The portrayal of bisexuality in the media reflects societal attitudes towards bisexuality.
Literature[edit | edit source]
Virginia Woolf's Orlando: A Biography (1928) is one of the earliest examples of bisexuality in literature. The story about a man who changes into a woman without a second thought was based on the life of Woolf's then lover Vita Sackville-West, a bisexual like Woolf herself. Woolf's used the gender switch to avoid the book being banned for homosexual content, and was successful for it. Following Sackille-West's death, her son Nigel Nicolson would publish Portrait of a Marriage, one of her diaries recounting her affair with a woman during her marriage to Harold Nicolson. Other early, subtle examples include works of D.H. Lawrence, such as Women in Love (1920), and Colette's Claudine (1900-1903) series.
In more recent years, following a more socially liberal perspective of sexuality, bisexuality has become more common in literature. This includes the work of Bret Easton Ellis, Anne Rice, Annie Proulx, and Alice Walker.
Comic books[edit | edit source]
In 1981, X-men writer Chris Claremont intended the character Destiny to be the lover of Brotherhood of Mutants teammate Mystique, a shapeshifter, and had originally intended for Destiny and Mystique to be Nightcrawler's biological parents, with Mystique taking the form of a man for the conception. However, Marvel editors did not allow gay or bisexual characters at that time and the idea was abandoned.
Cinema[edit | edit source]
British film Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971) portrayed a bisexual male named Bob with a lover of each gender. This was one of the earliest portrayals to be explicit on the subject of bisexuality, though film versions of several novels involving bisexuality, such as Women in Love (1969) and Goldfinger (1964) had been released earlier. The film is told from the perspectives of the homosexual partner and the heterosexual partner. Critics of the time described Bob as "shallow", "callous", and "selfish". Cite error: Invalid
invalid names, e.g. too many The following year, the American musical Cabaret was released as a film, featuring a bisexual protagonist.
1975 saw the release of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a musical about a bisexual antihero. Memorable films involving bisexuality from the 1980s include the film adaptation of The Color Purple (1985) and The Hunger (1983).
In the early nineties, independent film Go Fish (1994), which portrays a lesbian love story, had a bisexual moment in which a lesbian-identified character has sex with a man and on her way home is challenged by a "jury," who question whether a woman who has sex with a man can call herself a lesbian. She contrasts how a gay man who has sex with a woman is characterized as being "bored, drunk [or] lonely" but if a lesbian has sex with a man "her whole life choice becomes suspect." In 1997, Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy took on the question of sexual identity in a story about a lesbian-identified woman who falls in love with a man, and ends with a straight-identified male beginning to question his attitudes and identity.
Bisexuality in film has become increasingly common in the last few decades, seen in popular mainstream films such as Brokeback Mountain (2005), Rent (2005), Kinsey (2004), Y tu mamá también (2001) and Alexander (2004). In 2007, the musical Love Songs was released in France to considerable success and a Golden Palm nomination.
It's not uncommon for film adaptations of bisexual-themed novels to remove the bisexual content, as well as later revisions of original screenplays. This is apparent in films such as Less Than Zero (1987), Hair (1979), Midnight Express (1974) (affair between prisoners becomes fictionalized rape) and The Dreamers (2003).
Internet/Web TV[edit | edit source]
Beginning in 2009 a web TV series Rose by Any Other Name... produced by FenceSitter Films. began showing on YouTube. The story follows the main characters Rose a comfortably out woman who identifies as lesbian and Anthony a straight man who serendipitously meet and then unexpectedly find themselves falling for each other. Rose has to navigate the reaction of her friends (they aren't thrilled) and her family (they are) while Anthony too has to deal with his friends who are equally nonplussed.
Television[edit | edit source]
Bisexual characters appear in television series such as Karen Walker in the sitcom Will & Grace, and All My Children. In a 1988 episode of NBC drama Midnight Caller, "After it Happened", a bisexual man is depicted as an AIDS carrier who deliberately infects straight women. This episode proved highly controversial in the bisexual community. In 1990, a BBC mini-series adaptation of Portrait of a Marriage aired. In 2001, another bisexual-themed miniseries aired called Bob and Rose, written by Queer as Folk creator Russell T. Davies. The mini-series is about a gay man who falls in love with a straight woman, and is based on the experience of a friend of Davies. 
