Thursday, 16 August 2012

Brittany Pierce: a positive portrayal of teen bisexuality

To start off with, one thing needs to be said: Brittany Pierce in Glee is an out and proud bisexual. Not convinced? OK, let's hear it from her: 
  • During I Am Unicorn, when talking to Kurt about her running as a candidate for class president, she says she realised she was a unicorn too (with Santana's help!), and followed this with "maybe a bicorn".
  • During The Spanish Teacher, she joked that she was "bilingual".
  • In Props, after Santana told a teacher in the teachers' lounge that they were both gay, Brittany pointed out that she was bi, but that this didn't make a huge difference to Santana's point. 
      Right, on to why I think Brittany is one of the most positive portrayals of bisexuality on TV. First of all, the show acknowledges she's bi even though she's currently in long term a relationship with someone of the same sex (Santana). Contrast this with Willow, who despite having been in a serious relationship with Oz from season 2 until the start of season 4 of Buffy, was labelled as gay during and after her relationship with Tara. Also contrast this with Marissa Cooper of The OC, who was labelled as gay when she was in a relationship with Alex, but went back to being straight when Alex left. 

      Second of all, she's never had a problem with her own sexuality and she's also been very open about it. There hasn't been any big coming out moment for her because she didn't hide it in the first place:
      • During Bad Reputation, after Artie finds her in the choir room after she "forgot how to leave", she bemoans being so low on the Glist despite the fact she's made out with everyone, clarifying she meant with girls as well as boys.
      • During Born This Way, after Santana says Brittany doesn't love her back, Brittany retorts "I do love you, clearly you don't love you as much as I do or you'd put this shirt on and you'd dance with me". This indicates Brittany has no qualms about being seen to dance romantically with a girl (a girl declaring her sexuality, no less).
      • During Rumours, after Santana sings 'Songbird' to her, Brittany offers to "go first", by asking Santana to go to the prom with her on Fondue For Two.
      Now, since I wrote a post about Santana's sexuality and how it makes the most sense for her to be a lesbian, I have had a few objections to my stating Britt is a good portrayal of a bisexual, I will address these in turn.
      1. Her sexuality is associated with her stupidity.
        I don't know where this comes from because when it comes to her personal relationship with Santana Brittany has often been very smart:
        • In Born This Way Brittany makes Santana a 'Lebanese' T-shirt because she knew that Santana wouldn't be strong enough to do it herself.
        • During New York, when Santana said to Brittany "you're my best friend", she replied "I do too", indicating Brittany knew Santana actually meant "I love you".
        • During Mash Off, she's able to calm down Santana when she was on the warpath by singing "stop the violence".
        • In Saturday Night Glee-ver when Santana says she wants be famous by any means necessary Brittany shows her exactly what that means: by releasing a sex tape and fetching her a testicle to chew on.
      2. Her character plays into the stereotype of bisexuals being sluts.
        Yes, Brittany has slept with a lot of people, but then so has Santana. It's a phase which some teenagers go through and then get over. She hasn't slept with anyone other than Artie or Santana since early on in season 2, so I'd say she's grown out of it.
      3. There's not been a big story about her sexuality.
        She's never denied her sexuality, so that rules out a big coming out story. If anyone had offered to straighten her out like they did Santana then she'd have brushed it off. This also wouldn't have made it a big story. So I don't really know how they'd make a big story centred around her sexuality.
      Another positive thing about the portrayal of Brittany's sexuality is that during Sexy, when Brittany realised that Santana was in love with her, and therefore asking for a serious commitment, she decided she couldn't continue seeing Artie and Santana at the same time. Because of this, she committed herself to Artie as she was already in a relationship with him, therefore belying the stereotype that bisexuals can't commit. Since breaking up with Artie at the end of season 2, she is now in a relationship with Santana

      Now that Brittany will be retaking senior year without Santana around, I'd be interested to see how the other students interact with her. It's possible that without Santana to scare them off, Brittany may start to get bullied, and it'd be interesting to see how she handles this, particularly if it includes jibes about her sexuality.

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