The Unicorn Scale: Lost Girl

2/12/2019

Hello, kind readers! It’s me, S.B., back with another Unicorn Scale. In my past reviews we’ve talked on-the-air shows (Grown-ish); a couple we said good-bye to in 2018 (New Girl, The Fosters), and two classic movies (D.E.B.S., Imagine Me and You). This time I’m back with a 2010 genre show with a bi lead and v. good fashions.

Premiering in 2010, Lost Girl introduced us to a world behind the bubble humans see. Main character Bo Dennis has known since she was a teen there was something different about her, and she’s been on the run ever since. She’s bi, but that’s not why she’s different, and that’s not why she runs. Bo is a succubus, meaning she can and often does drain the life force of others through intimate contact. And though she’s felt alone since her powers cause a traumatic event in her teens, we discover that she is not, in fact, alone. There’s a whole world of Fae, or non-humans with powers. These Fae are divided into Light and Dark clans. When faced with being forced to choose a clan to join, Bo takes an unprecedented stance—she will not pledge allegiance to one side over the other. Or, as she kicks off every episode: “I will live the life I choose.”  

Along with the discovery of this world-within-our-world, Bo also learns she can control her powers. She sets up (detective) shop with new BFF Kenzi. Lost Girl’s magical world builds through fae-of-the-week procedural and mythology that is introduced early and pays off through five seasons of badass storytelling dedicated to all the folks who love this show so much.

So let’s talk magic. Let’s talk badass bis. Let’s talk Lost Girl.

WHAT I LIKED

In my Step Bi Step: What To Do With Your Time When You Finally Get Some “Me Time” I called Lost Girl very very sexy.” And oooh boy is this show very, very sexy! Lots of opportunities for Bo to recharge. Along with more casual dalliances, Bo has intense chemistry with werewolf cop Dyson and human doctor Lauren. We also get to see a loving relationship between two bisexual women when valkyrie Tamsin is introduced later in the series, and Tamsin’s heart flutters hardcore for Bo.

Maybe all this “bi people having lots of sex as a central characteristic” theme seems like something I probably would not like! But tropes are not inherently bad. What creates problems is the way tropes are used. Bi people can be sexual! It is just a problem when we are oversexualized, when it is all we are, when we are disempowered, othered, when we are “different” because of our sexuality. And here is where I turn it over to showrunner Michelle Lovretta, in a 2012 interview with Watercooler Journal:

When Prodigy (our studio) asked me to create a show about some kind of bisexual superhero who uses sex as part of her arsenal, my first thought was “hell, yes!”  But after that initial excitement came trepidation – it is so, so incredibly easy with a template like that to create something mind-numbingly insulting, anti-female, and exploitative…the challenge was to create a fun, sex-positive world that celebrates provocative cheesecake for everyone, without falling into base stereotypes or misogynistic (or misandristic) exploitation along the way. I also really wanted to defend the bisexual community and counter some sad tropes out there…while also valuing and representing female friendships that have nothing sexualized about them at all.

We’re going to return to that bit about girlships, but for now—let’s just bask in the glow of a show co-created by a bi-positive showrunner, who set out with the explicit intention to bring positive representation to women and the bi community. YES! Lovretta instilled show rules that remained in place for the show’s run, creating boundaries that allowed the show to play with themes but not people.

So, YES Bo has threesomes, YES Bo is in a love triangle or two, YES Bo’s very power is about sexual intimacy. And yes, she can be all these things and still be an empowered, positive character.

In addition! I love the friendship between Bo and Kenzi. It is sweet and special and powerful and kind. And I love knowing that the friendship was thoughtfully crafted with intention to show a female friendship between Bo and Kenzi outside of a patriarchal, objectifying gaze.

I love that Bo is not the only bi character on the show. Evony (The Morrigan), the leader of the Dark Fae; Tamsin, a valkyrie looking for home. Vex, a deeply powerful right hand man; Mark, the late in the game guy-of-mystery. And it turns out Bo is not the only bi person in the family, her mother is queer too! There are so many bi characters, we get to see more than one romantic relationship with two bi characters. And, most importantly: bi characters get happy endings.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

Though there’s a plethora of ways to be Fae, a lot of the bi characters have powers that center on manipulating bodies and minds.  (Check out Lady Geek Girl and Friends for more on this.) This plays directly into the Manipulative Bi Trope, which is one of those tropes that needs a little extra care and balance. Bo is a succubus who feeds on life forces, Vex can take control of people’s bodies, Tamsin can reach into people’s minds and force powerful emotions, Bo’s mother uses her powers to assault people. That’s not the only diversity issue when it comes to bi characters—all of them are white.

The show has issues when it comes to portrayals of characters of color, including two-dimensional, stereotyped Asian characters. [Major spoiler ahead] They kill off the only Black main character, while all the white main characters make it to the finale.

Season three episode “Caged Fae” was transphobic in concept, leading the producers to release a statement of—well, not an apology, but of intent and acknowledgement. Aside from Vex, who plays with gender in oft-delightful ways, the show is limited in terms of gender expression. The lion’s share of characters are cis. The show has an opportunity to address male victims of sexual assault, and misses the mark here.

THE RATING

Lost Girl is a show that specifically sought to not fetishize bisexuality. And they accomplish this goal! Which is quite a feat, considering the lead character is a bi succubus. Lost Girl has multiple bi characters, but the magical, racial, and gender diversity of those characters and the show left room for positive change. For The Unicorn Scale, Lost Girl gets 3 and ½ unicorns.

SB Swartz
SB Swartz is an author covering inclusive wellness, queer family, and reflections of our world as seen on tv. As a contributing writer for bi.org, SB created the Step Bi Step series for bi parents and originated the This Bi Life series showcasing bi community stories.

SB would very much like to talk to you about your pets, her pets, and the way you view the world. She's her favorite somebody's mama. And yes, she's #StillBisexual.

Find SB Swartz @sbswrites on Twitter and read more of her latest @sbswartz on Medium.