What does the demonic bisexual mean for bisexual representation on screen?

Charmed— “The Storm Before the Calm” -- Image Number: CMD317a_0683r -- Pictured: Poppy Drayton as Abigael -- Photo: Colin Bentley/The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Charmed— “The Storm Before the Calm” -- Image Number: CMD317a_0683r -- Pictured: Poppy Drayton as Abigael -- Photo: Colin Bentley/The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

Over the years, bisexual representation has found its way more and more onto the small screen, with 28% of all regular and recurring LGBTQ characters being bisexual across all forms of TV studied by GLAAD in their 2020-2021 Where We Are on TV report. As we see more bisexual representation on screen, it’s important to look at how these characters are being portrayed, and what shows are saying with these representations.

A much broader issue currently plaguing TV is that bisexual characters are often villains, with their sexuality implying a moral complexity that isn’t present in their straight counterparts. Examples like Villanelle from Killing Eve and Eretria from The Shannara Chronicles are just a few in a long line of morally grey bisexuals, but I couldn’t help but notice a more specific pattern: Bisexuals aren’t just being villainized, they’re being demonized, literally.

In recent years, bisexuals have found themselves represented in many ways on screen, and in many different genres, but specifically, the bisexual demon has fascinated me. Obviously, it’s not inherently wrong to write a demon character as bisexual, but the portrayals that we’ve seen on screen have unfortunately leaned into negative stereotypes, and ultimately call into question what a show is trying to say with their bisexual representation.

For starters, devilish bisexual characters often fall into negative bisexual stereotypes. On Lost Girl, the main character Bo Dennis is a bisexual succubus; she feeds on the sexual energy of humans, and while isn’t explicitly stated to be a demon on the show, is a creature associated with demonic imagery and folklore.

In the series, Bo encapsulates the stereotype that bisexuals are unable to be or remain monogamous through a literal biological side effect of her succubus status. During the third season of the show, Bo tries to remain monogamous with her girlfriend Lauren, but she quickly becomes weak and ill due to a lack of proper feeding. While this is a sensical storyline for Bo, as it highlights a canonical biological conflict she has, it becomes problematic when paired with her sexuality.

On Netflix’s Lucifer, Lucifer Morningstar himself falls into a similar power-related connection between his bisexuality and his actions. His God-given power is to deduce what one truly desires through seducing whoever he talks to. The weaponizing of his sexuality against people of all genders perpetuates the sex-crazed narcissist stereotype often linked to bisexuality; he uses the desires of those around him to meet his own needs, often to the detriment of those he uses that power on while thinking nothing of the consequences.

In a similar vein, bisexuals are often portrayed as cheaters and home-wreckers. On The CW’s Charmed reboot, Abigael Jameson-Caine, the half-demon half-witch Overlord of the demon world, falls into that trope. She is shown engaging in threesomes, often to call attention to her immorality, and her only storylines as a love interest involve her as an invading agent in an already established relationship, either between Harry and Macy or Mel and Ruby.

Her romantic portrayal exclusively as a home-wrecker highlights more negative bisexual stereotypes surrounding cheating, aversion to monogamy, and sexual promiscuity. As she spends most of season two trying and failing, to “corrupt” Harry through sexual advances, the series establishes that she is immoral. But is it because she’s a demon? Or is it because she’s bisexual? Or a combination of the two?

Because, in the world of the show, Abigael is both the only bisexual character and the Charmed Ones’ only true connection to the political landscape of the Demon World, so it calls into question what the show is trying to say about her character by weaponizing both aspects of her identity to frame her as an antagonist. It creates a narrative around Abigael that ties her bisexuality to her lack of moral consideration through her actions, while also keeping her demonic nature top-of-mind through constant reminders from the Charmed Ones.

Another negative trope that plagues bisexual characters on television is the depraved bisexual trope. This trope, which establishes that a bisexual character’s violence and sexuality go hand-in-hand, can be seen in both Charmed and Lucifer.

On Charmed, Abigael’s blaze attitude towards monogamy and sexuality establishes that she embraces the taboo nature of her sexuality, and her loose relationship with morality solidifies that she approaches her decisions with the same embrace of the socially unacceptable.

On Lucifer, Mazikeen Smith, or just Maze, falls into that same category, though as a pansexual character, which is still on the bisexual+ spectrum. Throughout the series, and especially for the first three seasons, torture and sex define Maze as a character. The combination of her demonic pension for torture and violence with her overtly sexual advances towards both men and women equates the two through this trope.

With all of these characters, the argument could be made that these devils and demons are just beyond human constructs like sexuality and gender binaries, but if that’s the case, why is it always evil-coded creatures that are enlightened in that way? In these series, the questionable morality and promiscuous nature of said demons make a commentary about that mythical race, but it also says something broader about bisexuals.

If anything, it hints that challenging society’s binaries and rules is, in and of itself, evil in the same way these characters and creatures are implied to be.

Like on Lucifer, why isn’t Amenadiel the angel given the same fluid sexuality as his brother and Maze? Or on Charmed, why is Abigael, the Demon Overlord, the only canonically bisexual character? In the worlds of these series, bisexuality or fluidity in sexuality is only granted to those on the darker side of the moral compass, not to the angels from Heaven or the morally superior witches.

Even when those on the lighter side of the show’s morality are allowed to be queer, it’s only in the monosexual sense, as seen specifically with Mel’s lesbian identity on Charmed. It perpetuates the idea that bisexuality is immoral and something that would only be explored by demons, devils, villains, and morally complex characters.

It would be ridiculous to argue that bisexual characters can never be evil or can never be demonic, but it’s important to recognize and understand how these tropes and patterns can be harmful, especially when they’ve persisted for so many years.

Characters like Bo Dennis, Lucifer Morningstar, Abigael Jameson-Caine, and Maze are all incredibly well-written and enjoyable characters, and their inclusion in TV’s pension for devilish bisexuals doesn’t automatically make them poor bisexual representation. But that observation co-exists with the recognition of their role in this harmful pattern and allows for an examination of the messaging surrounding them in the broader scope of queer representation.

Bo, Lucifer, Maze, and Abigael aren’t the only demonic bisexuals to ever grace our screens, with Jennifer Check from Jennifer’s Body probably being the most recognizable but each of their stories offers insight into how bisexuality becomes a tool to cast characters in this immoral light and allows shows to fall into bad habits when it comes to bisexual representation.

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