After rewatching ‘Degrassi: Next Class’ the other day in anticipation of season four, and I’ve always found myself tending to ship Miles and Tristan, but this time I started to notice something that I couldn’t quite shake.
The more I watched, the more I noticed. Almost every character on the show is incredibly biphobic. From obvious comments such as “You can’t even decide whether you like boys or girls” to the immediate assumptions that certain characters must either be straight or gay, biphobia is all around.
Even worse? It’s excused. Not once did Miles call his boyfriend out on his constant erasure of non-mono sexualities, or even bother to do anything other than chuckle at Winston’s ‘straight or gay’ mindset.
And it’s not just ‘Degrassi’. Any show with a non-monosexual character is guaranteed to run into biphobia – and more often than not, it’s accidental, not used as a learning curve for character development and eventual positive representation.
Take Sammy Lieberman, a character on the Australian teen drama ‘Dance Academy’. Throughout the second season, the audience sees Sammy struggle through his sexuality and his conflicting feelings for Christian and Abigail. While he is presented as non-mono as opposed to simply closeted, statements such as “I’ve always wanted a gay best friend” from a well-meaning Tara, and the constant stream of “you’re confused” coming from Christian are never corrected or talked about, and therein lies a part of our problem.
How many bisexual or otherwise non-monosexual characters can you name off the top of your head? Take a minute to think about some of them. Got some? Good, now how many of them are presented as overly promiscuous? How many of them have heard the classic “you’re confused” from a partner, best friend, or parent? How many of them have cheated on their partner with someone of the opposite sex to said partner? Next time you turn on ‘Glee’, ‘Degrassi’ or ‘Faking It’ , take note of every time those non-monosexual characters we love so much have enforced the stereotypes that the media has hammered into our brains for years.
Having a non-monosexual character on our screens may be progressive, but in reality it’s only half the battle. Biphobia in the media, whether it’s subtle or overt is always harmful when left unresolved. It allows for audiences to receive the message that these kinds of comments are acceptable, and biphobia is something that can be easily brushed over.
This tends to leave non-mono audiences feeling left out, marginalized and even attacked, even when the writer’s intention was to include and normalize them. When representation is more harmful than progressive, we’re doing something wrong – and it’s time to stop acting like it’s all good.