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Brooklyn Nine-Nine Survived Its Cancellation, But Bi-Erasure On TV Remains A Problem

Brooklyn Nine-Nine went from cancelled on Fox to picked up by NBC in less than two days, and some of us still haven't recovered.

Ash Griffith | May 25, 2018

In less than 36 hours, FOX’s police sitcom, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, went from being unceremoniously cancelled to swooped up by the super vulture that is NBC. It set off a rollercoaster of emotions for me, and even though it should be won and done, I’m still sitting here irritated and pissed off. And I swear to god, if one more person tells me to just get over it and that it’s just a show I am going to lose my god damn mind.

When I say there isn’t much representation for the bisexual community on television right now, I mean we are scraping at the bottom of the barrel so hard that if we sneeze, the damn thing is going to burst into splinters. There is Rosa Diaz from the aforementioned Brooklyn Nine-Nine (as played by Stephanie Beatiz — who is bisexual in real life as well), and we have Darryl Whitefeather from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (which in and of itself deserves some kind of acknowledgement for being a vehicle for proper mental health representation). And that’s it. That’s what we’re working with.

I know what you’re thinking as you read this. “Oh come on, there is so much more bisexual representation out there! Bi-erasure isn’t a thing!”

There is an old saying that goes, “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” If you have a bisexual character on television and they never say the word, are they actually bisexual?

This bisexual says, “Hell no.”

Okay, I’ll dial it down to “maybe.” Here’s the thing. In real life, not everyone who identifies as bisexual chooses to use the word or feels the need to chant this from the rooftops to every single person they meet, and that is so perfectly fine and a-okay.

But that is real life, and I am talking television and media here. Media is raised to an infinitely higher platform in regards to representation for a reason. Fictional characters are supposed to be 2D representations of the good and the bad in the world and the inbetween. They are supposed to be these embodied metaphors for how we can go out into the world and make it better and make each other and ourselves better.

Really damn hard to do that if you don’t see yourself there.

Having few examples that reflect your reality is hard to digest, even as an adult, especially when the few pieces of representation you do get are in one of three veins. You’re either the hyper-sexed villain who is always up for a three-way and wants to ruin the lives of the protagonists, you’re just confused and using this as a highway to coming out as gay or lesbian, or it’s a catch-all label applied for the attention.

And don’t forget, we will always cheat on our partners without fail. Always.

Where current TV is concerned, I latch onto Rosa from Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Darryl from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for many reasons. It’s not just that they said who they were (although Darryl said he was “both-sexual,” which was cute to me in its own way), but they refused to back down from it. And the best part was how they came out.

On Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Rosa has nothing but support from her colleagues and parents. In an important moment, Andre Braugher’s Captain Raymond Holt, himself a gay character, acknowledged how times have changed. “I must say, this is going considerably better than when I came out to my colleagues. They were not, as the kids say, awake,” Holt said.

Given that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a musical comedy, it only makes sense that Darryl had a song, which was appropriately titled “Getting Bi.” In the span of the song’s 2 minutes and 20 seconds, Darryl not only comes out but manages to smash many of the stereotypes that the bisexual community is exhausted with daily. Also, the fact that the series chose Darryl to come out initially, before we learned about Valencia, is particularly poignant, since bisexual men have significantly less representation, if at all.

Honestly, unless you choose to count Captain Jack Harkness of Doctor Who and Torchwood (who actually identifies as omnisexual specifically), Darryl’s about it for bisexual male representation on television.

In an article on Hello Giggles, Stephanie Beatriz explained why having Rosa come out was so important to her.

“The main thing for me was that the character said ‘bisexual,’ and that she said it so many times,” Beatriz said. “She names her sexuality, versus many bisexual characters that you see in television in the past that have just happened to date men and women.”

It should be important to note that it is no coincidence that both of the shows these characters are from are landmarks for diversity and representation to begin with. However we need so, so much more. Sara Ramirez from Grey’s Anatomy can’t carry the weight for bisexuality on television forever.

While we start on the path to having more positive examples, we also need to do one huge, monumental thing. We need to stop being terrified of saying the word on television and in films.

I have loved Wonder Woman since I was little. She was the only DC character I could ever get behind, but as much as I adored and ugly-cried in the theater during her film released last summer, my excitement was muddied with disappointment. Despite official confirmation in 2016 during the run-up to the film’s release that Wonder Woman is indeed bisexual, she never said the word or did anything at all to even just lightly imply who she was, which led her kiss with Chris Pine to reek heavily of straight-washing.

DC announcing that Diana of Themyscira identifies as bisexual was monumental for so many reasons. Little girls especially could look at her and realize, if Wonder Woman is comfortable with her truth, then it just has to be okay for me too, right? Right? I still haven’t given up hope that something might happen in the sequel.

Once I get over my frustration, I’m sure I’ll be thankful that Brooklyn Nine-Nine will remain on the air. Until then, I’ll be over here breathing into a paper bag.

Photo by Daniel Benavides, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia