In Bud and In Bloom: Bi Heroines In This Summer’s Movies
CAUTION: Here be spoilers for both films Wonder Woman and Atomic Blonde. You’ve been warned.This has been a good summer for bi heroines in the haven of air-conditioned multiplexes. Wonder Woman, a layered and rousing origin story, has become a critical and commercial smash since its release in May, raking in $780 million at release time of this article. Atomic Blonde has only been out a few weeks, but its flaxen anti-heroine has collected $63M back from its trim $30M budget. Not too bad for two very modern blockbusters about characters (mostly) living and moving in times gone by.
Much has been made about Wonder Woman being one of the first major motion pictures with a comic heroine in generations – and rightly so. And the flick delivers on a lot of fronts – great origin story, a nuanced character sketch of both Diana and her motley crew, and a terrific script. But something else that goes back to the original canon of the character is her bisexuality. And, in a small miracle, we get to see both Diana’s environment and scenes that support this stance, if it’s only just hinted at.
First of all, the island of Themyscira is a yonic queendom, a paradise for women in all aspects. Considering it’s a paradise created by the gods for the Amazons, it follows suit that not only would the island be a haven for women for training and education, but also for …. Well, let’s just say nooky.
But is this theory really that much of a logic jump? Not at all. Wonder Woman Writer Greg Rucka confirmed Diana’s bisexuality in a recent interview, saying “It’s supposed to be paradise. You’re supposed to be able to live happily. You’re supposed to be able — in a context where one can live happily, and part of what an individual needs for that happiness is to have a partner — to have a fulfilling, romantic and sexual relationship. And the only options are women.”
It does make sense, since all needs – physical, emotional, spiritual – would likely be met. But director Jenkins and company didn’t just leave this assumption to the graphic pages. In a hilarious sequence on a boat while discussing pleasure with Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), Diana (Gal Gadot) calmly declares that from her studies, “They came to the conclusion that men are essential for procreation, but when it comes to pleasure … unnecessary.” There is nothing to contradict the idea that Diana also came to this conclusion from her own field studies. So even in the cinematic DC universe, Diana’s sexuality is, if not confirmed, at least groundwork for the possibility is laid. Considering the herculean effort it takes to get any notable movie with a female heroine made, it’s no small feat that even implicit bisexuality is baked into a script.
This train (or invisible jet) of thought is not lost on Gal Gadot, who portrayed Diana in the film. While in interviews she has admitted she did not “play” Diana of Themyscira as bi, she was not close-minded to the interpretation: “In the movie, she falls in love with a man. But to be honest, Wonder Woman is all about love. She doesn’t pay too much attention to gender, and that is what is so special about her. She sees people as equal. Because of that, she can fall in love with a woman …. Maybe in the future, who knows?” Perhaps, if we’re lucky, this facet of her character will be explored in the just-announced sequel.
On the other cinematic hand, little is left to the debate (or imagination) with the sexuality of Agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) in Atomic Blonde. This is all the more compelling considering that the love interest was male in the original comic, so the gender-flip was deliberate. While it is heavily implied that Lorraine had an affair with a male agent with appearances in snapshots and flashbacks, the main, inarguable sexual interest of the film is Delphine, a rookie French agent. Lorraine and Delphine’s first interactions are filled with innuendos so overt the heroines of The Price of Salt would nod in understanding. The seduction of Delphine is crucial to the plot – not just tacked on for titillating purposes. Their intimate scenes go beyond male-gaze performances of making out in nightclubs to steamy romps in positions that people in same-sex encounters would actually very likely enjoy (no fantastical scissoring seen here!) The tryst is sexy without objectifying either of the characters – a rarity for most female romantic interests, let alone bi anti-heroes on screen. Lorraine never stops to explain her actions or orientation – she just goes after who and what she wants. Perhaps most surprising is that no one blinks at this development – Percival (James McAvoy) and others in the story note the added complication to the mission without questioning its validity (or asking for juicy details). Finally, their interaction is given a full arc of development – or at least, as much as a spy’s life in a movie will allow.
Lorraine’s orientation is not only explicit and performed, but any confusion about what to call it has been cleared up by Theron herself on the junket tour. Even if Lorraine never utters the word “bisexual,” Theron – also an executive producer on the film – is more than happy to use the term in describing the character and defending the bi community. Theron supports this subplot, encouraging more and better representation in media: “It [bisexuality] should be normalized by now. It’s something that I feel is not represented enough in cinema, and I feel that when you make movies, if you’re going to hold that mirror up and reflect society, then you should reflect society.”
Just like in life, there is no one way to be bi, or to explore that part of ourselves. As such, it is entirely refreshing to see such high-profile lead characters as examples of the orientation. It’s not hard to see that nuanced, bi representation has a ways to go, especially in cinema. But with Diana and Lorraine added to the mix of capable characters, the future looks promising. Hopefully they can meet up with Deadpool and talk about representation over some chimichangas.