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I had a hard time reading Walters’ paper just because it is talking about queerness and how all races, ethnicities, and sexuality are lumped together. What I found difficult to read was the undermining impression again that all feminists are lesbians. She does address the stereotypes of feminists (older, ugly, plaid-wearing, sexless, and men hater women) and their behavior but I find it so discouraging that most of the articles that we have read have all been about a particular author’s lesbianism. Surely, their is someone of academia that could address the concerns of queer theory and be respectable of these identities without having to identify as a lesbian. Maybe this is where the community acceptance fails. There isn’t enough supportive awareness from queer and non-queer perspectives. Or, maybe I’m just naive.
Turning my attention to Moorman, I really enjoyed reading Moorman’s piece because she talks about television and lesbian or bisexual relationships without throwing herself into the mix. She addresses the issues of bisexuality in television by questioning who is the audience and do these characters betray the gay community? Moorman says that bisexuality is problematic because the portrayals of bisexuals must have at least one partner in any given relationship not two, bisexuality is part of “experimentation” or a “phase”, and lastly, bisexuality does not fall into “classification.” Moorman points that there have been a lot of lesbian/bisexual characters in television such as Nancy in Roseanne, but the problem is how to integrate these characters when the max amount per show is only one. There were a lot of shows listed in this article, but when I think of any recent shows, I think of Brittany and Santana on Glee. Both girls take on bisexuality, and some of the boys see their sexuality of something that can be fixed simply by spending one evening with them. Which, this kind of comes back to the the lesbian/bisexual classification. Their feelings and/or behavior are treated as a phase. Jackson too reinforces the list of shows that deal with lesbianism such as the O.C., and Buffy, but I have never watched any of these shows. And, I agree, lesbianism on T.V. does seem rare. Jackson mentions the famous Spears and Madonna kiss, but I never took it to mean bisexuality (even though they stress this in their music) but rather for publicity.
Again, like above, I can’t really say that I have seen a movie that addresses lesbianism, but mainly because, as the audience member, I don’t want to see two women making out. So , unfortunately, besides Glee, I haven’t seen the other shows listed throughout the articles except for Roseanne and even then, I haven’t seen that show in several years. I will say, when looking at magazines, I always found Lindsay Lohan to be a confusing person just because it appeared as though she was/is in a relationship with a woman. Other than that, I do not know of many lesbian people besides Ellen Degeneres and the lady that stars the cheerleading coach on Glee.
Jennifer Moorman’s article on bisexual representation is an interesting one. More and more films and television shows have positively and unapologetically featured gay characters–Glee, Lost, Mad Men, Milk, and Brokeback Mountain. Some of these contain gay character’s defined by their homosexuality, others just are with little consequence to the narrative; in other words, the portray of homosexuality is, arguably, getting more nuanced. On the other hand, bisexuality remains elusive. It’s rare that we find a character in cinema that is truly bisexual and defined as such.
Moorman indicates the difficulty in establishing a bisexual character. Firstly, male gaze-centric Hollywood will place a heterosexual female character in a lesbian encounter as a spectacle–”girl-on-girl action”. Because this is directed towards a heterosexual male audience member, the female character is often understood to be heterosexual as well, engaging in lesbian sexuality as mediated sexual tactic or as experimentation, or as a “‘phase’ along the way to either a heterosexual or homosexual identity” (122). Thus, according to Moorman, a truly bisexual character must not just have a sexual encounter with both sexes, but “‘oscillate” (122) between them.
