Teen Thrillers and the Evil Bisexual Girl

"New Best Friend"Soul Survivors of 2001 is more about supernatural forces than peer pressure; this time, bisexuality is aligned with satanic cults, which at least gives the film points for originality. The extremely convoluted plot follows a young woman who is in a car accident with her friends and thereafter is confused about who is really alive and who isn’t (unfortunately, so is the audience, and not in a good way).

Eliza Dushku plays her friend Annabel, who falls for the seduction of the evil Raven (Angela Featherstone from The Wedding Singer) who is involved in this evil cult. When the two women aren’t making out in the University library, they’re dancing at raves held in Satan’s basement with a lot of vampire groupies.

Finally, we have the 2002 film New Best Friend. The plot follows Taye Diggs as the Sheriff of a college town investigating the suspicious overdose of wannabe-popular girl Alicia (played by Mia Kirshner) who fell in with the wrong crowd of rich, popular girls led by Hadley (Meredith Monroe). The bisexual tryst occurs between Alicia and Hadley’s friend Sydney (Dominique Swain), who like Kelly in The In Crowd, at least appears to be genuinely bisexual.

As in Wild Things, the lines between seductress and seductee in New Best Friend are a little blurred, but Alicia is clearly using bisexuality to manipulate Sydney, as she herself indicates when she unceremoniously “dumps” Sydney the next day. And since Sydney’s bisexuality is introduced shortly after Sydney discloses the frequent sexual molestation she endured as a child, it also reinforces the myth that same-sex attraction in women is a result of mistreatment by men.

After this short-lived affair, one of them ends up in a coma and the other goes back to her lifestyle of drugs and promiscuous sex. But hey, at least in this one, no one dies – that’s progress, isn’t it?

So the moral of the story coming out of Hollywood is that teenage bisexuality is “perpetrated” by rich, coked-up white girls with an axe to grind (or, occasionally, poor coked-up white girls with an axe to grind).

It’s a modern retelling of “Snow White,” with cooler clothes and a better soundtrack: innocent girl is tempted by manipulative and/or evil girl with the forbidden fruit of bisexuality, which inevitably leads to her downfall. Except in this version there”™s no Prince Charming to save her.

To be fair, the Evil Bisexual Girl uses sex to manipulate everyone – adults and teens, male and female, friends and enemies – and usually she’s not the only one in the film to meet a bad end. In fact, looking at these films in isolation, it is easy to conclude that since bisexuality and heterosexuality are both used equally as tools for manipulation, bisexuality isn’t really getting a bad rap here.

But viewed in the wider context of the teen movie genre in general, in which bisexual teens are otherwise virtually invisible, a different picture emerges.

Without any other depictions of bisexuality to offset it (and especially without any positive ones), the Evil Bisexual Girl of the teen psychological thriller becomes almost the definition of bisexuality to teens, since for many, this is the only depiction of bisexuality they will see for many years.”

Which means the message most teenage girls will absorb about bisexuality is that it leads to death, jail, drugs, or satanic cults. Maybe just a coma, if you’re lucky.

This cliche isn’t new, of course–on the contrary, a number of films have perpetrated it in Hollywood history, the most famous example being 1992’s the hit movie Basic Instinct, which generated a flurry of protests for its homicidal bisexual characters. At the organized protests of the film, GLAAD distributed leaflets stating the following:

“We think the movie could do us harm by reinforcing ignorance about homosexuality and by providing an excuse for assaults on an escalating number of gay men and lesbians.”

If that was a true statement then, it’s certainly no less true now in the wake of the recent deaths of people like Matthew Shephard and Diane Whipple, and the countless other less-publicized assaults on gay men and lesbians that still happen every year.

Angelina Galvin asserts in her essay on Basic Instinct in the anthology “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Popular Culture’s Romance With Lesbianism,” that the “[Basic Instinct] filmmakers’ motivation was the box-office draw of current fears and prejudices about women’s and gay sexuality.”

The Evil Bisexual Girl in the teen psychological thrillers plays on these same fears and prejudices, with the “lesbian chic” factor as an added bonus. On the surface, in fact, there appears to be little differencebetween Catherine Tremmell of Basic Instinct and most of the Evil Bisexual Girls in these films, besides age.

Upset fans of the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer protested the Willow/Tara storyline at the end of Season Six (in which Tara was killed and Willow became evil) on the same grounds, claiming the storyline fell victim to the “Dead Lesbian Cliche,” defined as “a version of the basic ‘dead/evil minority cliché’ in which minority characters – gay people in general, all people of color – are introduced into a storyline in order to be killed or play the villain.”

All of which makes it difficult to understand why ten years later, the gay community appears to be mostly silent about the proliferation of the same harmful stereotype in these movies – movies which are aimed at teenagers, who are much more impressionable than the adults who flocked to Basic Instinct.

Is this because these movies are much less well-known (at least among adults)? Of the five films in this group, Cruel Intentions is the only one which has enjoyed any wide-spread success, and Wild Things at least generated some buzz because of its well-known cast, but these titles are still unlikely to evoke the same recognition Basic Instinct still does.

Maybe it is protest-fatigue, or a general sense that “things are improving so why bother?” The loudest voices within the gay community are usually those of gay men and lesbians, and the number of positive depictions of gays and lesbians on film has significantly increased in the last decade. But this is not generally true of the portrayals of bisexual men and women.

Or is this just another example of the negative attitude many gay men and lesbians hold towards bisexuals? Having received a modicum of success in their own visibility, perhaps some gay men and lesbians are no longer inclined to expend a lot of energy for those members of the community with whom they felt an uneasy alliance in the first place.

On the bright side, most of these films did poorly at the box office, which may mean homicidal bisexuals are no longer the draw they once were. This could be the sign of a new era: maybe in 2003, the Evil Bisexual Girl will be downgraded to Bad Bisexual Girl, or even Unpleasant Bisexual Girl.

If we’re lucky, by 2006 we might even have Boring Bisexual Girl. Now that would be progress.