Bi Women's Bad Rap

Bi Women's Bad RapJenn WilsonOctopusI saw The People vs. Larry Flynt a few weeks ago. While I found it a compelling story and a sharp view of the characters and First Amendment issues, it took a while to figure out just why it bothered me: it was "Althea."Courtney Love's portrayal, of course, was excellent. The quality of her acting isn't the problem, nor is the real-life basis for the character. It's interesting, though, that yet another movie has made it onto the scene with an openly bisexual female, and that this character is uninterested in monogamy, (too?) susceptible to pleasures of the flesh, racy, and uneducated. Funny -- it sounds a lot like the sixteenth-century view of all women. And we all know how long it's taking to dispel that.In an informal survey, I asked a few dozen people of various cultural involvements how they tend to view "bi" women. A great many responses were, predictably, akin to "ambiguous," "can't decide," and "oversexed." One woman told me, "When I tell people [that I'm bisexual], they instinctively don't trust me to be faithful -- even my own girlfriend has misgivings."Is it any wonder, given the way mainstream entertainment "outs" female bisexuality? The movies and shows that find the most viewers and gross the largest incomes (without consideration, mind you, of their intellectual quality or lack thereof) don't exactly help dispel the wayward image. For instance, Basic Instinct's central character was certainly "out," but her romantic endeavors were mainly physical and, like her part in the murder mystery itself, seemed to be games, crafted for her entertainment.In another example, "Crystal," the brunette dancer in Showgirls, certainly fit the image of the self-involved bisexual: she lived in a mighty fast lane, carried on with multiple partners, and never gave the impression she could be trusted. The emerging bisexuality of the other main character so closely followed her rise -- or, relatively speaking, her downfall -- to "stardom" that it appeared to correlate too easily with her growing interest in ruthless competition.Even though more and more lesbian characters are depicted respectfully in movies and TV now, the most respectful "mainstream" portrayals of female bisexuals are either implicit -- left ambiguous for squeamish viewers -- or evaded altogether. For instance, in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, when Dr. Crusher's true love ended up in a female host body, she decided not to pursue the relationship.Warrior Princess Xena enjoys men, but still adores Gabrielle; their involvement has been kept rather quiet, allowing viewers to think, if they choose, that the two are just very affectionate.The movie Fried Green Tomatoes, a few years back, implied a romantic relationship between its two leading females, one of whom married and had children; it's been said, though, that if one doesn't know to look for the issue, it's not very noticeable. Boys on the Side is the same way.I find it interesting. Does art imitate life? Not completely, in this case, although it certainly does generalize. It would be nice if the "mainstream" movies and shows would create, a little more often, a bisexual character who is capable of choosing monogamy, who has more on her mind than physical gratification, and who is, in general, worthy of trust. And who isn't partially hidden behind the closet door.

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