This thread could also be entitled “Bisexual Cinema Passed Off As Gay Cinema”, or even “Gay Culture Hijacks Bisexual Cinema”. In case you are wondering what I am speaking about, it’s the clearly bisexual themed movies that are gobbled up by “gay culture” as “one of their own”—even when gay culture has a recent (wait for it!) shameful history of prejudice against bisexuals, male and female.
Having just enjoyed “My Own Private Idaho” at a revival screening, it’s clear this film is overwhelmingly “bisexual” and should not at all be considered a “gay” film. Yes, it has “gay appeal”, but if you really want to stretch it, you could say ANY film, even a hetero love story, that contains River Phoenix performing housework as Dutch Boy has “gay appeal”. The storyline would have taken an entirely different turn if Scott (Keanu Reeves) had been exclusively homosexual, and there is an entire scene that would have been omitted from the film if Michael (River Phoenix) didn’t also fancy dames.
By contrast, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is most certainly a “gay film” (as well as a “bisexual” one) because Daniel Hirsh (Peter Finch) is (to us) obviously homosexual, has no sexual interest for women, therefore cannot shelter his queerness by dating a “nice Jewish girl” to appease his tradtional, conservative family. So it deals closely with an exclusively gay character, issues he faces, and of course sharing his bisexual boyfriend Bobby (Murray Head) with a woman (Glenda Jackson).
Gus Van Sant’s “My Own Private Idaho” deals mainly with two bisexual characters, and I dare say the politics of bisexuality vary greatly from those of homosexuality. As for my comment about the “recent history of prejudice against bisexuals” within the gay community, one need only look at the amount of men’s only/women’s only nights at gay nightspots and the whole “just choose a side” mentality of the gay community at large, to see that biphobia does exist in gay circles. Also, there is the presumption of infidelity about bisexual people from both heterosexual and homosexual quarters (i.e. bisexual people cannot be with just one partner, they need one from each gender). Of course, this is not true: that’s like saying a gay man needs a blonde fellow as well as a dark-haired partner to be truly satisfied. I always thought bisexuality (or perhaps pansexuality) was about being sexually attracted to someone regardless of gender. Alas, gays take bisexuals less-than-seriously, as if they are just experimenting or undecided and therefore not militant enough and certain in their orientation to be gay.
Hence the hijacking of any culture remotely “queer” as exclusively gay. Again, I think a film that deals with bisexual politics is very different to one that simply approaches things from a homosexual perspective, and if you’re going to lump gay and bisexual films together, maybe “queer” is a better term, but calling every film with male-to-male sexual activity as “gay” is limiting and inaccurate.
I hope my fellow forums users do not read this post as being homophobic—if I had any such prejudice against gays, I would not have seen “My Own Private Idaho” (film unseen, I had no idea the two main characters were bisexual—I thought this was what you could call a “gay” film). However, I do wonder why whole categories and lists of “gay” films have been made, but not something like “Top Ten Bisexual Movie Characters” et cetera. I’m asking the question why we have a world where everything is so black or white, gay or straight, leaving no room for the dynamics hidden in the areas of grey. Surely, films that tackle the issue of bisexuality deserve their due.
“Also, there is the presumption of infidelity about bisexual people from both heterosexual and homosexual quarters (i.e. bisexual people cannot be with just one partner, they need one from each gender). Of course, this is not true: that’s like saying a gay man needs a blonde fellow as well as a dark-haired partner to be truly satisfied.”
This is a good point that isn’t labored upon enough. Also, the way people (in the US at least) tend to differ between a female’s bisexuality and male’s deserves mention. When a female is bisexual is almost unilaterally regarded as her being in an ‘experimental phase’ or before she ‘turns gay’ completely. If not either of those two, it is generally fawned over to some extend with most young males my age and even a generation older fantasizing about the idea of women kissing. Remember when everyone was excited about Britney Spears kissing Madonna? Or basically most male fantasize about being a threesome with 2 girls.
Men on the other hand, don’t ‘get’ to be bisexual. If a man has sex with another man he’s considered gay. That’s the beginning, middle and end of that. The same assumption is made if a woman ‘mounts’ a male with a toy.
This probably all has ties with the premise of being penetrated. If you concede to that than you’re deem to be weaker partner/person. Granted that ties to hetero/bi/homosexual politics as well.
there is the perception that bi’s are just confused about their sexuality. that is certainly true of some of them. every formely bi person i’ve ever known eventually ‘picked a side’. but i agree they are poorly represented in culture across the board.
Malik, your statement reminds me of a comment I read from Sandra Bernhard.
“So I’m just gonna restrict and be real cool about the whole thing and understand there will come a day when Anne Heche will be straight again. Gay men are different. If they’ve been straight and turn gay, they’re gay, honey. But for chicks it’s different, especially if they’re in show business. Even when they’re eating your pussy, they’re still straight. I’m just looking out for Ellen. Believe me, I’m concerned for her. Because when the shit goes down, it’s not gonna be pretty.”
A curious comment to say the least, as one wouldn’t think Sandra would be given to such double standards.
