But Not Too Bi
Writing about sexual orientation, especially same sex attraction, brings a bucketful of implications and problems for a writer. Politically, the tug-of-war between prejudice and gay advocacy makes a character's sexuality hard to balance so that one group can feel represented without causing an uproar. There is also a balance between having the exoticism of an uncommon sexuality without alienating the target audience. This is where bisexuality comes in. While bisexuality has historically been caught in this crossfire with the result being an erasure of their existence, the end result has also been that bisexuality, when it does surface in fiction, becomes a tool to consolidate this dilemma.
While bisexuality in Real Life spans a huge spectrum that covers both ends on the Kinsey scale and everything in between, it is actually very rare to see a show that treats attraction to two genders as equally valid and important. Terms such as heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, and aromantic exist because of the distinction between romantic and sexual orientation; characters that fall under this trope would thus be described as heteroromantic bisexuals or homoromantic bisexuals under such terminology, as opposed to biromantic bisexuals. However, there is one form of bisexuality in particular that holds a disproportionate presence in fiction and that is the kind of bisexuality that, when it comes down to it, lies closer to the orientation of the target audience. There are many variations to this, but key is to create some form of pecking order between the sexes, presumably in order to make the character more appealing to the audience depending on what gender and sexuality they are expected to have, while at the same time having the titillation, comedic material or diversity of "deviant" sexual behaviour. Of course, the prevalence of the trope brings some Unfortunate Implications for real life bisexuals; that in the end it's only one gender that matters to them and that their experiences with the other one are worthless.
A bisexual character who is written in this way usually treats the genders differently by one or more of these three aspects:
- Time: Alice used to date or sleep with both sexes, but there is no indication that she does so now.
- Actions on screen: Bob sleeps with both sexes, but the only relationships he forms are with women. Of course, heteroromantic bisexuals—people who are sexually attracted to both genders but only romantically attracted to the opposite gender—do exist in real life, as do homoromantic and aromantic bisexuals. But that's probably giving the creators too much credit.
- Tone/emotion: These two usually go together. If Alice considers her experiences with women to be wacky hijinks and her experiences with men to be lovestories, they are usually treated as such by the music, the other characters and the rest of the set.
Alternatively, the character could be like one of the above examples but slanted in favor of homosexual relationships instead, but this is rarer and usually played for fanservice or a queer intended audience.
No real life examples, please; this is All The Tropes, not Tropes After Dark.
- Nene from Hyakko says she's bi, but she only shows interest in girls. Since it's a comedy Slice of Life aimed at men, this is probably intentional.
- Haiji from Ai Kora will love anyone whom he considers pure, but he's only shown showing interest in Hachibei, and entirely Played for Laughs at that, what with all the Stupid Sexy Flanders moments he causes Hachibei. Subverted later on in a way, as he randomly starts developing feelings for Ayame, but since Status Quo Is God it doesn't stick for long and he's back to loving Hachibei soon.
- Hellblazer: Constantine has been said to be bisexual, but due to Executive Meddling his experience with men has been limited to one very limited seduction.
- X-Men villain Mystique. While she is often shown seducing men to get what she needs, and had a very dysfunctional relationship with Forge, her only meaningful long-term relationship was with Destiny, another woman.
- Aral Vorkosigan in the Vorkosigan Saga in the time aspect . As in: "Do you know your husband is bisexual? - He WAS bisexual. Now he's monogamous."
- Actually, the full explanation was that he was so oriented around the military that he was more attracted to soldiers than to women. Cordelia, as a woman soldier, was the solution to his dilemma. (It helped that he actually liked and respected her, too.)
- The author of Vampire Chronicles had established that all of her vampires are bisexual, but none of the female vampires seems to have interest in other women.
- In as much as Dorian Gray's sexuality can be established, it falls under this, with his relationships to men being largely ambiguous or sexual while his relationsip with Sybil is of a more traditional sort. Justified Trope in that there wasn't much room for any other depiction at the time.
