Before I start, I feel the need to clarify that by bisexual, I’m talking about sexuality directed towards members of more than one gender identities. I’ll admit that the clarification will seem pointless since the films I’m about to mention barely involve characters who aren’t either male or female. However, that is due to the lack of gender-queer representation in media and not how I personally perceive bisexuality.
Now, bi-erasure, for those who might not know, simply identifies the often common phenomenon of bisexuality not being acknowledged. This can be in cinema, music, art, novels, or even in real life. This has happened to every community that falls under the umbrella term 'queer', you might be thinking. However, bisexuality has a more prominent history of being subjected to this. Bisexual coming-out scenes are extremely scarce, and most bisexual stories acknowledge only homosexual tendencies or otherwise just portray bisexuality as a phase or an experimental experience. It sometimes manifests from the urge to steer narratives away from heteronormativity. In an attempt to portray heteronormativity negatively, homosexual experiences are highlighted to the point where bisexuality doesn’t get acknowledged. So is it really queer-positive if it comes at the cost of bi-erasure?
A very common form of bi-erasure is when a character who’s only had heterosexual experiences, starts experiencing homosexual tendencies and is then shown to realize that they were homosexual all along and pretended to be heterosexual. This is bi-erasure because quite often, the character might just be bisexual, and by saying they finally realized they’re gay, the narrative is essentially erasing the possibility of the character being bi. If only a few stories were of this kind, it wouldn’t be an issue, but this is extremely rampant (Brokeback Mountain, Call Me By Your Name, and Teorema to name a few, are all considered to be gay films).
One of the most classic examples of bi-erasure from Hollywood in the 21
Century is Jennifer’s Body. Starring Megan Fox as the titular Jennifer, the film was marketed as an overly sexual horror film that specifically caters to the male gaze of heterosexual adolescents. However, its cinematography is abundant in the female gaze, which usually includes focusing on hands, lips, and eyes, sensuously but emotionally perceiving the characters on screen. The male gaze, on the other hand, tends to focus on the body itself, with a certain lust in its framing of female characters specifically. Plus, Jennifer Check actually says the words “I go both ways” in reference to her sexual preference. Still, being perceived as a heterosexual narrative is blatant bi-erasure. However, I have good news for you. The film is being re-evaluated and reclaimed as an important work in queer horror.