Brittany Pierce: a positive portrayal of teen bisexuality

This originally appeared in BCN issue 115.

Ask most fans of Glee about its representation of bisexuality and very often one episode gets brought up: Blame it on the Alcohol. In their infinite wisdom, the creators of Glee decided it’d be a great idea to take an established gay character, get him drunk and have him snog a girl, sober up, decide to date her for a bit, doubt his sexuality and then after kissing her when sober go back to being gay again. All in the space of one episode

Lovely.

However, from the second episode of Glee there has been positive representation of bisexuality that the creators have at times seemed not to want you to know about and her name is Brittany S. Pierce.

Ever since Brittany debuted on screen as a bit part during Showmance, she’s been unashamedly eyeing up boys (including Mike who she’s rumoured to have dated in the first season) and girls (especially but not exclusively Santana, who she’s now in a long distance relationship with) alike.

There were only a couple of lines delivered by Brittany in the first season which explored her sexuality:

  • After Santana said “Sex is not dating”, Brittany agreed, saying “If it were, Santana and I would be dating.” This had been meant to be delivered as a joke, but after saying that the two of them exchanged awkward glances.
  • During Bad Reputation, she wonders why she’s only fourth in the Glist (a ranking of sexual depravity of the members of New Directions) when “I’ve made out with, like, everyone in this school. Girls, boys, Mr Kinney the janitor.”

In the second season when Brittany’s actress, Heather Morris, was taken on as a regular cast member the show started exploring her sexuality. After a make out session with Santana during Duets, Brittany suggests they sing Melissa Etheridge’s ‘Come to My Window’ for that week’s assignment for Glee. As Santana was still a closet lesbian at this point, she refused, but the fact Brittany even asked shows she was comfortable singing a romantic song to another woman in front of the rest of the Glee club.

When Santana finally admits she loves Brittany during Sexy, Britt is dating Artie. Although Brittany freely admits she loves Santana back, as she was already with someone else, she says she can’t break up with him because she loves him too and it “wouldn’t be fair to him”. This successfully challenges the stereotype that bisexuals can’t commit to any one person.

At the time, although it was pretty obvious to me that Brittany was already comfortable with loving people regardless of their gender, the writers themselves couldn’t seem to decide what to label her. After giving Santana a ‘Lebanese’ T-shirt, she asks if the reason Santana’s upset with her is because she’s a lesbian and Brittany thinks she’s bi-curious (pause for groan).

Since then, however, the writers have given Brittany lines to show quite how open she is about her own sexuality:

  • During I Am Unicorn, when talking to Kurt about her running as a candidate for class president, she says she realised she was a unicorn too [with Santana’s help!], and followed this with “maybe a bicorn”.
  • During The Spanish Teacher, she joked that she was “bilingual”.
  • In Props, after Santana told a teacher in the teachers’ lounge that they were both gay, Brittany pointed out that she wasn’t “totally gay” (pause for another groan”, but that this didn’t make a huge difference to Santana’s point.

 

I’ll admit that the lines they’re getting Brittany to deliver aren’t always perfect. However, Brittany is now in a long term relationship with a girl, Santana, but the show isn’t afraid to point out that she herself isn’t gay. In similar situations, other TV series have chosen to identify the character as gay, regardless of who their past relationships were with:

  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Willow had a committed and long term relationship with Oz and also was in love with Xander. However, during and after her relationship with Tara, she said she was “gay now”.
  • Hollyoaks is a repeat offender:
    • When Sarah Barnes entered into a relationship with Lydia, despite the number of men she’d been with before, she proclaimed to everyone that she was a lesbian.
    • Ste Hay was in a relationship with Amy Barnes for years and they had children together but after he started sleeping with Brendan, he apparently decided to come out as gay.

At the end of season three, it was revealed Brittany will be retaking senior year whereas her girlfriend has graduated. It’s not clear where Santana will move on to but it’ll be interesting to see how Glee handles a long distance relationship between the two of them and whether they stay together or not.

Glee is returning to Sky UK with its fourth season in January 2013

Vicky Syred

Vicky blogs at http://catvix.blogspot.co.uk. Go and say hello!