TV is a major player in shaping how America sees the world and when people allow TV to dictate their thinking, without deep introspection, it perpetuates the stereotypes that TV puts forward.
It is 2016 and the media still has problems with bisexuality. I, and many others, believe that bisexuality is valid and should not be misrepresented. Being bisexual is often represented as being only in it for carnal pleasure and not being able decide whom they really want to be with. Then when a bisexual person does express romantic interest in an individual, that person’s gender defines the bisexual person's sexuality. This is the narrative on television shows, time and time again. Researchers and I agree that this is oppressive and harmful to all that watch it.
Many studies show that under and misaligned representation can cause severe damage to perceptions of bisexuality.
In 1986, researcher Cedric Clark explained it best. In his research, he studied minorities or groups defined as “the other.” Clark named four stages of representation of these groups: non-representation, ridicule, regulation and acceptance. This is the pattern for underrepresented peoples in the media. Bisexuality is an example of "the other."
Rather than using TV as an educational tool about "the other," mainstream media has used it for oppression. This is deplorable since rather than representing humans in their full nature, they reduce people down to stereotypes.
In American television, bisexual people are severely underrepresented and oppressed. Some shows that fall into the category of oppressors, in my opinion, are “House of Cards” (regulation), “How to Get Away with Murder” (non-representation) and “Orange is the New Black” (ridicule). In my opinion, there is one show that is the shining example of good representation for the bisexual community and that is “Grey’s Anatomy” with their character Callie Torres (acceptance).
Having proper representation in the media allows it to become a tool to educate those who do not understand bisexuality.
Allowing there to be positive messages of inclusivity allows heterosexual and non-bisexual people to learn about other communities in order to stop the treatment of individuals as "the other." Yet in today’s society, stereotypes are being reinforced to the max.
A study conducted by associate communications professor Bradley J. Bond at the University of San Diego shows how mainstream media sanitizes depictions of lesbian, gay or bisexual, or LGB, individuals, by preventing LGB characters in TV shows from engaging in realistic sexual talk or sexual behaviors. This allows for stereotypes that are in the media to take root in the minds of people exploring their sexuality.
A recent study by the University of Missouri at Columbia took a broad look at media and its impact on sex life and found that “results revealed that those who consumed higher amounts of sexual media content were more likely to accept the norms and expectations of the hookup culture, overestimate their peers’ sexual activity and engage in hookups and sexual risk taking.”
The researchers go on to say that positive representation of an out-group would lighten negative experiences and increase self-esteem for members of that group. The research establishes four themes where the media has a direct impact: coping through escapism, feeling stronger, fighting back and finding and fostering community.
People want to feel included. If they do not receive acceptance or inclusion in their jobs, their schools or their loved ones, media might be the only thing that can help foster a feeling of inclusion. Yet with the current state of media in relation to bisexuality, it is much more likely that people will feel marginalized and alone in the world. So many kids are suffering with ridicule and loneliness; ending that should be the top priority for anyone in the public eye.
It is too late for so many kids, but if the American media stops representing bisexual people as "the other," thousands of lives could be saved.