Bi Media Watch: October 2014

BCN 127 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 127, October 2014

Bisexuality can pop up in all sorts of places. I was watching Witches of East End a few weeks ago (15 Sept) as James Marsters is due to be in the later episodes, and it may be worth knowing what’s going on. Besides which, it’s relatively undemanding viewing for a Monday night.

During the episode a character called Alex was introduced who had a combative relationship with one of the main characters, Joanna (who lost her husband in a previous episode). There are references to something in the past that means they don’t speak. During a flashback to the 70s, we see Alex and Joanna at home, about to have fondue (well, it was the 70s), and Alex is introduced as a friend to Joanna’s daughter Freya.

At this point I was thinking friend or ‘friend’, and my gut feeling of ‘I bet I know which friend they mean’ was rewarded when Alex kisses Joanna as they hunt down the monster. It transpires that Alex and Joanna had a relationship in the 70s that Joanna ended badly, leaving Alex resentful. At the end of the episode, Alex and Joanna talk, Joanna apologises for ending things badly and acknowledges that they did have ‘a good thing going’, and they part having resolved some of the pain of the past.

It remains to be seen as to whether this will be referenced as the series progresses, and of course the word ‘bisexual’ is never used. From the reaction of another character who witnesses Alex and Joanna’s goodbye kiss, it would appear that Joanna has never mentioned that she has had relationships with women before. It’s not all trope-y though, Joanna and Alex are both older members of the cast and Alex is a woman of colour, which is pretty good to see in a Lifetime series. It’s rare that bisexuality is shown outside of the pretty young things in a cast.

For those interested in Buffy alumnae who appear in other shows, as well as James, the series features Tom Lenk (Andrew) and Bianca Lawson (Kendra – who has not aged a day since Buffy!). I didn’t have the highest hopes for Witches of East End, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. It’s held my interest for the past 6 weeks, which is pretty good going.

In sadder news, the fifth series of Lost Girl will be the last series. I am sad about this, it appears that five is the magic number for US series currently. Warehouse 13, Leverage and now Lost Girl have only had 5 series. I am hoping that it will be a full series as opposed to the 6 episodes that Warehouse 13 was given, and I hope that the series doesn’t try to force Bo into making the choices that they have studiously avoided for the previous four series.

As well as the loss of Bo, the other big news has been the fact that NBC will be straightwashing John Constantine, one of the few canonically bisexual male comic book characters. John Constantine is the cynical, chain-smoking, ex-punk demon hunter who is the main protagonist in the Hellblazer series, last seen on screen portrayed by Keanu Reeves (aka Ted: The Demon Hunter). NBC have already got a problem in the smoking, as they can’t show smoking on screen. Apparently they will be getting round this by having Constantine stub cigarettes out on screen, as if he’s just finished one.

However when it comes to his bisexuality, NBC showrunner David Cerone has said,
“In those comic books, John Constantine aged in real time. Within this tome of three decades [of comics] there might have been one or two issues where he’s seen getting out of bed with a man. So [maybe] 20 years from now? But there are no immediate plans.”

This could possibly be excusable if the show was being made in 1988 (when Hellblazer became a regular series), but Constantine was making references to previous boyfriends in 1992. There is no excuse for a show in 2014 to not at least have the bisexual protagonist mention that he has had relationships with men! And as for the 20 years comment – does anyone expect the show to run for 20 years? Do we seriously have to wait until 2034 before a man can say ‘I’ve dated women and I’ve dated men’ in a TV show?

Young Batman

Smallville gave us all the characters in Superman when they were still smalltown kids, and now that franchise has burned itself out it’s been followed by Gotham, a show again taking a comic book superhero and all the associated characters and planting them back in their youth.  Now half-a-dozen episodes in, there is some frustration to be had at the way that everyone you’ve spotted as a “grows up to be…” is certain to survive whatever scrape they get into week by week.  We have at least two queer women in the plot – Fish (bi) and Renee (gay). Then there’s Barbara, who it seems was bisexual when younger and may be straight now or may just be trying to cover up her past in order to strengthen her current relationship or social standing.  So our bi lineup covers the murderous criminal and the liar as well as carrying the baggage of a former affair that might bust your comfortable life wide open – surely a winning poker hand of bi cliches.  Fun, but if you get political about your bi representation on TV you may need to turn it into some kind of a drinking game.

Jen & Jules