Opinion: ‘Will & Grace’ Tackling Bisexual Erasure Does More Harm Than Good

Opinion: ‘Will & Grace’ Tackling Bisexual Erasure Does More Harm Than Good

Originally published on TVLine

 

In the Thursday February 6 episode of Will & Grace, the NBC series clumsily attempted to tackle biphobic beliefs and yet stumbled throughout, relying on lazy jokes and tired stereotypes.

In the episode titled “Bi-Plane,” Grace’s niece Fiona (played by the late Debbie Reynolds’ granddaughter, Billie Lourd) visits her aunt and brings along Trevor (Peter Graham), a flamboyant 22-year-old with a love for musicals. Will and Grace both quickly assume that Trevor is the gay BFF — a miniature mirror image of the two of them. They’re shocked when Fiona reveals that Trevor is her boyfriend, and that he’s bisexual.

It’s immediately clear that neither Will nor Grace believes Trevor, so what follows is a lot of biphobic jokes with tired punchlines. Will proclaims that “bisexuality isn’t even a thing,” inanely comparing it to someone saying they’re a cat and dog person instead of choosing just one. Will tells Trevor that sometimes saying you’re bi is “a safe half-step when you’re scared to jump all the way in,” implying that Trevor is actually gay. Later, Will strips away the implications and says it explicitly: “Trevor, you’re not bisexual, you’re gay.”

Will goes on to tell Trevor that he’s only choosing to be with a woman because of “societal pressure” and exasperatedly claims that, within the LGBTQ community, “The ‘B’s and the ‘Q’s just haven’t figured out if they’re ‘L’ or ‘G’ yet.” Grace generally agrees with Will but is scared to admit as much—she wants to be seen as the cool aunt—but eventually does admit that she also doesn’t think Trevor is being honest with himself.

 

“Bi-Plane” reads like a bullet point list of all the things bisexual people hear constantly—and the things that frequently keep bisexual people from coming out (and bisexuals are the least likely group to come out). Hearing over and over that bisexuality isn’t real, or that it’s just a stepping stone before inevitably identifying as gay or lesbian, can cause bisexuals to doubt their own feelings and desires. Such biphobia and bisexual erasure contributes to heightened mental health issues within the bisexual community, and plots like this don’t do anything to help.

This bisexual erasure is especially hurtful when it comes from the queer community—which should, ostensibly, be the place we feel safest—which is why it’s doubly frustrating that Will & Grace is the series choosing to do this storyline.

Will & Grace has always had a huge platform and has been credited with “normalizing” queer relationships on television. The original run also contained biphobia (…as well as transphobia and lesbophobia) and its return could’ve been a way to make up for its past mistakes. Instead, Will & Grace hasn’t changed much and in some instances, it’s even gotten worse — such as last year’s season finale that found Karen, whose bisexuality has been a running gag throughout the entire series, unequivocally coming out as straight. (And what’s worse, her “coming out” scene was a reference to Ellen‘s famous “The Puppy Episode.”)

Instead of using “Bi-Plane” to clearly dispel the common myths about bisexuality, the show leaned into them even further. Though it is clear that we’re meant to be on Fiona and Trevor’s side, the episode doesn’t do much to showcase just how wrong and harmful Will and Grace’s beliefs are. At the end, Will admits they were both being “intolerant of someone’s sexuality” and claims that “when we were shamed into it, we were willing to learn” — but we don’t actually see that at all. There is no moment when either character apologizes to Trevor, or indicates that they learned anything (except, I suppose, to keep their biphobia to themselves). Instead, we get a tired joke about how they just don’t understand because they’re old and stuck in the ’90s (as if bisexuality is a recent development).

Will & Grace has always been a show that centered solely on cis gay men while ignoring the rest of the queer community, and it’s sad to see that it’s still the case—22 years after it first premiered. It just further proves that television should focus on finding new queer creators for new queer series instead of dipping into the past.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Previous Wendy Williams criticized for her comments regarding men wearing skirts, apologizes for her remarks
Next 25 Problems That All Beyoncé Fans (AKA The Beyhive) Can Relate To

About author

You might also like

Opinion Pieces 1Comments

How do we know HIV Undetectable equals Untransmittable?

Matthew Hodson explains why so many sexual health organizations back the message that those with undetectable viral loads don’t pass on HIV. Have you heard that U = U? It’s

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Opinion Pieces 6 Comments

“It’s Never Too Late To Live.” – Kenny Brandmuse

I’ve been seeing many same-gender loving men getting married to women on my Facebook timeline of late. Like one every other week. Congratulations, guys! I recalled how I used to

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Opinion Pieces 4 Comments

Opinion: Why Do We Feel the Need to Transgender the Dead?

Earlier this month, a list of vaudeville-era “non-binary and transgender public heroes” compiled by actor Jeffrey Marsh was circulated widely on social media. The accompanying photos are fascinating, which helps

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

5 Comments

  1. Black Dynasty
    February 15, 11:31 Reply

    I think this piece missed the entire point of the episode. A lot of gay and str8 folks still think bi people are gay and haven’t fully embraced themselves yet. Even on this very site, we’ve seen remarks to that effect. The episode was highlighting this and I got it.

    • Ken
      February 17, 05:39 Reply

      Isn’t this bcos this is how many gay people front before understanding and accepting themselves. I know many gay guys that initially felt it less threatening and scary to assume the “bi tag”, before they eventually accepted themselves as gay. Will and grace were not so far from the realities of the gay community. Many people think their troubles would be lighter if only they could (falsely) be attracted to the opposite sex as well.

      • Black Dynasty
        February 17, 06:12 Reply

        Exactly this. It is a reflection of current society and that’s what they showed.

  2. Mandy
    February 15, 19:32 Reply

    Watching Grace and Will deny that bisexuality is real was uncomfortable for me. After all, this is a show that was lauded for its focus on inclusion and acceptance for so long. But it’s also the same show who was guilty of bisexual erasure last season on Will & Grace Season 10 Episode 18 “Jack’s Big Fat Gay Wedding.”
    For whatever reason, the show really struggles to represent other identities beyond the first two letters of the LGBTIQA community. When Will admits that he thinks those that identify as bisexual and queer simply just haven’t decided whether they’re lesbian or gay, it feels less like Will saying that and more like the show’s writers are.

    Another issue is that it makes zero sense that Will would have this issue. He’s traditional but he’s also harped on inclusion and acceptance for the entire series. So the fact that he’d have such an issue wrapping his head around the idea that Trevor could be bisexual and still want to commit to Fiona, is not just backwards thinking; it’s incongruent with what we’ve seen of his character.

    While the episode ultimately uses this as a “teaching moment” for Will and Grace to realize the errors in their thinking, it still rubs the wrong way that this episode included this storyline in the first place.

  3. Ken
    February 17, 05:33 Reply

    I don’t get the criticism cos the show is merely reflecting the usual stigma in society. But that episode ends with Fiona and Trevor showing just how outdated and dumb such presumptuous biphobia is. If anything, I think the episode is a big plus for lgbtq. In the end will and grace come around to understand bisexuality better

Leave a Reply