In the wake of a recent controversy surrounding Netflix series “Big Mouth,” co-creator Andrew Goldberg came out and apologized for an episode the show aired regarding bisexuality.
Until now, the series had garnered a positive reputation for its honest portrayal of topics regarding sex and teenage awkwardness. This time, they failed to represent the bisexual community accurately, instead opting to dismiss us entirely.
While the show’s target demographic is adults, “Big Mouth” does make an effort to be educational. This is what makes the episode so frustrating. They had an opportunity to write a strong bisexual character and they threw it away, like so many other television series have done over the years (I’m talking about The L Word).
As a disclaimer, it’s important to watch the entire episode of the show before making any conclusions because “Big Mouth” thrives on the buzz they get from a two minute clip like this one.
In the scene in particular, character Ali Wong is a new student who introduces herself to the class and briefly mentions that she is pansexual. A classmate then speaks up to assert that he thought that’s what being bisexual meant.
“No, bisexuality is so binary,” Wong responds. “Being pansexual means my sexual preference isn’t limited by gender identity.”
In other words, Wong is saying that bisexuality is limited, and that bisexuals only experience attraction within a binary.
Wong then dives into an awkward food analogy involving burritos and tacos, at which point I had to stop watching.
I’ll just come out and say it. I’m tired of having the conversation that pits bisexuals against pansexuals.
Despite common and outdated rhetoric, bisexuality does not have to adhere to a strict binary. It doesn’t have to mean that we are attracted to only men and women, 50% men and 50% women, or some other quaint definition.
Bisexuals have always been attracted to those outside of the gender binary, and the existence of a more specific term (pansexuality) does nothing to change that. We have always existed.
“Any time we try to define something as complex as human sexuality, it’s super challenging, and this time we could have done better,” Goldberg stated in his apology, which he posted to Twitter.
The thing is, this could have easily been avoided, had Goldberg or any of the other producers made the effort to reach out to the LGBTQ+ community. While it’s true that sexuality is never cut and dry, it’s clear that they didn’t go beyond surface level research when writing the episode.
Again, this segment of the show does not accurately represent its values, nor does it take away from so much of the other important strides they have made. “Big Mouth” has touched on so many topics involving adolescence and sexuality that have never been present in mainstream media. That being said, the series still managed to spread misinformation about an entire community, which is ultimately detrimental to those coming-of-age and coming to understand their own sexuality.
Kati Morris can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @neutralsoymlk.