Let me run something bi you, has anyone ever actually met a bisexual? The Bisexual is Channel 4’s latest original, co-written, directed by and starring award-winning actress Desiree Akhavan.
Akhavan is known for hard-hitting LGBT+ dramas that aren’t afraid to explore the unmentionable, such as Sundance winner The Miseducation of Cameron Post and her latest endeavour delivers more of the same - except with a refreshing injection of comedy.
Leila (Akhavan) is a lesbian with a perfect life. She has a hugely successful business with her girlfriend Sadie (Maxine Peak) and is living the glam life in London. Except Leila has a secret – she is a closet bisexual. When Sadie surprises her with a marriage proposal, Leila starts to realise just how much of a lie she has been living.
The couple put their relationship on stand-bi and Leila moves in with straight male writer Gabe (Brian Gleeson) while she comes to terms with her sexuality.
Bisexuality, despite being a long-standing and the largest sub-sector of the LGBT+ community, remains to be a taboo subject even today. Bi-erasure is a common problem not just in the media but in everyday life and can manifest in both straight and LGBT communities. Bisexuality is often seen as non-existent or as a stepping stone for those who are too afraid to come out as homosexual. It isn’t unheard of for gay women to attempt dating men to fit into our hetero-normative society and then reveal their true preferences later in life.
What gives The Bisexual an interesting twist is that this situation is reversed. By embracing her bisexuality after living as a lesbian for so long, Leila gives the identity validity and much-needed exposure. What makes this subject so meaningful is that it is relatable – the struggles and questions that Leila faces are common and experienced by anyone identifying as LBGT+.
Akhavan is an open bisexual, and her portrayal is meaningful and endearing in a way that no straight actress could achieve. Audiences will find themselves emphasising with her journey, most likely because they will know someone who has faced the same.
The humour is excellently written and contains many ‘inside jokes’ that LGBT+ viewers will find relevant. Most of these are delivered by Leila’s best friend Deniz, played by Saskia Chana, who is endearingly brash and unapologetic. Her character contrasts well with awkward and oblivious Gabe, who has never been exposed to the LGBT+ scene. His first experience within a gay bar will have audiences both howling with laughter and cringing with second-hand embarrassment, as will Leila’s first sexual experience with a man.
Akhavan’s audience will be hooked from the first episode, as they will be keen to see how she learns to accept such a huge part of herself. They will be endeared by the rich, meaty characters and their friendships, especially the unlikely one between Leila and her new wingman Gabe as they guide each other in their love lives.
The Bisexual will hopefully be the start of dispelling the myths and stigma surrounding bisexuality, and will open people’s eyes to the wonderfully diverse spectrum that is sexuality and gender.
- Watched on Channel 4. 10/10/2018