Hollywood, Give Us a Bi Hero

CO-DIRECTORS JESSICA NAFTALY AND SHAILYN COTTEN HAVE A DISCUSSION ABOUT BISEXUAL REPRESENTATION IN MAINSTREAM MEDIA.

US


What if your favorite childhood hero was like you? What if Hermione Granger had been gay? What if she had been bi? In an industry inundated with the same story about a white straight male hero, the rest of the population is craving to be seen, craving to be heard. We want representation, we want diversity, we want inclusion in our media, but we’re not getting it. Our popular culture should reflect the world as it actually is, but Hollywood doesn’t seem to be on the path to change the tune it’s been singing for the past hundred years any time soon.

Co-directors Jessica Naftaly and Shailyn Cotten both grew up with feelings that we didn’t know how to express or understand. We both felt wrong or different because we didn’t see anyone like us on the big screen or in books, worlds that are meant to allow you to escape reality for a moment. We couldn’t escape reality. Not when all of our heroes were straight. The word bisexual wasn’t even uttered or thought about. It wasn’t an option. To be bisexual, it is defined as being both attracted to men and women. It’s the B in the LGBTQ+ anagram, yet it’s also one of the most overlooked parts of the queer community and it’s because people don’t like that they can’t fit us into a neat little box. People are more likely to understand that you are gay or you are straight, whatever their reaction to that may be.  The thought that you could be both at the same time is, for some reason, unheard of.

The impact of media on our society, but more importantly on our children, is profound. It is so incredibly important for them to see their own identities, faces just like theirs, reflected back at them off of the screen. This, after all, shapes their views of the world, and what is it telling them if they cannot find themselves appropriately represented in that world?

SHAI

The Harry Potter series has been an integral part of my childhood, so don’t get me wrong. I am infatuated with J.K. Rowling’s books, and the film franchise that followed. Growing up, Hermione informed my image of a strong, badass hero. I was one of many young girls who would frame my decisions around the question, “What would Hermione Granger do?”

However, if Hermione Granger had fallen for Cho Chang or Luna Lovegood, it might not have taken me sixteen plus years to put a finger to my sexuality.

I have no problem with Hermione falling in love with Ron. I love that Katniss Everdeen marries Peeta in the end. I personally wouldn’t have minded if Bella Swan decided to go with Edward or Jacob. But as a young child, and a developing teen, these stories were my world and because I could not see my romantic attractions reflected in the heroines I looked up to, it took me more than half my life to finally label myself as bisexual. Let alone not flinch away from it. 

Bisexuality is a real thing, and as a child, I never even knew about it. I had crushes on guys, but wrote lesbian fanfic in RPG forums. I still called myself straight. I thought I had to be one or the other.

JESS

Growing up, I didn’t really know that bisexuality was a thing. I heard of it, sure, once I started going into my teens, but it still never seemed real. Mostly, because I never saw it. I didn't see it on my television, I didn’t read about it in my books, and I certainly never saw it in my movies. Yet, I had crushes on both boys and girls. Thus, I had feelings I didn’t know what to do with, how to define, or categorize. 

There’s still so much bigotry and hatred towards the idea of being gay and I certainly grew up in a less than accepting environment, so when I had crushes on boys in school, it was like a notch in the belt of confirmation that I wasn’t “gay”. However, I was still attracted to some girls in school as well, and my celebrity “crush” list certainly was a long, vast list of both genders. I was feeling something that I didn’t know you could feel. I think my favorite example of how painfully obvious this was, was watching the animated Disney film Robin Hood; I most definitely was attracted to both Robin Hood and Maid Marian (never mind that they were both foxes…)

However, I think it was when Evan Rachel Wood and Anna Paquin, two fairly main stream actresses that I looked up to and admired, came out as bisexual, that it started to feel real. My sexuality, for once, was starting to feel like it was becoming accepted and normalized. When A-list stars on your television tell you that they're feeling the same feelings you are, they not only give you someone to relate to, but confirm the validity of your feelings. Everything kind of fell into place, and while I don’t think you always have to define yourself or your sexuality, it felt good to be able to put a label on it proudly and legitimize all of my feelings.

SHAI

As a grown woman, I still don’t see myself represented in the media. I can name on one hand the number of times I’ve witnessed a bisexual woman crossing the screen. One of my favorite films featuring a bisexual female protagonist, a lesser known indie horror called Dark by director Nick Basile, had fantastic representation of LGBT characters as well as mental illness, but I could not forget that my introduction to her character was in a sex scene.

I don’t want Katniss to be gay. I don’t want Hermione to be bi. I just want for there to be more characters like me in the stories I watch. I don’t want it to feel forced, and I don’t want for it to be a second thought. I want to see those same, nuanced, strong female characters I’ve always been seeing; the ones I looked up to as a child.

And I want to see them with men. And I want to see them with women.

JESS

Representation is so important. It’s everything.

