The biphobic undertones of many movies and TV shows are well-documented, but it’s rare to see an inclusive show like Freeform’s newest, Heartstopper , actually make an effort to address that. In last week’s episode, main character Kady was having a discussion with her dad about her dating life and he asked why she didn’t go out with her female best friend, Callie. She responded by saying she has known [Callie] forever so I don’t want to ruin our friendship. The Bisexual Lighting in ‘Heartstopper’ Was No Accident

It looks like bisexual lighting

Light that creates a wash of half-tones and subtle colors is generally thought to look particularly attractive. That’s why you often see it on TV shows—and especially movies—that aim to create a romantic or sexy atmosphere. It may seem like a relatively small detail, but it can make all the difference.

Why it matters

The lighting and color palette of a show can work to manipulate our emotions. How many times have you watched a show and felt happy, anxious, sad, or scared based on how it was shot? We’re conditioned to think that colors such as blue, green and yellow make us feel calm or happy; meanwhile, black and red are often connected with anger. Understanding these associations can be hugely beneficial when writing a script (or any creative project). If your story takes place at night in an empty forest where there’s nobody around for miles, you probably wouldn’t describe things as bright and warm unless that somehow played into your plot. Understanding how colors affect mood will go a long way in helping your audience feel what you want them to feel.

The Bisexual Lighting in Heartstopper Was No Accident
The Bisexual Lighting in ‘Heartstopper’ Was No Accident

Why do media representations matter?

It’s important for people from marginalized communities to see themselves represented. Art reflects life, and not seeing yourself reflected accurately can create a void of self-awareness that can develop into a host of other problems. If you’re told that who you are is a freak or an abomination, then eventually you might start to believe it—and if we don’t see our identities reflected as valid or worthy, we become numb to their value, says Blazer. For example, many bi folks report feeling shame around their identity; if they don’t see examples of bisexuality portrayed positively in media, they may internalize those negative messages.

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What do we mean by representation?

Representation is important. Not just to LGBTQIA+ people, but to everyone. Research has shown that bisexual-identified people often feel isolated from both straight and gay communities because they’re often excluded from both. Representation could help solve some of these problems; including bi characters in TV shows and movies allows them to (hopefully) connect with other people who might be struggling with their identity or otherwise having a hard time adjusting to society, especially when there are few – if any – examples of bi characters on screen. As part of a group not often represented on screen, it was very important for us to have representation in Heartstopper. We wanted to make sure that bisexuality was portrayed honestly and accurately, as well as positively.

How did it come about?

The Netflix series Heartstopper centers on a gay high schooler who begins to experience intense, life-threatening anxiety every time he feels romantic attraction. In an attempt to cure him, his parents set him up with an older man named James. When Andy (the teenager) shows up at James’s house, he meets his teenage daughter, Katya. Their first interaction is full of sexual tension and filled with a lot of looks that could easily be interpreted as flirting. So naturally people thought there was going to be some sort of romance between them — and that it would eventually get physical when they finally did have sex for their characters’ first times.

The Bisexual Lighting in Heartstopper Was No Accident
The Bisexual Lighting in ‘Heartstopper’ Was No Accident

Other media examples

Bisexual lighting and representation. Heartstopper. (vloggers who discuss bisexual lighting) Bisexual lighting is a film technique that erases queer identity by using shadow or light to create an ambiguous appearance of a character’s sexuality. It’s often used to avoid having to include LGBTQ+ characters, especially bisexual ones, in narratives that don’t have room for them. In Heartstopper, however, director Léonor Serraille uses it to create a new kind of queerness: one that includes trans people as well as cisgender men and women who are attracted to each other.

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How does this affect bisexual people?

Despite what some may assume, bisexuality does not just mean a person is attracted to both men and women. It’s about attraction. The author of How To Be A Healthy Bi, Karli June Cerankowski, said that there are four main myths about bisexuality: 1) Bi people will never be satisfied with one partner; 2) Bi people have it easier when it comes to relationships; 3) Being bi means you can be part of more than one community; 4) Sexually fluid is a synonym for bi. For example, an asexual person may only be attracted to someone else without regard to gender, but they still wouldn’t identify as bisexual because they aren’t interested in pursuing anyone romantically or sexually.

Why does this happen?

Whenever anyone goes against society’s norms, it’s understandable that they might be a little self-conscious. However, you shouldn’t let your fear of potentially being misunderstood affect how you present yourself to other people. Take it from Yuki and Satsuki: They know it can be scary but ultimately, there’s no harm in being your true self. There are many groups online like r/bisexual (on Reddit) and BiNet USA that can help you feel more comfortable with your identity.

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Where next?

The series is written by Tess Sharpe, who identifies as bisexual and has published a nonfiction book about her experience as a bi woman. She also speaks openly about writing for diverse audiences and fans. I’m going to get so much crap for it but I’m really pleased that there’s a queer author behind one of these big titles that young women are reading right now, she told BuzzFeed News last year when Heartstopper was released. I don’t care if they hate me, it doesn’t matter.

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