Then again, she did date Madonna, so I guess her judgement in affairs of love and sex aren’t always the best.
I put my own private idaho under “queer film” and most of the scholars I have read generally would put it in the same category. Queer film is the general title assigned to many film that blur gender or sexuality boundaries.
I agree with the above, but you’ll find a lot of people still list it as “gay cinema”. But if the gay community wishes to be strict on the meaning of the term “gay”, then “My Own Private idaho” cannot be a gay film. The bisexuality of the two main characters is emphasised to a major degree. Scott seems reluctant at best in his exploration of homosexuality—it’s basically a job for him—and when that inheritance money comes in, after meeting his Italian female love interest, look how “vanilla” and “straight” he becomes. Michael is bisexual and seems quite pleased when he is picked up by a rich old lady for a change (thus indicating he too, generally prefers women), yet he just so happens to fall in love with Scott, which suggests he loves Scott despite, not because of, his maleness. I enjoyed the complexity of these characters, and much like “Midnight Cowboy”, this film deserves major credit for portraying men in the sex industry (and by extension, women in the sex industry) as capable of being decent, vulnerable human beings, in spite of their flaws.
Bisexuality not celebrated in the same way as gayness.
I believe The Dreamers is a decent, but not perfect, example of this. Granted when comparing one’s burgeoning bisexuality to the incest of brother+sister, it doesn’t seem that odd to you.
Much of the politics of Queer Theory is orientated around the issue of penetration as submission, a dominant/submittant relationship which is quite often accepted by the lbgt community, if even as a joke about who is the “man” of the relationship, et al. This is also a problem, in fact, with Critical Race Theory, as Marlon Riggs shows with Tongues Untied. Because a lot of the black communities’ reaction to their history is to feel “immasculated”, gay black men and lesbian black women are treated extraordinarily harshly within the black community. They are outsiders of outsiders, and of course racism has its own hooks in the queer community as well.
In Tomas’ Strawberry and Chocolate the gay protagonist, whose name I can’t remember off the top of my head, remarked that blacks are only good for one thing. Interesting thing to say considering black and gays’ social positions in Cuba. Not about bisexuality, but I think it’s an interesting note when paired with PolarisDiB’s comment.
Yeah. The general point is that even in alternative cultures there is some lacking of general tolerance, and that lack can sometimes be traced to the particular way that alternative culture is trying to gain recognition from being marginalized. The gay community is trying so hard to make people understand that it is who they are, and cannot be “decided against” or psychologically changed, that bisexuality mucks up the arguments a bit and makes it difficult to understand where the line is between person and choice; the black community is trying to regain its sense of power and authority via an almost hypermasculinity that affects negatively women and homosexuals within the community. It’s another artifact of the fight for recognition, something not helped in the least by personal biases from any group.
It’s also why, admittedly, I get very impatient with feminist, critical race, and queer theory. There’s the simple difficulty of understanding that people should be recognized for their differences, but understood as equals, that through so much argument and contesting becomes an almost Catch-22 of “You are a bigot if you consider us The Other, you are ignorant if you consider us just like you.” It is one of those things that must be worked out first by getting random idiots from stupid positions to stop trying to fuck with people’s lives, re: gay marriage and stuff like that, and then once these marginalized cultures are more accepted and equal in the wider scheme of things we can work out their significant differences within the cultures.
I don’t know, I’ve just been told enough times that I “cannot understand” others’ positions because of my own status that I eventually stopped asking people what I can do to help and starting focusing on my own thing. I would have figured that as these issues are concerned, an enemy of an enemy is a friend, but it’s far from that simple.
Ah yes, the lesbian who hates men because she is afraid to be penetrated and therefore submissive…
I know the type well.
And they adopt a hypermasculine approach and express a violent disposition towards the male of the species. It’s no different from heterosexual men who assume the hypermasculine approach and belittle, berate and besmirch homosexual and bisexual men for their sexuality.
The same might happen with gay men expressing misogynisitic attitudes—I can’t say I’ve encountered any blatant examples in person—but I think I arouse hatred in certain gay women because of my androgynous appeal. It stimulates something in them they’d rather keep hidden.
And because they know I could bird dog their chicks no problem.
You can’t even bring this topic up without mentioning Bertrand Blier (see: Going Places [Les Valseuses], Get Out Your Handkerchiefs [Préparez vos mouchoirs], and especially Menage [Tenue de soirée])!
I think it is a rather arbitrary discussion. People can celebrate these films under the categories they want to. But as I understand, Ozon’s ‘A Summer Dress’ could be a good example of sexualities represented in an open and affirmative way.
What are you talking about Leapfrog.
I just don’t see what the problem is, when it comes to labelling these films. I mean, if members of the “gay culture” want to adopt a Gus Vant Sant movie even though it has a more blurred sexual theme, what is the (negative) consequences?
“Men on the other hand, don’t ‘get’ to be bisexual. If a man has sex with another man he’s considered gay. That’s the beginning, middle and end of that. The same assumption is made if a woman ‘mounts’ a male with a toy. "
In my part of the world this is not true. Give me some statistics from interview or the like and I will believe you. In general I don’t believe and I don’t care about these labels.
