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Bisexuality is having a moment: How the LGBTQ+ group is becoming more visible on screen

From Heartstopper to Brooklyn Nine-Nine, there are many great examples of bisexual representation on screen

Bisexuality has been depicted in TV and film through a number of characters (Netflix/NBC)
Bisexuality has been depicted in TV and film through a number of characters (Netflix/NBC)

Bisexuality, or the attraction to more than one gender, is one not often explored in queer cinema, but the sexual orientation is being explored on the silver screen more and more.

From Heartstopper to Sex Education, to Dickinson, there are several shows and films to explore the LGBTQ+ identity, and it has most recently been explored in Netflix's new teen comedy Everything Now.

Read more: As Lili Reinhart comes out as 'proud bisexual woman', we celebrate other celebs who have made their sexuality public

Representation is important to help people feel seen and understood, and the medium of film and television can often also work as a means for tackling bigotry or changing social views on a particular marginalised group, such as bisexuals.

In recent years there have been so many great examples of bisexuality on screen, and Yahoo UK will explore some of them in celebration.

Bisexuality on screen

Joe Locke and Kit Connor - Heartstopper S2. (Netflix)
Joe Locke and Kit Connor as Charlie Spring and Nick Nelson in Heartstopper S2, the show sees Nick identify as bisexual (Netflix)

A bisexual person is someone who has a sexual or romantic attraction to more than one gender, typically this is seen as being along the gender binary of male and female but in reality also includes anyone who is of a different gender to the person.

On screen, bisexuality has been explored through characters realising they are attracted to people of the opposite and same sex, in coming of age stories like Heartstopper this features storylines where the character, in this case Nick Nelson played by Kit Connor, realises the feelings he has for Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) is more than just platonic.

Read more: LGBTQ+ terms explained – as Big Brother housemates praised for using pronouns

Other narratives will focus on a character's coming out, such as in Brooklyn Nine-Nine where Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) reveals to her colleague that she identifies as bisexual and later faces challenges when her parents refuse to accept her.

Soaps have also tackled the subject in different forms, with Emmerdale, EastEnders, Coronation Street, and Hollyoaks dedicating time to exploring bisexuality through characters over the years.

Here are some of the more recent examples of bisexual characters and how they are depicted on screen:

The characters

Mia Polanco

Everything Now (Netflix)
Everything Now (Netflix)

In Everything Now, Mia Polanco (Sophie Wilde) has returned home after spending several months in a rehab facility to help with her eating disorder, and when she is back with her friends she realises that they have all started having sex, and regularly drink and do drugs.

Keen to catch up Mia makes it her mission to tick off a bucket list of things to do, and in the process kisses both men and women, and also has a sexual relationship with one female classmate, and admits to falling in love with another.

Though she doesn't actively announce her sexual orientation, the characters engagement with more than one gender suggests she is bisexual. That her bisexuality isn't a plotline is actually refreshing, since she is allowed to just be herself without it being what defines her completely onscreen.

Rosa Diaz

BROOKLYN NINE-NINE --
Stephanie Beatriz as Rosa Diaz in Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Getty Images)

Police detective Rosa Diaz comes out as bisexual in season five of the NBC series, telling her co-worker Charles Boyle that she identifies as bi and which later comes into play with her other colleagues.

Rosa's storyline, as mentioned, sees her face some difficulties from her parents, who tell her that she is simply having "a phase" and flat out refuse to accept her sexual orientation even when she appeals to them to understand and accept her. The impact of this creates an important conversation on screen about bi-erasure and the importance of challenging stigma towards bisexual people.

Nick Nelson

Kit Connor - Heartstopper S2. (Netflix)
Kit Connor as Nick Nelson in Heartstopper S2. (Netflix)

Heartstopper, both Alice Oseman's comic and the Netflix adaptation, present a touching examination of bisexuality through Nick Nelson, who begins to question his sexual orientation as he becomes closer to Charlie Spring — who he later falls in love with and begins a relationship with.

Read more: Heartstopper's Kit Connor, 18, 'forced' to come out as bisexual

There is an important scene added to the TV show from the original comics which sees Nick watch Pirates of the Caribbean during the period he is questioning his identity, and as he looks at both Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightley in the film he comes to realise, and accept, that he is attracted to both and is bisexual.

His identity is never something that Charlie, who is gay, questions, and when Nick comes out to his mum (Olivia Coleman) viewers see her immediately accept her son and reassure him that nothing will ever change her love for him, a more positive portrayal of coming out compared to Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Adam Groff

Alistair Petrie as Michael Groff and Conor Swindells as Adam Groff in Sex Education Season 4. (Samuel Taylor/Netflix)
Alistair Petrie as Michael Groff and Conor Swindells as Adam Groff in Sex Education Season 4. (Samuel Taylor/Netflix)

Netflix's Sex Education also explores another coming out story for Adam Groff (Connor Swindells), who realises he is bisexual after finding himself attracted to Eric Effiong, who he bullied for being gay before coming to terms with his own sexual orientation.

The character struggles with his identity even after beginning to date Eric, namely over his feelings for how people treat him and his fear of disappointing his father (Alistair Petrie).

