Howdy everybody! Today, I want to speak about something important to me that, while not directly related to some of my normal types of posting, I’m going to try to tie into something that vaguely resembles my normal blogging habits. You see, today is BiVisibility Day.
Yes, yes, another day dedicated to some random thing, right? The thing is, there are a lot of reasons that I find this day to be so important. I’m not going to bore you with a long ramble about my own experiences, but I will clarify this with a short summary: When I was coming to terms with being attracted to people regardless of gender, it was difficult. The internet was at 56K dial-up speed and far less vast than it is now. The upshot is that if you didn’t know what you were searching for, in my case bisexuality, you were far less likely to stumble across it. On top of that, people tending to look down on bisexuality, with members of the gay community in particular spouting a lot of things like ‘it doesn’t exist’ and ‘you’re just in denial about being gay’. The sad thing is, that still goes on today. Bisexuality is still very misunderstood, and bisexual people face negativity from both the straight and gay community.
So how does this tie in with my site? Well, to a degree, it always has. I mean, if you read my first two Sci-Fi novels, WICK and CARNIVAL, they prominently feature a gay woman named Fahrn. While the focus is on her past with another character, Meera, and her escapades in the holographic card tournament, the books also deals with her relationship with Maria Grace, an openly bisexual lady. As per my posting last year, the whole point of Maria was to show a bisexual character who just was bisexual. I didn’t want to make a big song and dance of it, I just wanted to show a bisexual character in a positive light. Why? Because I didn’t have that growing up. I didn’t have positive, openly bisexual characters to see in fiction and thing, ‘oh, that sounds familiar’.
Thankfully, I’m not the only one doing this, and that’s what I want to talk about here: Bisexual representation in the wonderful world of animated presentations. I’m going to start this with one of my favourites:
Korra [The Legend of Korra]
If you haven’t watched The Legend of Korra, well … you should. The animation is stunning, the fights are fluid, the characters are wonderfully well fleshed out, and not one of the four seasons is anything less than awesome. How does the series help with bisexual representation? By introducing a slow burning romance. You see, in season one, Korra falls for Mako, her teammate on the Fire Ferrets Pro-Bending Team. Pro-Bending, for the uninitiated, is a sport that utilising the mystical bending powers that both Korra and its predecessor Avatar: The Last Airbender use as the basis for the underlying story in the franchise. Mako is male, and while initially being interested in another lady, Asami, he starts dating Korra at the end of season one.
The relationship doesn’t last. As tension builds up between them, they eventually build to a split part way between season two, and Mako ends up back with Asami. Korra mostly focusses on her Avatar duties from here, but maintains a friendship with both Mako and Asami. When season three rolled around, Mako and Asami were no more, and Asami and Korra were able to start bonding. All through this season, you start to see the two ladies become closer, and right at the end of season four, they finally get together.
There are positives and negatives to this. Mostly positives though. The slow-build relationship and the complete lack of a reaction to it really helps to normalise bisexuality. That neither character is a walking stereotype also helps, and they manage to both avoid the usual negative connotations that people attach to bisexuality (such as being overly promiscuous and untrustworthy). Where things take an unfortunate turn is how the scene was finally presented. You see, moments before Korra and Asami go off together two other characters were married. They had the wedding and, of course, the traditional kiss. Korra and Asami were not afforded a kiss. Why? Because we apparently aren’t at the point where a same-gender couple can kiss on a kids show. As per this article, this isn’t entirely bad as we weren’t really at appoint where same-gender couples were allowed to be shown on a kids show, so it is a step-forward. It does go to show though that there is still some way to go, not just in terms of bisexual representation and portrayal, but in the active portrayal all side of the non-heterosexual end of the sexual orientation spectrum.
So who shall we look at next?
Motoko Kusanagi [Ghost in the Shell]
Motoko is portrayed in a very different way to Korra. It could be argued that her appearing in a franchise aimed at adults means that you can get away with a little more that the Korra team could, but is that necessarily a reason to do so? The thing is, I love the Ghost in the Shell franchise, and Major Kusanagi has been a firm favourite character for a long time, but when it comes to how her sexual orientation is portrayed, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.
If we start with the source material, the original manga, we know that the Major is bi because she is at one point shown to be in a relationship with a male, and at another shown to be engaging in a full colour, XXX-rated multi-page scene with two other women. Is it wrong to show the character in a sexualised light? No. What bugs me isn’t that such a scene exists (though it was cut from the original Western release), it’s that this is the only way that the Major’s orientation is shown in the book. It could be that her relationships with males tend to be more serious, of course, but I honestly would have preferred both relationships to be shown in the same light, bet they sexualised or just acknowledged.
In a way, this is dealt with in a far better way in the animated series, Stand Alone Complex. Herein, it demonstrated in two separate episodes of the first season that Motoko has a high level of compatibility with other female cyborgs. At the same time, the Major and her male colleague Batou seem to build towards the feeling that they want to be closer than they are. By the end of the series, they have not taken the plunge in this respect, but that the build was there sends a clear message in my eyes. Meanwhile, if you don’t believe that there was something between these two, season two does confirm that Motoko once loved a male.
So in general terms, how positively (or at least, how balanced) the Major’s sexuality is presented varies between sources. In terms of animation though, they could do far worse!
So … who’s next? Well, therein lies a problem. I know there are other bi characters in anime, but I’m not familiar enough with them to really write about most of them. I kidna want to mention Revy from Black Lagoon here but, outside the current story arc in the manga she hasn’t really broached her orientation other than through her slow burn build up with Rock. In my experience, males appear to be thoroughly under-represented too. There’s Grell Sutcliff in Black Butler, who fawns over Sebastian but was clearly in a relationship of sorts with Madam Red, but that appears to be it in terms of the series that I know of. Even then, as much as I like the character, I’d hardly call Grell’s two key attractions healthy.
Regardless though, there are some good examples out there, and that one of the two above is from a show aimed at children is a marvellous step forward in my eyes. Not only that, but both series make the character’s orientation clear while still downplaying it in respect of how much of a big deal is made of it. That is so positive.
Things are not always rosy though, whether they be horrifically presented stereotypes, or people’s own real world misunderstandings. As such, there’s still a little way to go in terms of promoting understanding, and for that reason, Bi Visibility Day remains important. I really do urge you all to check the site out.
Until next time, thanks for reading.