- Oberyn Martell of A Song of Ice and Fire, to some extent; he only has one lover throughout the course of the series, and it's entirely possible that it would be unsafe for him to bring a male lover to court. The only evidence we have of his other relationships are rumors and his bastard children, the latter of which really couldn't come from his relationships with men. A more straightforward expample is Daenarys, who has and enjoys sex with Doreah and Irri, but her only relationships are with men.
- The L Word is frequently accused of this:
- Alice was introduced as the token bisexual character, and it was indicated that she slept with men and women more or less equally. However, as time went on, her relationships with men were given increasingly little screentime, and were eventually phased out entirely. By the end of the series, Alice is in a stereotypically normative butch/femme relationship with Tasha, an former army officer, and identifies as a lesbian. One of Alice's last male/female relationships on the show? With a man who identified as a "male lesbian". The show seems to want there to be No Bisexuals.
- Played with in the case of Jenny Schechter, who is established as bi from the first episode and whose first-season arc is mainly about her discovering it. Of course, she doesn't have many relationships with men on the show, but then again, it's implied that she only dated men before moving to West Hollywood and may be making up for lost time. Regardless, though, since she's a Depraved Bisexual she doesn't really do much to lift the show's attitude toward bis. And she identifies as a lesbian.
- House: Thirteen's tendency to have sex with women becomes a source for fan service during her whole run, while her relationship is with a man. Later improved somewhat by having her settle down with a woman
- Even after Todd from Scrubs was established to be bisexual, he was almost never seen hitting on or telling stories about his escapades with men.
- Gossip Girl has Chuck Bass who not only is seen almost exclusively with women, but the TV series seems to reduce his connections to men to flirting and kissing.
- Kalinda of The Good Wife. Her relationships to women are purely sexual, and the only relatonship that seems to be treated as anything more is to a man.
- Anna from Chuck falls under Bi the Way, but hasn't seen any on screen action with women.
- Captain Jack Harkness of Doctor Who and Torchwood shows attraction to all sexes, genders and species. Throughout both series, he gets into several long-term romantic relationships with men and women. His Mayfly-December Romance marriages with 20th century Earth women, and their repercussions, are often discussed. He has on-screen romance with several men (including James Marsters!) and one very hot gay sex scene. In Doctor Who, the show went out of its way to make Jack's kissing scenes with Rose and the Doctor. Writers had a tendecy to make portray his romances with women as romantic and those with men as sexual first and foremost during the first seasons of Torchwood, however the radio dramas and later seasons go a different route.
- In Skins, Tony Stonem and Cassie Ainsworth are seen having meaningless trysts with people of both sexes, but their only relationships are opposite-sex ones. Franky Fitzgerald also says she's "into people" when asked which gender she prefers, but only shows any kind of interest in guys on the show (Mini's one-sided crush on her in S5 notwithstanding).
- A particularly problematic case in the very popular (and commonly hailed by the mainstream as very LGBT-positive) show Glee with Santana. Throughout season 1 she is seen having sex with many male characters, notably both Puck and Finn, as well as being very heavily hinted to have been sleeping with Brittney. However, she later comes out of the closet as a lesbian, rather than, say, a homoromantic bisexual. This leaves Brittney as the only bisexual representation on the show.
- Ellen from El Goonish Shive. Technically bi, due to the specifics of her creation (she's Elliot's Distaff Counterpart, after all), but is in a stable relationship with Nanase and eventually decides that she's basically just lesbian, after a traumatic "dream," thus checking off the time aspect. Of course, since Nanase is technically her first relationship, and since she is bi due to her specifically being created that way, it would be very unfair not to take her at her word.
- T-Bob in Something*Positive. He self-identifies as a bisexual but is only seen dating or displaying an attraction to men, the only indication of him being interested with women was a throwaway reference to him coming onto a woman offscreen. And she turned him down.
- Yu-Gi-Oh the Abridged Series does this occasionally. Joey Wheeler (who was straight in the original), shows attraction to other guys (Kaiba, especially), but he and Mai Valentine are clearly each others' love interests, fulfilling the tone/emotion aspect. The show also averts most Unfortunate Implications since Everyone Is Bi and Ho Yay is par the course. As an Abridged series LK is (mostly) restricted to the original footage, so there's little potential payoff anyhow. Not to mention that the creator himself is bi.