Marissa Cooper

the oc
Mischa Barton in The O.C. (PA Images)

The O.C. was one of the early examples of a character being shown as bisexual with Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton), who has a relationship with Ryan Atwood (Ben McKenzie) and Alex Kelly (Olivia Wilde) in the series — Alex also identifies as bisexual on the show.

When it aired from 2003 to 2007 the show was somewhat of a cultural phenomenon, and so depicting queer relationships on screen was hugely influential and beneficial to increasing representation on screen.

Even so, Barton said in a recent interview that she wished Marissa's bisexuality was explored more on the show, saying to Gay Times: "It was hard to even get that approved at the time.

"We really wanted that storyline, and we have some regrets that we weren’t able to do more with the Olivia and me storyline and really explore it more.

“They really fell for each other and were a really cute couple, but I think Josh wishes he could’ve written it a bit more in-depth.”

Loki

(L-R): Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in Marvel Studios' LOKI, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in Marvel Studios' Loki season 1, where the character reveals he is bisexual (Disney+)

In the first season of Loki, the God of Mischief (Tom Hiddleston) has an honest conversation about himself with his variant Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) about his past relationships and reveals that he has had romances with both men and women.

Season 1 showrunner Kate Herron explained at the time that she felt it was important to include in the show, writing on X, formerly known as Twitter: "From the moment I joined @LokiOfficial it was very important to me, and my goal, to acknowledge Loki was bisexual.

"It is a part of who he is and who I am too. I know this is a small step but I’m happy, and heart is so full, to say that this is now Canon in #mcu."

Oberyn Martell

Los Angeles.CA.USA.  Pedro Pascal and Indira Varma in the ©HBO TV series Game of Thrones (2014) Series 4. The new series screens in April 2014. Ref:LMK106-40532-310114.  Supplied by LMKMEDIA. Editorial Only. Landmark Media is not the copyright owner of these Film or TV stills but provides a service only for recognised Media outlets. pictures@lmkmedia.com
Pedro Pascal and Indira Varma in Game of Thrones (HBO)

Pedro Pascal's star-turning role in Game of Thrones was also a milestone for bisexuality on screen, with his character Oberyn Martell seen having relationships with people of different genders.

Though he has a lover, Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), he engages in sexual relationships with both men and women on the show.

Jack Harkness

John Barrowman has been accused of inappropriate behaviour on the sets of both 'Doctor Who' and 'Torchwood'. (BBC)
John Barrowman as Jack Harkness in Torchwood. (BBC)

In the world of sci-fi, John Barrowman's Doctor Who character Jack Harkness was also revealed to be bisexual, increasing the depiction of bisexuality on British TV.

The character has relationships with both men and women on screen, the last of which is with Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) in the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood.

Emily Dickinson

Dickinson Serie TV 2019 - 2021 USA Créé par Alena Smith 2021 Season 2, episode 3 : The Only Ghost I Ever Saw Director : Rosemary Rodriguez Hailee Steinfeld
Hailee Steinfeld as Emily Dickinson in Apple TV+'s Dickinson (Apple TV+)

Hailee Steinfeld portrays poet Emily Dickinson in the Apple TV+ show Dickinson, and the drama sees her character have relationships with men and women on the show. The writer's sexual orientation has been the subject of debate amongst scholars for some time, but is explored in the series.

The actor spoke about the show's approach to the writer's rumoured sexuality in 2019 during an interview with Metro, saying: "This whole show is about not putting people in a box and one thing that we know Emily to have experienced, and to have talked about in a lot of her poems, was her sexuality.

"I think it’s so incredible that not only does she speak so openly about it, whether or not she intended people to read what she wrote at the time."

How it is portrayed

Bisexual flag fluttering in the wind over a radiant blue sky.
The representation of bisexuality -represented by the pink, purple and blue flag- has increased on screen over the years (Getty)

With an increase in queer representation on the silver screen bisexuality has seen its own respective boost in TV and film, and the sexual identity is being portrayed in a positive light as well.

Shows like Heartstopper and Brooklyn Nine-Nine have been able to highlight the journey of sexual identity well, and they handle the characters realisation and acceptance of it in an honest and unassuming way.

There is, however, another trend that should be mentioned. Bisexuality on screen is often attributed to characters who, by the end, are with a person of the same gender rather than the opposite.

Read more: Coming out as LGBTQ+: How to support someone

Nick has Charlie, Adam has Eric, and Rosa ends her story having last been in a relationship with a woman named Jocelyn Pryce. Of the examples listed above, Oberyn Martell is the only one to be with someone of the opposite sex before his demise on the HBO series.

That these characters identify as bisexual is always pointed out, at the very least, but it seems to equally suggest that their sexual identity is only being seen as valid if they are in a same-sex relationship.

Barton's Marissa Cooper, for example, has her sexual orientation questioned when she is in a relationship with Ryan, with her romance with Alex described as her "just experimenting" when the show was on air.

Being bisexual and in a heteronormative relationship can often lead to bi-erasure, the denial of a bisexual person's identity, and this can happen from both the straight and LGBTQ+ community. It also risks the person who identifies as bisexual being made to feel their identity is not valid if they are, or have only been, in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex (and Vice Versa).

So, while things are looking great for how bisexuality is depicted on screen it seems there is still some ways to go in terms of representation — though it is certainly on the right path.