Created By: Mimimurlough on June 5, 2011 Last Edited By: Mimimurlough on June 23, 2011
Nuked

But Not Too Bi

Characters identified as bisexual that only get serious with one gender

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Trope
In Real Life, bisexuality can span a huge spectrum, from being mostly straight to mostly gay to being pretty much equal opportunity. On TV however, there seems to be one particular breed of bisexuality that is dominating at the expense of all others: the bisexual character who sleeps with and has casual fling with both sexes, but they only get serious with one of them. For example, Alice may have had sex with women in her past or dated them in college or high school, but as a married woman, all of that is firmly stated to be in the past. If still single, she might still be sleeping with women, but you can safely bet that she isn't going to fall in love with or settle down with any of them. The key here is creating a distance to one gender - it's almost like having a gay or straight character and then adding experiences with the other gender as an extra "spice" to the character. Usually it can be explained with the creators trying to take in some diversity in their cast without having to challenge hetero- or homosexuality as the norm in their world.

A character fits into this trope if they fulfill one or more or the following criteria:

1. They are only shown to fall in love with, or get emotional about relationships to one gender.

2. They only go into relationships with one gender

3. There is a clear difference in time perspective (the character used to date both genders in their youth or a long time ago, but are never seen to be doing so on screen)

4. Their sexual interactions with one gender are played for laughs

Examples:

Mainstream

Litterature
  • Aral Vorkosigan in the Vorkosigan Saga is this kind of bi. As in: "Do you know your husband is bisexual? - He WAS bisexual. Now he is happily married."

Television
  • House: Thirteen is close to a perfect illustration of the trope, sleeping with women and using her bisexuality as titillation for her boyfriend.
  • Captain Jack from Torchwood. While he does have some sort of relationship with Ianto, it's mostly ambiguous and at least one writer has interpreted it as one sided, not to mention that he has a Star-Crossed Lovers thing going on with Gwen throughout the series. While casual comments are made about past boyfriends, his more romantic memories are mostly with women.

Video Games

Web Comics
  • Ellen from ''El Goonish Shive'. Technically bi, due to the specifics of her creation, but eventually decides that she's basically just lesbian, after a traumatic 'dream'.

Other
  • Yugioh The Abridged Series does this with Joey Wheeler (who was straight in the original), giving him some bi-curious moments with other guys (Kaiba, especially), but he and Mai Valentine are clearly each others' love interests.

Queer media

  • In The L Word, Alice, Tina and Jenny identify as bisexual most of the time. But they are only really seen in serious relationships with women. One time, Alice did date a man, but he was a lesbian identified male.
Community Feedback Replies: 38
  • June 5, 2011
    TwinBird
    Yeah... I just can't see this one going anywhere good.
  • June 6, 2011
    c0ry
    I disagree with the Torchwood example. Jack and Ianto are a serious couple, and if it appears one-sided it's only because Jack's implacable confidence contrasts with Ianto's worrying nature. Also, it seemed to me that he had a pretty strong past relationship with John Hart.
  • June 6, 2011
    Duncan
  • June 6, 2011
    jaytee
    This feels very People Sit On Chairs to me. You said yourself, sexuality is a spectrum. There are a lot of people that swing both ways but more one way than the other. I know a lot of bisexual folk and I don't know a single one that is totally 50:50.

    Not to mention that this requires a level of subjectivity I don't feel good about. I certainly wouldn't count Thirteen from House as being Not Too Bisexual. Thirteen doesn't seem to form close bonds with anyone, male or female. Yes, the only long-ish term relationship we see is with a man, but it's implied that she's had serious relationships with women. And if you consider they'd have to add an obvious Token Minority to the cast in order for her to have a serious relationship with another woman...
  • June 6, 2011
    StarryEyed
    ^ All of Thirteen's relationships with women are one-episode dramas, and most are strongly implied to be destructive. Several of the straight characters have/had long term love interests outside the hospital. If they wanted Thirteen to be in a serious relationship with another woman, she would be.

    • Yugioh The Abridged Series does this with Joey Wheeler (who was straight in the original), giving him some bi-curious moments with other guys (Kaiba, especially), but he and Mai Valentine are clearly each others' love interests.
  • June 6, 2011
    Mimimurlough
    Cory: this is about how the relationships are treated in show. Jack never shows any fondness for John the times we see him (other in a bro kind of way), and he certainly never treats Ianto the way he treats Gwen. One of the writers has even states that he feels sorry for Ianto - can't see a heavier arument than that.

