Earlier this week, I had a discussion on Facebook about a recent article I read. The topic was on whether or not explicit confirmation is important when it comes to queer representation. I took the stance that confirmation for the sake of confirmation is pandering, insulting and shouldn’t be done. As far as I’m concerned, not all queer characters are the same; and there’s a good way and a bad way to treat a character’s sexuality. Confirming a character’s identity is great, but it should never be the main focus of the character’s arc.
I took issue with the article for two reasons: firstly, one of the current examples of “ambiguous” sexuality the author noted was Jillian Holtzmann (which never felt “ambiguous” in my book); my second issue was with the fact that the author failed to ever state what counts as confirmation for them.
For the most part, I forgot about the article and the discussion. Fast forward to this evening. I’d recently decided to watch Stargate Atlantis (I avoided it for the longest time because I absolutely despise Rodney McKay). But I was already fascinated by Elizabeth Weir, from her episodes on SG-1, and decided it was finally time to see her storyline through. Which, I did until the last agonizing moment. Since then, I’ve been on a pretty significant Torri Higginson kick. All of my fandom friends realized this would happen the second I told them “hey, I think I’m going to watch Atlantis.”
But seriously, why wouldn’t you love her?
Tonight I decided to watch Inhuman Condition because I knew that it was a new web series in which she played a therapist. The episodes revolve around Torri’s character (Dr. Michelle Kessler) treating patients with inhuman conditions: lycanthropy, zombie-ism, and an unrevealed condition.
It is a web series so there are certain allowances you have to make when watching. During the first two episodes you could visibly see Torri’s sound pack on her back. It has very limited sets: Michelle’s office, Tamar’s kitchen, and Linc’s bedroom. But, the story line is solid and entertaining in a way that I find most web series fail to be (sorry Carmilla fans).
In the 5th episode of the series, Michelle is having a discussion with her daughter’s father about her recently failed marriage and her ex-wife moving away (their daughter going with her). Then this happens:
and then I died
I flailed. I downloaded the episode immediately so that I could gif it. I told all of my friends to watch it. I basked in the glory of a female character saying the actual word bisexual to describe herself to others (and the adorable face after is just the cherry on top).
It took Michelle Kessler five episodes (or 31 minutes) to self-identify as bisexual.
By contrast, Orange Is the New Black released their fourth season this summer and we are no closer to hearing Piper Chapman (or Soso, for that matter) use the term.
Lost Girl wrapped their last season this year, and to my knowledge Bo Dennis never did use the term.
I stopped watching after the fourth season.
I only watched the first two seasons of The 100. However, it is my understanding that even though Clarke Griffin is bisexual, the term is not used because such terminology is not a part of the world they live in. If I’m mistaken and that has changed, I will amend this.
Amanda Tapping always insisted that Helen Magnus was bisexual, and the subtext was present. The issue was finally put to bed in the fourth season when Helen had a brief encounter with Charlotte Benoit. Yet even with three canon bisexual characters and two heavily implied, the term bisexual was never uttered on Sanctuary.
Even Callie Torres (Grey’s Anatomy) took seven seasons to use the term herself. That’s 147 episodes! One of the most beloved, and best portrayed bisexual characters in television history took 147 episodes to self-identify as bisexual.
All of these characters are bisexual. They are all valid (if stereotypical, at times) representations of bisexuality whether they use the term to describe themselves or not. I still maintain the position that it’s not even necessary for all of these characters to self-label if it can’t be done in a way that’s true to the character and not just for identifying the token other.
That doesn’t mean that I won’t revel when characters like Michelle Kessler declare loudly and proudly who they are.