Why We Deserve More Bisexual Characters On Television

Today we learned that, in addition to losing his precious cigarettes the TV version of John Constantine will see his bisexuality downplayed, and some of you chimed in with reasons why Constantine should have both male and female lovers.

In response to one Hellblazer comics reader who noted that they never realized that Constantine was bisexual and that they didn't feel that his sexuality was integral to his character, dkasper wrote:

That's all well and good, but there's also no real reason to have him be assumed to be straight. Erasure is in fact quite a big deal, so much so that characters who were "just" queer, who were queer without it being a major aspect of their lives, are incredibly rare. Now, in this particular genre, sexuality of all sorts tends to be downplayed, so I'm not up in arms about it. But if the show devolves into Bones-level focus on sex AND Constantine's queerness is ignored, then the show 1) misses out on making a character more interesting and 2) simply reproduces the kinds of diversity white-washing that queer and LGBT (and POC and female) genre fans complain about.

And also added:

...I didn't think that Constantine was sleeping with a new dude every week, that's for sure. But I do have to wonder, given the era in which his comics were first written (the years of the beginning of the AIDS epidemic) and its reactionary homophobia, if the exclusion was less an artistic choice and more one of following social mores. If Constantine can be said to be queer, why not acknowledge it now? It's both a powerful force in queer representation to do so, and to close the door on the possibility is simply self-limiting art.

SemperSciFi agrees that making Constantine exclusively straight may be a missed opportunity:

I have no doubt that John has slept with men, and usually does care for his partners. Well, as much as he cares about anyone not John. But I think the sheer numbers indicate his primary orientation is het. Personally, I'd love it if the TV show handled the inevitable Ex who shows up (slightly mutilated) as occasionally male and drew NO attention to the difference. It's an Ex, who was possessed by demon who then skinned it's host alive and walked it down the road, singing Billy Ray Cyrus and tossing bits of its flesh at bystanders. That's the important part of the story, not whether the Ex was named George or Mary. Treating a George just like a Mary, no obligatory line of 'Wow, you do men, too? I thought you was The Straight!' That would be really subversive.

Rhaenyss adds that even if Constantine's male lovers weren't touched on as much in the comics as his female ones, that doesn't mean that the TV series shouldn't call attention to his bisexuality:

I'm not saying the comics were especially progressive in this regard, but they at least factually confirmed it. Bisexual/queer people can claim him as their own, even if it's a small step. Why can't a TV show do the same? All it takes is a passing comment and they're done. But they chose to make him straight instead. ://

Craig Michael Ranapia asks what not alluding to his bisexuality means about the current TV landscape:

I don't think anyone is demanding this show one ups Game of Thrones, and we actually see Constantine (unlike Renly Baratheon) with some guy's head in his crotch engaged in some energetic sword-swallowing. But even alluding to his bisexuality is such a big deal when Law and Order: SVU (you know, the show that is all about violent sex crimes overwhelmingly perpetrated against women and children) is about to kick off it's sixteenth season? That says an awful lot about our culture, and none of it to be proud of — IMO & YMMV, of course.

zipzanderhoff also adds that even if bisexuality isn't particularly integral to Constantine's character, that doesn't mean the show shouldn't include it:

Of course Constantine's bisexuality isn't pivotal to his character. At the same time, neither is the straightness of 99% of straight characters out there. The problem here is that we're still assuming a default, and considering the alternative only if it "matters".

Adultosaur agrees that it could go a long way toward changing the default of the straight white guy as a protagonist:

it would do so. so. so. much. for this character to be bisexual, and to have it be a complete nonissue. something that happens and isn't a huge part of the storyline.

when will people understand that LGBTQA people, minorities, women- we're not bitching for no reason. and it's not even just to see ourselves represented (correctly, we hope) on tv. it's because REPRESENTATION BREEDS NORMALIZATION. the more people see it, the more they adapt, learn, and become open, so one day Normal will not be read is CisHet White Male. Everyone is normal. everyone.

Jim Hague shares these thoughts from Isaac Sher, who argues that Constantine's sexuality is, in fact, important to his character:

"Bisexuality isn't important to the character of John Constantine"

Others have already pointed out how rude and demeaning this choice on the part of the Constantine TV show is. It's cowardly, it's bull, it's bigoted…

…and it's also factually untrue.

Saying that it's not important that John Constantine be shown as bisexual is a lot like saying that it's not important that Batman is an orphan, or that Captain America fought Nazis in World War II. I would argue that bisexuality lies at the very heart of the character.

First off, let me clarify something. I'm not saying that the Hellblazer comics have been "The Hot Bisexual Adventures of John Constantine, Who By The Way Likes 'Em Both, Know What I'm Saying, I Bet You Do, Wink Wink Sailor". His sexuality isn't usually the focus of his stories – but that's not the point. The fact that a bisexual man might want to have sex with either gender isn't the defining trait of that man, any more than the fact that I'm right-handed doesn't dictate everything there is to know about me.

Let's take a step back. The character of John Constantine was originally defined as a reaction against the politics and social policies of Margaret Thatcher and her ruling Conservative party in 1980's United Kingdom. Very often, the supernatural threats he faced were allegories to the crushing weight of marginalization and oppression that people felt in that country. And here's the kicker – one of the issues that Thatcher was the most extreme on was the subject of homosexuality. John's identity as a bisexual is at the very core of why he struggled against the forces of darkness – because he was branded by his society as a freak unfit to live even in the shadows, whispered of as something unclean and destined for Hell. Just as Captain America's witnessing of the horrors of Nazi Germany inspired him to fight for what he believed in, to stand up to tyrants and murderers, so too did John Constantine's sense of fear and anger regarding those who ruled his nation define and inspire him. The only difference is that John was a little more subtle about it; he didn't have a pink triangle wearing a trenchcoat fly through his parlor window one night, giving him the idea that he must become Bisexual Trenchcoat Magic Guy.

So if you're one of those persons waving off this issue as unimportant – that's your privilege talking. I don't like playing the "check your privilege" card, because I think it's too often abused and overused by people who want to bludgeon those around them with the power of self-righteousness, but in this case, I think it's damn appropriate. You might not see this as an issue because it doesn't affect you, but trust me, it affects a lot of people out there, more than you realize, and the sooner you realize that the world isn't just about what inconveniences you personally, the better off you'll be.

And I'll bet you anything that if DC released a new Batman TV show where his parents never got shot in a dark alley, where Bruce simply decided one day that dressing like a bat and beating up poor people would be "totally wicked extreme" and that his mom helped him sew his first bat-logo… that there would be people lining up on the streets screaming about how DC was "forgetting where the character came from", and that you'd be nodding your head in sympathy.

Have I made my point yet, or am I being too subtle?