    Duncan: I was thinking of it as a sister trope to But Not Too Gay

    jaytee: It's only People Sit On Chairs if all bisexuals in the real world act this way, and they don't. And having to put in effort to get rid of a trope does not qualify as a reason to ignore it.
  • June 6, 2011
    Mimimurlough
    note: I have no idea how to categorize the abriged series, so I put it in an "other" category
  • June 6, 2011
    amazinglyenough
    I'm not familiar with any of the examples, but it seems to me that the trend is that bisexual character may fool around with the same sex, but they only fall in love with the opposite sex. This is an important distinction because it has to do with the fact that heterosexuality is seen as the norm while other forms of sexuality might be portrayed as merely experimentation or not serious.
  • June 6, 2011
    Mimimurlough
    That was why I wanted to keep the formulation open. It is possible for a bisexual character to form a relationship (as in otrchwood) or fall in love, but the same sex relationships are always diminished one way or the other. I'm not sure wether the reverse applies to queer-oriented shows, so the heteronormative part is left out at the moment.
  • June 6, 2011
    jaytee
    ^^^^^Thus brilliantly showing just how subjective this trope is. I never perceived Foreteen's relationship as being very close or loving (and I definitely found it to be destructive for both parties), other people obviously felt otherwise.
  • June 6, 2011
    jaytee
    ^^^^^You seem to misunderstand People Sit On Chairs. PSOC doesn't imply that everyone in the world does it. It just means that the phenomenon in question has little or no signifigance in the fiction. It doesn't transmit any information to the audience. Seeing as there's no way to tell if the creator is intentionally making their characters "not too bi" or just modeling the character after any number of actual bisexual people that "lean" a certain direction, there's no information being conveyed as a result.

    And you're right, subjectivity by itself isn't a reason to get rid of a trope, but it is a huge red-flag that perhaps you should rexamine the trope and either decide if we really need it or if we can reframe it in a less subjective way. Subjective tropes are not very useful and tend to be natter-bait, especially with topics with an inherent political bent (which articles on sexuality certainly carry).
  • June 7, 2011
    Mimimurlough
    We seem to have this discussion every time gender, race or sexuality comes up in tropes, so I'll just repeat what I say then: by your standard, almost all tropes of those categories would disappear. It's also a myopic way or reasoning because it suggests that noone sees the message just because you don't, when this is in fact the second or third most discusssed issue with bisexual representation, after No Bisexuals and Discount Lesbians.

    As for subjectivity, I've already stated that I want to count this as sort of a counterpart to But Not Too Gay, which might have had examples woth discussing once or twice in its existence. Subjectivity is not an issue if you have a reference point, which in this case means comparing how the show treats relationships to the different genders. You'll also note that I specifically didn't put up love as a creitera here, because that means that you can count for example Thirteen as equal opportunity, when in fact the amount of time and respect that the show deals to her relationships very greatly with the gender of her counterpart. "Love" depends on interpretation, but counting minutes or the times she uses her attraction towards women to tease cer colleagues versus the times she does to with her attraction towards men is not.
  • June 7, 2011
    jaytee
    ^The issue is that bisexuality is, by its very nature, a spectrum of sexualities. But Not Too Gay is a discernable break from reality - gay couples kiss and touch like any other couple. With this trope, there's no way to tell if the producers are afraid of their bi-characters being "too gay" or if the bi character just prefers the opposite gender.

    I don't disagree that it's a widespread phenomenon or that it's a good subject for academic discourse. I just don't think it's possible to pin down as a trope, given that instances of the trope can be virtually indistinguishable from instances of Bisexuals Date Opposite Sex.
  • June 7, 2011
    originalhobbit
    I think it has more to do with the fact that bisexuals in fiction will either only exclusively date the same sex, or the opposite sex. They are never, or very rarely, seen dating both (and no, I don't mean at the same time).

