The representation of bisexuality and homosexuality in popular culture is limited, and often reverts to stereotypes – the idea of the “token” gay, the promiscuous gay man, the butch lesbian. Heteronormativity is widespread, in everything from romantic comedies to dating shows: I challenge anyone to name a LGBT romantic comedy. The few characters that do exist on television should be pretty subversive, but instead they’re often pigeonholed into types. The question then emerges: Are any of them worth being role models?
Cosima Niehaus, Orphan Black. Cosima is not only adorable as hell, she’s also a badass scientist. She’s in a committed relationship with fellow science geek Delphine Cormier, and most importantly, her fellow clones aren’t bothered about her sexuality. It’s never made into an obstacle on the show, with only one character bringing it up casually “so, you’re gay.”
Irene Adler, Sherlock. Some ambiguity lingers as to Irene’s sexuality. Despite her self-identification as a lesbian, she is clearly strongly sexually attracted to Sherlock, with Benedict Cumberbatch stating in a interview that the couple definitely got it on. It’s the writing of Adler that’s the problem: the one LGB character in Sherlock, and she’s shown as a promiscuous dominatrix. Showrunner Moffat has been accused of queer-baiting by fans, who cite both Adler’s sexuality and John’s frequent statements of “I AM NOT GAY!”
Captain Jack Harkness, Doctor Who/Torchwood. Ah, Captain Jack. A true gentleman who would cheerfully flirt with both the Doctor and his current companion, and who enjoyed relationships with both men and women (and indeed, several aliens), Jack Harkness showed a generation of children that it’s perfectly alright to be flirtatious, fun and gay, as well as inspiring jealousy in thousands for his bromance with the Tenth Doctor. What’s less acceptable is actor John Barrowman’s recent incidence of trans-misogyny, using the term “tranny” with friends on the set of Arrow.
Kurt Hummel, Glee. Viewers followed Kurt’s struggle with his sexuality, including coming out and his problems at school with closeted bully Dave Karofsky. Glee’s treatment of sexuality has taught teenagers how to cope with their sexualities, showing the importance of a creative outlet to help them cope – in this case, the Glee club.
Loras Tyrell, Game of Thrones. Loras is in a committed relationship with claimant to the Iron Throne, Renly Baratheon. Their relationship creates problems for them both, with Renly being forced to marry Natalie Dormer’s character, whilst Loras is betrothed to Queen Regent Cersei Lannister. Loras is sassy and genuinely loves Renly; and while he’s not promiscuous or ashamed of who he is, he is forced into stereotypes: he is known as the Knight of Flowers, and is overly concerned with his appearance.
Oberyn Martell, Game of Thrones. Oberyn Martell is the bisexual TV character that the world has been waiting for. He swings both ways quite unashamedly, stating “everyone is missing half the world’s pleasure. The gods made that and it delights me. The gods made this and it delights me.” The only negative side to Oberyn – depending on your opinions – could be his predisposition to orgies, although this could be more due to showrunners desire to draw audiences. Bisexuals are often perceived as “promiscuous,” something Oberyn’s orgies plays up to.
And as for that LGBT romantic comedy: Imagine Me & You. Check it out.