TV

Who Is Bisexual on Television? More Importantly, Why Should We Care?

Archie Panjabi as Kalinda Sharma in The Good Wife

When considering sexual acceptance in mainstream media, bisexuality is really the last frontier.

In 1952, when Lucy and Ricky Ricardo slept in separate adjacent twin beds on I Love Lucy, but somehow still had a baby together, CBS and the FCC were sending a message to American audiences: You know what’s really going on, but we’re not going to show it. Though clearly not all married couples conceive their children in this particular locale, the twin beds represented a wink from the network to the audience (this issue, and television in the '50s in general, is elucidated beautifully in the movie Pleasantville).

Everyone knew that the real Lucy and Desi shared a bed, as did most couples watching the show. But because they did not show a realistic couple doing realistic things together, CBS and other networks fed into a culture of silence that invalidated the life choices of heterosexual couples all across America. It's small choices like two beds that told mainstream America that sex was taboo, even if it did take place in a marriage.

What do bisexual characters today have to do with Lucy and Ricky Ricardo's sleep arrangements? They, too, are inaccurately depicted on television. As does most forms of media, television mirrors our society’s confusion over whether bisexuality is a valid life choice. The message being sent right now? Bisexuality is not a valid life choice.

American heterosexual couples have somewhat recovered from the sexual repression of their past, and even the gay ones have made strides, as well. This is remarkable, especially considering it would have been unheard of to do more than elude to the potential homosexuality of a character on television during the early years (see Uncle Arthur in Bewitched). When considering sexual acceptance in mainstream media, bisexualism is really the last frontier, and the one that appears to be the most out of reach. Some have argued that there are more bisexuals than actual gays on television. I disagree: there may be more bisexuals, but they are rarely treated as seriously as homosexual or heterosexual characters and relationships.

Having “a bisexual character can give the networks a safety net”, noted one contributor to the Edge. “They are able to incorporate a LGBT character, but if there is an outcry from viewers and sponsors, writers can pair the person into a straight relationship without having to completely rewrite history.” We’ve seen this time and again; with Olivia Wilde on both The O.C. and in House, as well as numerous CW shows (90210, to name just one) who use a bisexual character spice up a sweeps season and chalk it all up to teens "just experimenting".

Glee may handle a lot of issues poorly, but at least it's a show that confronts them head on. It's perhaps the first show that I’ve seen that has attempted to treat bisexuality as a valid life choice. In a recent episode titled "Sexy", it became apparent that Brittany (Heather Morris) is a “true” bisexual; she clarified her love for both her boyfriend Artie (Kevin McHale) and her long time best friend/love Santana (Naya Rivera).

Santana, who also dates men, seems to now appear more interested in women, or at least in Brittany, than any man before. She shows confusion over the attachment Brittany has to Artie, telling her distainfully “He’s just a stupid boy." Santana even goes so far as to angrily wonder aloud, "Whoever thought that being fluid meant that you could be so stuck." This dichotomy between Brittney and Santana realistically depicts the confusion people have with individuals who don’t pick “a side" in the sexuality wars, while also validating Brittany's bisexuality.

There have been other bisexual characters who have faced this dilemma; after having her first lesbian relationship, Callie (Sara Ramirez) on Grey’s Anatomy became incredibly hurt when her partner said, “You can’t be 'kind of' a lesbian.” But Callie has found that, yes, you can. She has great sex with her friend Mark (Eric Dane), is pregnant with his child (last time I checked) and has a loving and also sexual relationship with her on-again/off-again partner Arizona (Jessica Capshaw).

But adults like Callie are few and far between on television -- especially male adults, who are virtually unseen -- and teen girls going through "life changes" that include a plotline riddled with sexual confusion are the norm for bisexual characters. The overwhelmingly representation of bisexuals as teen girls not only becomes part of a sexualization of faux-lesbian youth, it ignores bisexual men, as much of our society does.

The website After Ellen explored this issue when discussing the character of Angela Montenegro (Michaela Conlin) on Bones, who has had relationships with both men and women. "If [Bisexuals are] not suffering disdain and resentment because of the 'flaky' way they 'change teams,' they're getting bashed, because being attracted to either gender means they're attracted to all people in both genders, and are, in fact, sleeping with all of them at the same time. Or, you know, they're just passing the time with a woman until the right guys comes along," wrote Heather Hogan.

Of course, one could ask why we care at all. The Good Wife, one of the best shows on television now (just ask anyone!), has slowly dealt with the sexuality of Kalinda, played to perfection by Archie Panjabi. Whether by convenience or on purpose, Kalinda is by nature an extremely private person, so the topic of her sex life has to be approached gently. But she has had to stand up for her continued choice to sleep with both men and women, recently explaining that she likes women more than men... "sometimes".

Perhaps we should listen to Kalinda, and realize that at the end of the day, it's really none of our concern who she's sleeping with. Perhaps that would be a wise course to take in real life, too.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.


In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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