    • In The L Word, Alice, Tina and Jenny identify as bisexual most of the time. But they are only really seen in serious relationships with women. One time, Alice did date a man, but he was a lesbian identified male.
  • June 7, 2011
    69BookWorM69

    Is this more how bisexuals present themselves, or how others refer to them? Is it temporal distance ("Oh that was years ago")? Or is it minimizing numbers of partners of one gender or the other? Relative lengths of relationships with women compared to those with men? Combinations of the above? If this is related to BNTG, don't these questions have to be answered?
  • June 7, 2011
    Mimimurlough
    Simply put, it's about the author and how the sexuality is presented. Just one of those criteria isn't enough to cover it, neither is all of them. what we need to know is wether there is a difference at all.
  • June 8, 2011
    originalhobbit
    It's more about how the writers of these works depict bisexuality. Which is also the case with Depraved Bisexual, Anything That Moves, and Bi The Way. I think that concept covers them all very well.
  • June 9, 2011
    Mimimurlough
    Yes. This is another facet to how they are depicted
  • June 13, 2011
    jaytee
    ^^^That's precisely the problem. This trope is far too dependent on interpretation. Just look at our discussion on Thirteen; we're clearly interpreting "the author and how the sexuality is presented" in entirely different ways, neither of which is invalid. There is no baseline from which one can objectively judge a character.

    At best, we have a Subjective Trope, and at worst, it's Wild Mass Guessing.
  • June 14, 2011
    Mimimurlough
    Read the comment again. I've already explained how that is a non-issue, that there is a tangible baseline, so your last sentence looks like an exageration. You also seem to be the only one here to protest the House example, which is probably the bes one here. The time spent all partners of one gender can be counted in minutes, the time spent on a partner of the other can be counted in hours. Lewd comments of one gender are of an amount that dwarfs the number of lewd comments about the other and so forth, and you still insist that they are treated the same. Makes me think that this is more about preserving your image of Thirteen than is is about the trope in itself, because it seems tjat nothing I say can change your mind. Sorry, if it's not constructive it's just not worth the time.
  • June 14, 2011
    aurora369
    Aral Vorkosigan in the Vorkosigan Saga is this kind of bi. As in: "Do you know your husband is bisexual? - He WAS bisexual. Now he is happily married."
  • June 14, 2011
    jaytee
    ^^I couldn't care less whether Thirteen is an example or is not an example of the trope, she's just a good example of why this trope is subjective. The very fact that we disagree about it proves my point.

    If you've given a "tangible baseline," you haven't been exactly clear about it. The closest I can find is "it's about the author and how the sexuality is presented. Just one of those criteria isn't enough to cover it, neither is all of them. what we need to know is wether there is a difference at all." You'll notice that this is the exact opposite of a clear baseline. You basically just said that there's no defined set of criteria to judge the trope and that we must divine the author's intent.
  • June 14, 2011
    jaytee
    I could maybe, maybe buy this as a valid trope if it were limited to characters that explicitly identify as bisexual, but are exclusively shown with partners of one gender. This still runs into the (not inconsiderable) problem that Real Life bisexual-identified folks might also only be seen with one gender. So it's still difficult to discern examples of the trope from People Sit On Chairs, but at least there's a clear guideline to go by instead of some nebulous interpretation of time onscreen with each gender, author's intent, types of relationships (casual vs serious), general portrayal and gut feeling.
  • June 14, 2011
    Mimimurlough
    Any troll could say that the earth is flat, and they you'd have to make that into a subjective asessment too. You could state that somewhere, sometime, there has been a helpless woman in danger, so the Damsel In Distress can't be a trope. This trope runs by the same logic ans any detection of inequality, and by the same criteria as many of the gender, sexuality and race tropes. We're getting examples, and they work with the description. That is the last thing I have to say to you on the matter. You're not going to convince me, only drown constructive discussion.
  • June 14, 2011
    bluepenguin
    ^^ I think that the important thing here is not that some bisexuals in real life date mostly people of one gender, but that very few fictional bisexuals don't. It's one of those things that's notable not because of the qualities of any individual instance (which usually can be explained away) but because it's such a large trend. It's like a lot of our handle-with-care tropes that way.
  • June 16, 2011
    jaytee
    ^^Yeah, and refusing to speak with those that disagree with you, that's a great way to foster constructive discussion.

    In any case, do you have anything to say about my idea for a compromise? Limiting this to examples where the bi-identified characters are shown exclusively with a single gender gives us a a very clear definition to the trope. No interpretation required.

