is after, human flesh. What I find interesting is since its theatrical release Jennifer’s Body has actually received acclaim from feminist groups praising it as a stance on the #metoo movement and fighting for feminist ideals. What it does well is highlight a woman that is not defenseless against men who attempt to rape her. It can also be argued that because she is luring her victims in purposely she is in control of how her body is used and is in control of her sexuality. What is problematic about the film’s Jennifer Check character however is that filmmakers capitalized on the fact that Jennifer was sacrificed to become a succubus in order to then oversexualize her as a driving force of the film. This oversexualization not only drove the film, but was a major selling point when marketing it to potential audiences. 

Roger Smith

American Dad has never been shy when it comes to controversial topics/ characters. Unlike many of the other portrayals of bisexual characters on this list Roger Smith is not only an animated character but is also not a human being. Due to this fact the creators of the show are able to take many more liberties when constructing his persona. Roger exudes sexuality which is rather odd when you take into account that he isn’t human. The fact that he is an alien, I suppose, gives the creators of the show a reason by which they can make Roger so sexual in nature because they can play it off as Roger being used to different social norms. Where the problem lies isn’t that he explores sexually with different genders, but because he is so overtly sexual that it makes up most of what his character is. 

Dr. Julia Harris

Dr. Julia Harris is a perfect example of the problematic representation of bisexuality in film. Not only is Harris made to be oversexualized, but most if not all of her sexual encounters are predatory in nature. The film plays off her predatory behavior as a joke when in actuality most of her conduct is borderline illegal. Even considering the movie is a comedy and her sexual advances are supposed to be made with humorous intent it sets a dangerous precedent that because she is a white female that her actions are fine/ laughable. Her sexualization is used also to distract from the fact that she is quite literally a rapist. On more than one occasion Dr. Harris either threatens to rape, attempts to rape, or actually rapes someone during the films runtime.  

Citations: 

San Filippo, M. (2013). The B word: Bisexuality in contemporary film and television. Indiana University Press.

The B word: Bisexuality in contemporary film and television

Alexander, J. (2007). Bisexuality in the media: A digital roundtable. Journal of Bisexuality, 7(1-2), 113-124.

Bisexuality in the media: A digital roundtable

Williams, C. Bisexuality in Film.

Bisexuality in Film

Kleese, C. (2011, July 10). Shady Characters, Untrustworthy Partners, and Promiscuous Sluts: Creating Bisexual Intimacies in the Face of Heteronormativity and Biphobia. Retrieved from

Shady Characters, Untrustworthy Partners, and Promiscuous Sluts: Creating Bisexual Intimacies in the Face of Heteronormativity and Biphobia

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s