Keanu’s character in MOPI is bisexual. River’s is quite explicitly gay.
One of my favorite films of recent years centers on a man discovering his bisexuality
Does anybody know south american film about bisexual husband like Undertow, Far From Heaven or Teorema?
Just saw “Undertow.” WAY too sentimental for my taste.
One of the gangster lovers in “Burnt Money” is bisexual.
What part of the world do you live in Leapfrog? I’ll look for some sources, but off hand I know members in my family as well as the community at large in the black and hispanic community that would agree with that line of thinking. This is regardless of whether or not they are homophobic.
I don’t believe that the issue Mark is referring to is about just labeling, rather it’s that bisexual cinema, and bisexuality at large is, definable enough to be separated from gay culture, studies and the like.
I think another reason bisexuality isn’t heavily represented in film is just the practicals of time limitations. For a movie to be bisexual it needs to have two romance plots for the same character, and not all films call for that.
I believe in just judging people on an individual basis. Yeah, if you look at a large number of people between different races, genders, and sexual orientations, you’ll find major trends within each group. But, those trends don’t all apply unilaterally to all members of that group. (You do, of course, notice them more when they’re consistent with the trend. Which is a large part of the problem.)
There’s a measurable effect called ‘Stereotype anxiety’. There was an experiment where they gave a test to two groups, each half white and half black. In one group, they announced before the test that black people tend to do worse on the test. The results were, in the group where they made the announcement, the black people performed worse on the test. In the group where they didn’t, they performed about equally. Also, girls do better in math class when they’re in an all-girl class when they’re in a coed class. People self-sabotage when they know they’re being tested against a stereotype.
Apply this idea to gay communities where there’s competing pressures to be different and unique while also being the same. I think this is a large part of what The Kids Are All Right is about. ‘If our kids don’t get straight As, it proves lesbians can’t raise children’. ‘If a gay person can change their mind, they must all just be perverts’. There’s so much they’re being forced to prove and so much hostility directed at them, of course a few of them are going to get angry at those who fragment their message.
That’s why you need to apply individualism. Meet every new person with no prior expectations. There are ‘college bisexuals’ who are just experimenting, and there are lots of genuine bisexual women as well. Why hold the existence of one against the other?
I think a movie should only be considered a homosexual movie if it addresses homosexuality as a social issue. Otherwise, it should just be considered a ‘romance movie’ regardless of the gender of the characters.
‘Stereotype anxiety’ – also known as ’stereotypic threat’.
@jirin: “I think another reason bisexuality isn’t heavily represented in film is just the practicals of time limitations. For a movie to be bisexual it needs to have two romance plots for the same character, and not all films call for that.”
Does it have to be romantic? Again, Ozon’s “A Summer Dress” is a good example of how to do this. in 15 minutes.
@ Malik: The bisexual cinema/studies seperatist movement is okay with me, but honestly I do not see the point in doing this. Queer cinema/studies is a way better term for this. I would love to see “pansexual” as a description too. Is that a common category/concept? And answering your question. I have lived most of my life in Denmark. My general experience is that even though you are in bed/penetrate (with) a man, you can easily be seen as bisexual afterwards. You are not just “gay” after that experience.
Leapfrong, your experiences with sexuality in Denmark are largely irrelevant to the way the rest of the world thinks. Denmark was the first country in the world to have legal acknowledgement of same-gender marriage. I should also point out, Denmark is the country that has legally operating bordellos where clients can engage in sex with animals—apples and oranges. Given Denmark is less than 1 percent of the world, you ought to understand that many people in different cultures interpret “bisexuality” in men as another way of saying he’s latently homosexual. So for more than 99 percent of the world, if you’re bisexual and male, you might as well be gay.
Regarding my comment about misogyny:
Why do you find this so hard to believe?
Also, I think it’s wholly relevant to have a distinct category for bisexual cinema—and I think there’s a real problem with gays hijacking certain pieces of artistic culture and keeping them as their own, as it further marginalises people who identify as bisexual—there is an entire “anti-bisexual” undercurrent in the gay community.
Finally, River’s character in “Idaho” is not totally gay. He wouldn’t have offered himself to a female client if he were gay, plus he does mention how good it is to have a female client for once. The campfire scene proves nothing about River’s character being gay. Both the two main characters in this film are clearly bisexual.
“BISEXUAL CINEMA NOT CELEBRATED IN THE SAME WAY AS GAY CINEMA?”
Yeah because there is no such thing as fucking bisexual cinema. There is an LGBT cinema or Queer cinema, but now we’re just making up things because we want to exploit the norm or be different to piss people off. I say this as a bisexual. And frankly, I think the whole thread is a waste of time as it is just another LGBT cinema thread by someone who thinks he knows something about being bisexual even though he isn’t.
“So for more than 99 percent of the world, if you’re bisexual and male, you might as well be gay.”
Yeah I think a lot of people think this way. But personally I don’t see how people benefit thinking this way about other people and sexuality in general.