Up next in our series on bisexuality for bi-visibility week is something that we hope will make it to your ‘to-watch’ list. In an industry that still seems incapable of creating well-rounded movies portraying bisexual love, we only get lucky once in a very long while. And today, Gaysi brings to you the best of these offerings. How many have you watched? Did we miss anything? Let us know in your comments! And now, without further ado, here’s the list:
Margarita with a Straw (2015)
This movie is the story of Laila’s life and her journey to independence, and it is brilliant for many reasons. Apart from showing a differently abled and bisexual protagonist, what is commendable is that its script does not try to make her character always likeable, showing that a someone’s likeability should not affect their inalienable right to representation.
For example, we see Laila cheating on her girlfriend Khanum when she has sex with Jared (that white boy from the Narnia series). In this cringe-worthy moment, Laila is revealed as flawed — not someone we can look up to, idolize, and sympathise with, and definitely not our ‘good little differently abled Hindu bharatiya nari’.
The film has been hailed as path-breaking for how it deviates from the usual portrayal of the differently abled in popular culture. In her assertion to her right to privacy, respect and equal opportunities, Laila does not conform to the expectations created by pop culture, or fit into the categories pre-set for the differently abled — and perhaps, this is what makes the film so special. It does not idealize or glorify bisexuals or bisexual relationships, it does not place them on an inaccessible pedestal.
One of the earliest movies depicting homosexuality and bisexuality in India, this movie is perhaps not a compelling watch but a brave first attempt. We are introduced to Sita and Radha, married sister-in-laws, who find love in each other in an orthodox Hindu upper-caste family.
The acting is a little awkward in places and the script is not the best, but it does effectively transgress the limits of sexuality, gender, religion and politics. The movie is perhaps memorable only for being the first film to deal with bisexual women in India. But the issues that this Deepa Mehta movie raises are many: from a critique of an orthodox Hindu upper-caste Indian society with its sanctioned oppression of women, to the portrayal of Radha’s husband and his Gandhian ideals, to the rituals and traditions women are bound to — Karvachaut and visiting temples and dargahs — the movie shows how women’s lives in these societies revolve only around ensuring the wellbeing of their husbands who never once reciprocate this sentiment.
Fire here becomes an agent of purification, an agneepareeksha like Sita was subjected to in the Ramayana. But her rejection of being engulfed by the fire lit by her husband, Radha becomes the Other, the transgressor, the ‘impure’ — for ideas of purity and impurity are Brahmanical, oppressive and deserving of abandonment. Along with Sita, who always considered the “concept of duty overrated” (of Dharma which is so central to Hinduism), Radha leaves for a better future which does not involve being a slave to tradition and culture.
San Junipero, Black Mirror (American) (2016)
San Junipero is technically a TV-movie, and won the Emmy award for Outstanding TV Movie this year. As one of the few female-led films to explore love with nuance, San Junipero comes as a fresh — and much needed — break amidst hordes of mass-produced content. And with interesting bisexual and lesbian characters and brilliant writing, this feminist science-fi flick could very well be one of the best portrayals of female sexuality and love in recent times.
Kelly, one of our protagonists, is bisexual and a person of colour (thank god!) who is shown as being fun and fierce. Yorkie, on the other hand, is white and kind of cringey (because her character follows the over-done, infamous pattern of the white virginal woman) is… well, bearable.
Yorkie and Kelly’s love, however, is beautiful in the way it evolves and enters a space of desire and conflict, which in the end does not disappoint. The world has had enough of sad stories for people with different sexualities and we really need more happy endings, and that is exactly what San Junipero gives us.
Love Songs (2007)
This film is a musical that follows the lives of a couple trying (and failing) to reignite the spark in their relationship. Ismael and Julie, hoping to jazz things up between them a little, have a threesome with Alice. While there is not much chemistry between Julie and Alice, it is Ismael and Erwann’s (a character who enters later) relationship that takes a turn for the better.
While exploring the ups and downs of being in a relationship, the movie sometimes seems problematic because of its tendency to portray bisexuality as an alternative to the heteronormative structure. What the movie seems (rather heavily) hint at is that when unhappy, humans must only look for happiness within the inflexible structures of heteronormativity. But sexuality is fluid and when restricted, or defined by words and boundaries, it spills out at the edges, restless and unhappy.
The Comedian (2012)
This movie was included at my editor’s behest (ha!). Even though the story — and its protagonist — is occasionally frustrating, one has to (begrudgingly) agree that it does have its moments of brilliance in capturing intimacy between individuals.
Ed, the protagonist, is a white man working at a call centre. He is also a stand-up comedian, trying to make it big in the circuit. He lives with his roommate Elisa, whose advances he never outright rejects, but it is to Nathan, a black artist, that he expresses his sexual and romantic interest.
With Ed still unable to take his relationship with Nathan forward or make a firm decision about anything, things start getting messy and the movie grinds to a halt. It is unable to portray this conflict without being fixated on — and ultimately hindered by — it. The Comedian, then, is not the best movie out there, but sporadically offers brilliant glimpses into human relationships.
This Oscar award-winning movie is one of those rare films that portrays sexuality and humanity in such a beautiful, poignant, and sensitive manner that it becomes impossible not to fall in love with it.
A coming-of-age story, this movie follows the life of “Little” (or Chiron) and his encounters with love and life. We included this movie in our list because of Chiron’s lover Kevin, who is bisexual, and has a child with an ex-girlfriend. The movie, while receiving many accolades has also been criticized for ‘gaywashing’, wherein other sexual minorities are either rendered invisible or skimmed over. While it is true that Kevin’s character and orientation is not explored in depth, his bisexuality is not hidden either. One can also see that the movie’s format — which is split into snapshots — does not really allow for such explorations since all characters get only a limited amount of time to develop.
Kevin, as a black bisexual man, is a testimony to the kind of impossible environments that the black community in America is systematically relegated to. But Kevin succeeds in breaking out of this destructive, racist and patriarchal system which demanded to make a criminal out of Kevin (like it does with Chiron) — and becomes a chef. And while things may not have been entirely dandy for him, we see him being happy and content. And is that not also an act of revolution in itself? For as Joelle from Dear White People eloquently puts it: “Sometimes being carefree and black is an act of revolution.”
Watch this brilliant movie!