At the moment, the first bisexual character that comes to my mind is Lisbeth Salander, the title character of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. In the film, she’s a young, punkish computer hacker rebelling against mainstream society, a society that has not only psychologically oppressed her, but quiet physically and externally as well; despite the fact that she’s come into young adulthood, the state deems her unfit to handle independence, and thus control over her finances and lifestyle are handed over to the government in the form of a guardian or intermediary. Lisbeth is bisexual–in fact, her sexual orientation is more complicated than that as she sees herself as simply sexual, gender being of no consequence really. My perception of Salander from the film was slightly skewed as I had read the novel prior to seeing it. In the novel, her internal monologue makes it clear that she doesn’t mind having sex with men or women, and she has various encounters with both throughout the film. As she has a change of guardians in the film, her newest intermediary highly disapproves of her lifestyle, and when she confesses to her interest in both sexes, she is looked at by the guardian as being a sexual deviant, as going through a phase. In the film, as we do not get Salander’s monologue nor do we have the kind of length necessary to see her truly “oscillate” between sexes, her portrayal might comes across as more problematic. The situation is further complicated by the fact that she is, in both the novel and the film, a character in search of her own identity, unsure of herself, making mistakes, and at times acts impulsively. This might bolster the reading that the character is “experimenting” with her sexuality, or going through a phase. However, the character’s homosexual encounters are not put forth as “girl-on-girl action” or fan service–they are not explicit or lingered on. The result is a nuanced, complicated, and, I concede, at times problematic, bisexual character.
What I really liked in the Walters reading was the scope of what she was discussing; this chapter was not focused deeply on one aspect of a theory, but lots of aspect that feed into queer identity (such as how society defines sexuality, and how the political powers the word ‘queer’ comes with), and how these aspects work in relation to each other. This relationship seems to be often ignored by many other theorists, which often leaves me frustrated – when I am reading their papers, I find myself wanting answers, and looking for loops in their theories, which they rarely admit to. There are flaws in all arguments, and I think when constructing an argument it is important to admit flaws, how ever big or small, as no argument can be the end all of arguments. What I really enjoyed is that this paper highlights flaws in queer identity (for example, that it is very often associated with trendy whiteness).
Media: I didn’t enjoy the Moorman reading so much, as I was frustrated about the critiques she makes about the show the L word, and its bisexual characters. As I understand it, this show was primarily aimed at lesbians (although heterosexual males also showed a lot of interest in the show), so the creators of the show have to keep this in mind when making the show – they more than likely did not want to include too much heterosexual intimacy as this may alienate the shows primary viewers. I am not sure if this is a ‘flaw’ in the viewers; should they perhaps be more inclusive of intimacy between opposite sex partners? The show was also critiqued for not showing enough of the lesbian community and life style, which I also found to be very frustrating. One show cannot possibly represent and entire community, regardless of what the show is about; Moorman seems to be critiquing the L word very harshly, as I am not sure she would expect the same from a show on another community. What I think she should look into instead, is the possibility of another show on another lesbian community (there has been several made since the L word ended). If there is more coverage of the lesbian community, there will be more chances for looking at different aspects of that community. What Moorman needs to remember is that show directors need to ensure the show appeals to their primary audience, and in this case, it was the lesbian community, so to critique bisexuality in this show is bound to provide a mountain of problems. Whilst I understand media can make political statements, one always has to remember that the creators of that media more than likely has the primary viewers at the fore front of their decision making – if their viewers are not happy with what they are seeing, they will simply stop watching the show, and thus the show will not be a success. When considering this, one can then see that perhaps it is society that has the problems with bisexuality; after all, Chaiken is just providing her viewers (members of society) with what they want to see. Whilst I understand that media can advance society, one must not forget that media also reflects society and societies ideas.
The film and television business has made successful inroads in creating complex representations of the lesbian and gay communities. We can flip to several channels and see series that offer gay and lesbian characters – including Will & Grace, Glee, True Blood, Grey’s Anatomy and Modern Family. However, the creation of nuanced bisexual characters often lags or falls into a stereotypical trope.
Moorman argues that television has failed to incorporate nuanced bisexual characters because their presence challenges the heteropatriarchal gaze. Bisexual men, women and queers are perceived as choosing to have relationships with both males and females, so lesbian feminists have often rejected bisexuals for using heterosexual privilege to navigate the LGBT*Q space. So, since bisexuality is characterized as an “anti-identity,” it is often excluded from the construction of male and female characters on television.
