Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bi Celebs – Two Sides of a Good Thing

Bi Celebs – Two Sides of a Good Thing…The Double-Edged Sword of Being a Role Model
By Gary North

The Darkest Hour's Olivia Thirlby Comes Out

Anna Paquin and Olivia Thirlby are two of the more recent thespians to come out as bi.
That’s a good thing, right? Gives the movement some admired role models and some visibility, yes?
Well…yes, but.
The “but” is that I as a movie fan and (erstwhile) cultural maven have two reactions at once (and, no, not because bi people by nature have two reactions at once).
My first reaction, especially when I was first dealing with my sexuality, was: Whew! I’m not the only one! (Of course when I was coming out sometime in the last century, shortly after the Paleolithic era, there were no such creatures as “bi” until Newsweek discovered “bi chic” and then promptly forgot about it.)
At the same time, though, an actor or actress (or writer or director or whoever) coming out (as bi or gay or whatever) is a lot like a magician deconstructing their magic tricks, revealing the gears and levers behind the curtain: See, I’m PLAYING straight, but YOU KNOW and I KNOW that I’m JUST ACTING!
…Well, duhhhhh… Of COURSE they’re acting! That’s their JOB! … But, just as audience members know that the magician knows that the audience knows he or she is a magician, the audience still wants to BELIEVE the magic is real, that the illusions are real. I really DON’T want to know how the trick is done (or how laws are made or sausage is made or sewage is treated…).
So when Anna or Olivia come out as bi, I cheer – and then I have to force myself to fight through the cognitive dissonance of KNOWING they’re bi in order to BUY that they’re “straight” in whatever role they’re playing.
And this is a bad thing. But only for me, and that’s MY problem.
To this day, I have trouble watching Doris Day/Rock Hudson romance movies (well, truth be told, I always had trouble sitting through those) or “McMillan and Wife” episodes because, well, heck, it’s a gay guy playing straight. It carries right through for me to the most famous or visible bi stars of recent years, including Alan Cumming, Drew Barrymore, Anne Heche, Angelina Jolie, Cynthia Nixon, and so on – although, to be fair, they didn’t necessarily always play “straight” roles; one COULD PRESUME or infer that some of their characters were bi, or PRETEND as much, since – as with real life – what isn’t said can be assumed to exist silently. Whatever…
(Musicians have it easier – they play instruments, not roles – and can be themselves more easily, especially because their love songs are often gender-neutral: “you” “you make me feel like a teenage…” “you, you’re the one…”: Christina Aguilera, Fergie, Lady Gaga…)
But am I saying actors SHOULDN’T come out as bi because it makes me work too hard to fight off their believability when they’re interpreting Shakespeare or Mamet?
Bi Social Network's I am Visible Campaign
No. Quite the opposite. The ones who have come out have knowingly put their careers in jeopardy for a higher cause: the truth and honesty about human sexuality, human behavior, open-mindedness, and progressiveness. They know the younger viewers don’t care and/or will applaud them for being so daring. The older fuddy-duddies like me just have to disenthrall ourselves by forgetting the outside world for a few short hours and remind ourselves that all the world is a stage, and that THAT really is Henry the VIII or Queen Victoria up there on the screen or trodding the boards.
So the next time you watch “True Blood” or “The Good Wife” or “Good Vibes,” or listen to a good song, thank your lucky bi self that a bi celeb had the courage to come out, stand tall, and bring truth to the masses – one role at a time, for all to see.
You got a problem with that? Then it’s YOUR problem.
Now, pass me the popcorn, turn up the volume, and turn down the lights.