Torchwood is a spin-off of long running British sci-fi Doctor Who, created by Russell T Davies. The show is based in Cardiff, Wales, and deals with several LGBT themes, specifically bisexuality. Each of the main characters in Torchwood has same-sex encounters at some point in the first season, with The Sun describing all of the characters on Torchwood as bisexual. Davies has said that he hopes to defy audience expectations of monosexual characters:
"Without making it political or dull, this is going to be a very bisexual programme. I want to knock down the barriers so we can't define which of the characters is gay. We need to start mixing things up, rather than thinking, 'This is a gay character and he'll only ever go off with men.'" - Russel T. Davies
The lead male in the series, Captain Jack Harkness originated in parent series Doctor Who, which is considered a family show, as opposed to Torchwood's adult orienation. Davies has also described Jack as omnisexual.
MTV's The Real World
On December 30, 2009, MTV premiered their 23rd season of the show The Real World. The series took place in Washington DC, and features two bisexual characters, Emily Schromm, and Mike Manning. Manning's sexuality appears to have generated some controversy, with both bloggers and many comments on blogs saying that he is really gay, although he himself identifies as bisexual and has dated both sexes.
Music[edit | edit source]
David Bowie's androgynous appearance and open bisexuality was reflected in a some of his songs, in particular "John, I'm Only Dancing" (1972). The original video directed by Mick Rock, featuring androgynous dancers from Lindsay Kemp's mime troupe, was banned by Top of the Pops. The single was not released in America, being judged too risqué by RCA.
Bisexual singer/songwriter Tom Robinson, famous for his 1976 single "Glad to be Gay," was known as a homosexual activist until he fell in love with and married a woman. A number of his songs, such as Blood Brother (1990), have bisexual themes. As a bisexual activist, he now runs BothWays.com.
In 2003, Britney Spears staged a kiss with Madonna (who also kissed Christina Aguilera in the same performance) on an MTV Video Music Awards performance that would continue to fuel bisexual chic, and at the time many news and tabloid outsources referred to it as "lesbian chic",   since it was clear from her impending marriage to Kevin Federline that Spears was certainly not a monosexual lesbian. The kiss is seen as a publicity stunt but helped to fuel the ever-growing trend. In November 2006, Paris Hilton appeared in public with her hand on Spears' left breast.
In 2004, the popular alternative punk band My Chemical Romance released their album, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. In the album, one of the songs, "You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison," touches on bisexual relationships and prison rape. Gerard Way stated that the song was mainly focused on a game of truth or dare, where he was dared to kiss Bert McCracken of The Used. At many of the band's live shows though, a kiss is often shared between Gerard Way and Frank Iero. Both members have stated that they are not gay and "just like to play around." Also, in the music video for, "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)," Iero is seen kissing Way on the cheek, where he says "Trust me."
In 2008, Katy Perry released a song called "I Kissed a Girl", though it is unrelated to the Jill Sobule version. It was by received Billboard Top 40 success. The song is about a girl's curiosity about kissing another girl, though she has a boyfriend.
Video games[edit | edit source]
The 1995 game Phantasmagoria 2: A Puzzle of Flesh was the first to establish a playable bisexual character. Several video games including The Sims, Fallout 2, Fable and Bully allow potential bisexual romantic or sexual behavior.
In the video game series Metal Gear Solid, the villain Vamp is known to be bisexual, and is revealed in dialogue to have adopted the name as an indication of this. Another bisexual villain appears in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater named Colonel Volgin.
See also[edit | edit source]
[edit | edit source]
- GLAAD: Bisexuality in Movies, Television and Music
- Bryant, Wayne M.. Bisexual Characters in Film: From Anais to Zee. Haworth Gay & Lesbian Studies, 1997. ISBN 1-56023-894-1
- Thomas Geller's Bisexuality: A Reader and Sourcebook (1990)
- The Bisexual Option - Fritz Klein's psychological exploration of the bisexual.
- Out Films: Top 10 bisexual movies
- Bisexual Literature
- AfterElton.com about gay and bisexual men in entertainment
- AfterEllen.com about lesbian and bisexual women in entertainment