    ^I understand that. The issue isn't that this isn't a trope, it's that adding examples is completely arbitrary as it stands. Anyone can add any example of any bisexual just so long as they "feel" the character isn't bi enough. There's no point in making a ridiculously subjective trope when objective alternatives are available.
  • June 16, 2011
    hevendor717
    I think this trope has very good intentions but falls short of being justified to have a page for it.
  • June 16, 2011
    Elihu
    I agree with the above two posts.
  • June 17, 2011
    Mimimurlough
    ^^^ You don't just disagree with me, you've put up unrealisitc demands on the trope from the start, and you've put the 'useless' stamp on it, even as I've stated what a common subject this is when discussing besexuality in media - that's incredibly disrespectful.

    I can't limit myself to bisexuals who only date one gender, because characters who identity as bisexual are just about non existant as it is. Turning this into an Informed Bisexuality doesn't work either, because the problem here isn't about making a work realisitc - it's about an inability of the writer to treat same - and opposite sex relationships the same way. That is not to mention that you're being unfair just to demand that kind of detachement: it's a stereotype, and just like with every stereotype you'll find examples of it in the real world. But you're not in a rush to get rid of any of the other ones on the site, it seems.

    As for clear criteria, how about
  • June 17, 2011
    Mimimurlough
    (stupid phone) - how about these ones:

    A character fits into the trope if:

    1. They only are shown to fall in love with, or get emotional about relationships to one gender.

    2. They only go into relationships with one gender

    3. There is a clear difference in time perspective (the character used to date both genders in their youth or a long time ago, but are never seen to be doing so on screen)

    One or more of these criteria would indicate that the character falls into the trope.
  • June 19, 2011
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    • Vera Noble in Heroine Addiction has an ex-girlfriend and a male current romantic interest.

    And sometimes Bi people do choose to settle down with one person of one gender. Bisexuality doesn't automatically confer polygamosity.
  • June 19, 2011
    Mimimurlough
    Yes, but usually you can expect that there has been people that they've been in love with or have had relationships with before hand. Its the tendency of reserving this privilege to one gender that this trope is about.
  • June 20, 2011
    BlackDragon
    Ellen from ''El Goonish Shive'. Technically bi, due to the specifics of her creation, but eventually decides that she's basically just lesbian, after a traumatic 'dream'.
  • June 20, 2011
    Medinoc
    I was expecting this one to pop up. I think people who only date one person after "coming out" (for lack of a better word) should be excluded, since it's normal not to date other people when you're in a stable relationship.
  • June 20, 2011
    Kilyle
    I think this one can be worked into a trope. We do try to collect trends, after all, where a thing pops up frequently enough to be noticed as quite outside the norm. In sexuality and racial tropes, this is always going to be subjective: I don't see JarJar Binks as a racist caricature, but I think that's because I haven't had much exposure to racist caricatures in my life; that doesn't mean he isn't one.

    I'm not advocating this move myself, but putting it up as an option: We could restrict the example list to aversions, to list the number of bisexual characters who are clearly capable of strong, loving, sexual relationships with both genders, or of those who clearly toy around with both genders without ever getting serious with either (casual sex, no commitments). Then we'd see how fast the list populates.

    On the one hand, if it's hard to find aversions, that in itself speaks to the necessity of this trope. On the other hand, if the list populates fast enough, the list itself would be useful, and even if this trope is judged unuseful, the list could migrate to some other page on this site. Win-win.
  • June 20, 2011
    Mimimurlough
    medinoc: On the other hand, the attracion is still there. That's why I've tried to paint this one in broad strokes: it is possible that the character is monogamous, but if the attraction to one gender becomes a Running Gag, you can be preatty sure that it fits here

    Kilyle: Quite right. I doubt that the list will be long though, since Bisexual characters are rare enough as it is
  • June 23, 2011
    JohnDiFool
    Would Willow from Buffy count? She has been in love with two guys before (Xander and Oz), but self-identifies as completely homosexual when she hooks up with Tara later in the series.
  • June 23, 2011
    bluepenguin
    Willow is Suddenly Sexuality with a touch of No Bisexuals. That's different.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=i9ky172nyim2bo3d2osjw7cc&trope=DiscardedYKTTW