15 Tips for Believable Bisexual Characters in TV and Movies
Tired old tropes about bisexuals are, if nothing else, just really lazy writing — you know, for example, where the bisexual character’s only reason for existing is to run around collecting lovers, switching back and forth between genders, or bedding multiple people at once, cheating for sport, and showing no compunction for breaking hearts.
Though these cheap attempts at creating bisexual characters may work for the most mindless fans for a short while, capturing a long-term audience with a keen and lasting interest requires more than unimaginative stock characters with no basis in reality.
The transparent lack of imagination and effort that goes into “creating” stereotypical bisexual characters is much more of a tragedy though than boring one’s audience. These “people-we-all-love-to-hate” bi characters have the additional effect of harming the bisexual community — contributing to alarming rates of depression, anxiety, rape, domestic violence, thoughts of suicide, substance abuse etc. etc.
We all are aware of the impact that fictional role models — good and bad — have in very real ways, in the lives of very real people. Despite what many may say, there really are bisexuals, who are in fact, very real, and they may even be someone you love.
Producers of content meant for mass consumption actually have the power to affect the world in positive ways or negative ways — money can be made either way. But wouldn’t you sleep better at night knowing you’ve been part of the solution instead of part of the problem?
It’s not just bisexuals who need to see positive bi role models. Other people shouldn’t think being bi means being confused, or a liar, or a psychopath — all ideas they may come away with watching TV and movies. Bisexuals need other people to not think that those bad things are what bisexuals automatically are. We need other people to not think that hating on bisexuals is normal cool behavior.
So for anyone involved in any way, with any kind of entertainment, that involves bisexual characters, please listen up and learn a few things about how to create believable and believably bi characters.
1. Get Educated!
Getting a bit of education about bisexuality and bisexual issues so that you don’t use inaccurate or upsetting language, would make a world of difference in how you think about imagining bisexual characters.
2. Make Your Characters Out and Proud!
Have bisexual characters who embrace the word bisexual and show pride in being bisexual. Being bi shouldn’t be a dirty little secret, but so many times in media, bi characters never address or accept who they are.
3. Fight Biphobia!
Use the character’s sexual orientation as part of the plot but focus on the challenges of a biphobic world, instead of on an insatiable sex drive. For example, biphobic references could happen in the storyline — but the biphobe immediately gets cut down to size by the bisexual character’s gay friends, or a stranger in the grocery store, or some teenagers at a beach. Not only does this illustrate that biphobia’s not okay, but provides a template for other people to fight biphobia in real life.
For example, someone tells a biphobe to back off when the person is teasing the bisexual for not “picking a side,” responding with “He’s bisexual; what do you mean, he has to pick a side? That’s like telling a spork to decide if it’s a spoon or a fork. That’s like asking an RV to decide if it’s a house or a car!”
Fighting biphobia isn’t just the right thing to do — it creates an opportunity to come up with some very witty lines.
4. Bisexuality Doesn’t Define You!
Have characters whose bisexuality is not used as part of the drama. Have the fact of the character’s sexual orientation just one aspect of who they are, not the focus of their existence… you know, like in real life!
For example, we see a bisexual woman breaking up with a lesbian girlfriend because the girlfriend is cheating (let the drama focus here, which turns around the stereotype of lesbians not wanting to date bisexuals because they fear they will cheat), and she starts dating a guy who’s from a conservative family that doesn’t accept her upbringing by an eccentric artist aunt (more drama fodder). She wears bi pride shirts, and has a bi pride bumper sticker, but her life is not about being bisexual.
5. Bisexuals Are Fierce!
Make bisexual characters who are super cool, super hip — confident characters for whom biphobic comments only bounce off of, someone with sassy come backs that leave biphobics scampering away with their tails between their legs.
6. …But They Can Also Be Obnoxious, Just Like In Real Life!
Have an obnoxious, nerdy, bisexual who constantly corrects everyone’s bi erasure and biphobia. Other characters get her point, but she drives everyone crazy with her incessant reminders about not making assumptions about people’s sexual orientation, etc. Even though her unrelenting correcting is the butt of many jokes, we see those same people who joke about her irritating behavior also defending bisexuals when she’s not there to do it.
7. Bisexuals Aren’t Just In It For Themselves!
The bisexual character is an admirable defender of many causes, fights for #BlackLivesMatter, volunteers at a rape crisis center — incidentally educating them about the bi community’s terrible rape statistics — starts the school’s recycling program, and always eats her vegetables.
8. Fighting Biphobia Leads To Drama!
The bisexual character decides to start a bisexual social group at school, or in an LGBT center, and faces homophobia from the straight Christian-right community, while simulations battling biphobia from gays. Lots of drama!
9. Everyone Can Be Bi!
Have bisexual characters of various ethnicities, walks of life, ages. Forget the pretty, white, young, woman. Go for a Latino middle-age widower, father of three. Go for the newly single (because her husband left her for a twenty-something dive instructor) 55-year-old grandmother dating for the first time in decades. Go for the African-American runaway teen who was beat up and forced out of a biphobic home and about to get kicked out of a biphobic youth shelter, until he…..
10. Fight Biphobia In Romance!
Have a “gay” character in a long term same-gender relationship come out as bisexual, and challenge the biphobia among his gay friends and local LGBT community center. This storyline reeks of drama — the bisexual’s lover has to get over the shock — he knew his boyfriend was bi when he met him, but somehow thought that he morphed into gay when they fell in love.
11. Friendship Is Magic!
Have a friendship that consists of a bisexual single woman, a straight married woman, and a gay married guy who met in middle school. They are best buds forever and get into all kinds of madcap adventures, including breaking into a biphobic “LGBT” center and covering a whole bulletin board full of bi-positive messages.
12. End Tokenism!
Make a show with multiple bi characters, including some of whom do fit stereotypes, and some who don’t. For example, you could have a bisexual woman who is into polyamory being good friends with a super sexual, yet monogamous, bisexual woman. They’re both active in the dating world and compare notes on hot dates, boring dates, and biphobic dates.
They’re both friends with a bi-romantic asexual who rolls her eyes when they have these conversations and walks away every time the discussion turns sexual. Instead she spends most of her time posting cute mood boards on Pinterest when she’s not at her job in a physics laboratory doing stuff only a few people on the planet understand.
13. Genderqueer And Bisexuality Aren’t Mutually Exclusive!
Have a non-binary-gender bisexual character, or two or three! One could be agender, another gender-fluid, a third bi-gender. They meet up in college, and become a force to be reckoned with in the Gender Studies program, constantly challenging the professors who are a bit old-school.
14. Superheroic Bisexuals!
Create a bisexual superhero that is way goofy and fun and amazingly strong, who can pull energy in from other universes to stop natural disasters, and has pink purple and blue hair, and gets all shy around other cute super heroes of various genders.
15. Bisexuals Deserve Happy Endings Too!
Let your bisexual characters have happy endings.
After struggling for so long to find true love, Little-Bi-Blue (as all his friends call him) finds a really awesome gay transman who’s a bisexual ally.
Maybe your bi character is a high school teacher who bravely comes out, only to almost lose his job. But then, the PTA — after a stormy meeting where the parent of a bisexual student speaks impassionedly and eloquently — comes to his defense, and he gets to live happily ever after, especially since the whole ruckus leads him to meeting the bi woman activist of his dreams.
You see, there really are so many amazing ways to create positive bisexual characters, with really fun plotlines.