Bisexuality is considered a temporal space where men and women venture to “find themselves” before coupling and settling into a conformed lifestyle. This trope is continually perpetuated on television, which reifies the dominant heteropatriarchal gaze of bisexual relationships. As Moorman chronicles, bisexual characters weren’t present on television until 1991. Between 1991 and now, there have been few bisexual characters, and some of their sexualities are used for comedic relief.
When we do get bisexual characters, they fit into a narrow stereotype of what bisexuality is. One of those stereotypical characters is Prison Break’s Theodore “T-Bag” Bagwell. Bagwell is a supporting character serving time with the main character, Michael Scofield, in a maximum-security prison. He identifies as bisexual, but the origins of his sexuality are traced to consistent molestation by his father. This character arch magnifies the continual perception of childhood trauma e.g. rape and molestation with gay or bisexual identity. Bagwell is also constructed as a sexual predator. His pedophilia is eluded to throughout the series and he often preys on new inmates and rapes them. Again, this confirms dominant understandings of bisexual identity in men and how that manifests.
Moorman deems it difficult for bisexual characters to be written because all same-sex interactions aren’t an indication of bisexuality. However, television has failed to even consider the possibilities of presenting healthy bisexual relationships. The L-Word had the potential to feature complex bisexual characters, but Alice and Lisa’s relationship is often framed through the heterosexist lens.
I’d argue bisexual filmmakers and television writers must be offered seats at executive tables in order to create authentic depictions of bisexual relationships and identities. But in order for this to happen, the media has to admit its exclusion of bisexuality – and I doubt that’ll ever happen.
Orange is the New Black is a Netflix original series centered in a woman’s federal prison in Litchfield, New York. The plot revolves around an array of female prisoners, but the primary protagonist is Piper Chapman. The upper middle-class, educated, White woman is sentenced to 15 months in prison for assisting her former girlfriend, Alex Vause (played by Laura Prepon), with a drug mule operation. Chapman can be considered one of the first bisexual characters written into a television script, but the construction of her sexuality is problematic for several reasons.
Chapman and Vause had a turbulent relationship while they were in college, which reifies the stereotype that experimental sexuality is rampant on college campuses. The writers approach their relationship as a mere phase in Chapman’s life that is quelled when she decides she’d rather date men. Limiting a relationship with a same-sex partner to a bump in the road toward traditional marriage is a disservice to the LGBT*Q community and only serves to satisfy the heteropatriarchal understandings of same-sex relationships. Chapman’s bisexuality is presented as a fleeting fantasy with no roots, as evidenced in her abandonment of Vause during a specific time of need. Lesbianism as a means of sexual gratification when there’s no men present is also reinforced when Chapman and Vause rekindle their relationship while they’re in prison.
To be clear, Orange is the New Black is one of the most progressive and entertaining series of the last decade. It unpacks privilege across the intersections of race, class and nationality well, but the series fails to present a nuanced and complex view of bisexuality outside of satisfying the heterosexist gaze.
I appreciate Moorman’s discussion of bisexuality as portrayed in television. It does much to demonstrate how bisexuality is used as a phase in much television writing. As is obviated by the discussion, this problematizes interactions between gay and straight communities. Straight audiences could interpret brief forays into homosexuality as evidence that homosexuality is little more than sexual experimentation and if made into a lifelong lifestyle a choice and not an orientation. It also causes problems between bisexual and gay communities. Many gay individuals are distrustful of the bisexual community as they are aware of the straight interpretation of bisexuality as illustrated above. As is typical of the Hollywood agenda to promote over sexualization of its content and less about clearing up identity delineations.
Media: As for lesbians as portrayed in media, I would like to discuss the portrayal of Julianne Moore’s character in the film “The Kids Are Alright.” She portrays a lesbian mother who moves back into heterosexuality briefly to engage in an affair. While the film does much to demonstrate the strength of the lesbian led home, it also suggests that the lesbian characters are always at root yearning for a man in their lives. I enjoyed the film, but it suggests that its lesbian characters, with their intense enjoyment of male on male porn and Moore’s character’s yearning for intercourse with a male that lesbianism is more the result of psychological imbalance or social non conformity.
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