Bi MediaWatch: Revenge of the bisexuals

BCN 122 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 122, December 2013

Vicky Syred looks at bi representation in E4’s Revenge

Revenge tells the story of Emily Thorne, born Amanda Clarke, who is seeking revenge on the people (chief among them the Graysons family) who framed her father for aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation and later ordered his death.  In the programme’s history, its four characters who have at least been suspected of being bi. After finishing the second season, I think it’s time to have a look at how well bisexuals are represented in it

Nolan Ross

One of the main characters in the show, he’s the loyal best  friend of Emily Thorne and often takes part in her schemes. He’s never said on screen he’s bisexual, but he did state that he was a “4 on the Kinsey Scale” early on in the first season, so I think that’s close enough. He’s been shown to be in sexual and loving relationships with both men and women, but this being Revenge, love never does run smoothly so he’s also been betrayed by all of them in one way or another. But it’s never been suggested that he can’t catch a break because of his sexuality, as up to this point, no one else has either.

Tyler Barrol

College room mate of Daniel Grayson, Emily’s on and off fiancé. He’s vindictive and spiteful and tried to destroy Daniel after his advances were spurned. He flirted with Ashley Davenport, Emily’s friend in season 1, when he first met her and went on to date her. He ultimately used her for access to the Graysons and cheated on her with Nolan (she mercifully finds out pretty quickly). If this was the only representation of bisexuality on the show, I wouldn’t have carried on watching it, particularly as at the end of his time on the show it’s revealed that he’s mentally unstable and is off his meds, apparently explaining his actions. This is troubling in itself, as mentally ill people are more likely to be the victims of abuse rather than the perpetrators of it. However, he’s hardly the worst behaved character on the show, and his behaviour is never linked to his sexuality, so I’ll give the show a pass.

Amanda Clarke (née Emily Thorne)

Emily’s cell mate in juvie, and when Emily needed a new identity Amanda was happy to swap names with her. When she first arrived she seemed quite obsessed with Emily, and I had been expecting a crazy lesbian storyline. Instead, she mellowed out and started dating Jack. Taking on the identity of David Clarke’s daughter had its own problems though and the Graysons didn’t make life easy for her. Despite dating and ultimately marrying Jack, she continued to show affection for Emily, and although it’s never made explicit by the show I’m pretty sure she was bisexual. Revenge struck again though, and she was killed off in the show’s second season. On the one hand how the show handled Amanda’s storyline could be seen as titillation for men, a former stripper shows signs of fancying a girl only to ultimately settle down with a guy. On the other though, it shows that even people attracted to members of more than one sex can commit to just one person.

Emily Thorne (née Amanda Clarke)

The main protagonist herself has shown signs of being interested in women and well as men. When Emily was in juvie, she became quite attached to Amanda and out of all of the people in the world, she chose her to swap her identities with. She shows annoyance when Amanda comes in to town but soon makes clear it’s because she wants to keep Amanda out of the way for any consequences for her actions. Emily shows little sign of returning Amanda’s affections, but this is well within the scope of her character, as she fears that showing real emotions is a sign of weakness. When Amanda ultimately dies in the second season, Emily says she loved her in a tearful confession in front of Nolan. Perhaps partly because of losing this relationship, Emily has since let her guard down in front of Aidan Mathis, a man she trained with in preparation for her plan to take down the Graysons.

Revenge is a show where no one is particularly likeable. These four characters are no more or no less likeable because of their sexualities. This is probably one of the most progressive programmes out there in the portrayal of non heterosexual sexualities, and for this I applaud it.