If younger me saw a bisexual Hermione Granger, a bisexual Elizabeth Swann, a bisexual Padme Amidala, the heroes of my childhood, she would have been happier. She would maybe be less fearful about telling the world. Maybe she would be out and proud. Maybe she would have saved several years of hurt, confusion, and frustration. It’s sadly not the case and even today, where the world pretends it’s ready to understand, where it pretends it’s ready to accept, there’s still no representation.

If you don’t see yourself reflected back at you in your pop culture, which is supposedly a reflection of reality, then your thoughts and feelings feel disenfranchised. You feel less than because the world refuses to recognize you.

I held on to Carol this last year because it was so important. It was main stream, it was Oscar-bait, it was romantic. It was about identity, yes; it had to be, but it was a love story unabashedly between two women filmed and written in the same way the love stories of the big Golden Age MGM blockbusters were. That alone made it seem tangible. Yet, most of my favorite movies are not the dramas. They are the action movies, the mysteries, the fantasy films, the sci-fi epics. I don’t see even an inch of myself in those, and that’s the hardest. When I was younger, I wasn’t watching tough, gritty dramas. I was watching Star Wars and Harry Potter. That’s why it needs to be mainstreamed. We need to see ourselves represented from when we are young so that way when those feelings come up, we know that they are valid and okay.

SHAI

I want for it to feel so normal, that it doesn’t become a story about being “bi”. Because, if you asked me to define myself; if you told me to go on listing words I would use to describe myself, I would have exhausted my brain of useful adjectives before I finally thought to use the word “bisexual”.

I want the stories I love to reflect that.

JESS

We’re on our way, but we’ve still got a long uphill road ahead of us. We need more Magnus Banes, more Ilana Glazers, more Lisbeth Salanders. I want to see them everywhere. I want to see them in the next Harry Potter, I want to see them in the next big Disney film. I want to see them in the next big superhero blockbuster. I want to feel like I’m not only recognized and represented, but equal.

US

Ultimately, we hope that things are different for the next generation. We are striving to make that possible. We do not want the young girls of the future to be sitting in their bedrooms, watching their favorite film or reading their favorite book, utterly encapsulated and yet sad and confused, because they’re feeling things that they are not seeing in those stories. It is ultimately so important, for children especially, to see themselves reflected back off of the screens and the pages of the magical worlds they fall in love with and disappear into, because it has such an effect on them.

Not showing them, not representing them, is telling them that they don't matter and that they aren’t good enough. The stigmatism this forces upon our children and their self esteem is so incredibly toxic. We need to be shown that we are all the same and that we all matter.

Our worlds would have been changed if our heroes were like us.

This is why our current project After Oil is so important to us.

Our story is about how one young bisexual, African-American girl, Briar Dunlap, may be the difference between whether her community endures, or drowns in the rush to attain oil. What we’re doing might not be groundbreaking, but it’s our goal that we can make something we wish we had seen when we were younger. We want to represent everyone who feels underrepresented realistically, as vibrant and genuine characters that can exist outside solely their “identity”, but as multidimensional, complex beings that are a part of mainstream entertainment.

If one day a little girl or boy will see the character we’ve created and the story we’ve told and be able to say “I’m just like Briar!” we’ll have made more of a dent than we could ever have hoped for.

To support bisexual representation in After Oil, click the button below, and share the Indiegogo page with friends and family.

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Life After Oil

Co-director and writer for the upcoming series AFTER OIL, Shailyn Cotten, talks about the science behind the “global oil crisis” that inspired the series, and how we may be seeing a future like AFTER OIL as soon as 2030.

Let me preface this by saying that I am not an expert.  I am a writer.  I am the exact opposite of an expert.  I am a person who stalks Wikipedia threads, lurks in online science forums, and has queued up a long list of search results which, to an outside eye, probably make me look like a serial murderer - all in the name of “research”.  That being said, if I’ve excelled at anything over the past several years as a writer, it’s at taking a complex, sophisticated concept, and watering it down to something straightforward and palatable.

So here it is in layman’s terms: we are not going to “run out” of oil.

What we are going to see, in the next fifteen or so years, is a major decline in the production of crude oil.

Is that so catastrophic?  The answer is, potentially.  Our world’s population only continues to grow, and if our global oil production peaks - which many experts already believe that it has - than by 2030, our oil production could be halved, while our world population may have doubled.

It is widely known that the production of many regions of oil fields which our industry relies upon have plateaued, if not completely been depleted.  And yet, in the last ten plus years, committees like the National Petroleum Council (NPC) which represent the oil and gas industry, as well individual oil companies, have stated that worldwide oil production has in fact increased exponentially.

How can both be true? By lumping in other sources of oil to the mix, such as biofuels, natural gas, lease condensate, and refinery gain, none of which are currently accepted as “oil” at major exchanges.  In fact, “crude oil blended with lease condensate is discounted to refiners in recognition of its lower value.”  Meanwhile, if you look at focused reports of estimated global crude oil production - the only type of widely usable oil that can be sold on the crude oil market - since 2002, production has in fact plateaued.

If we have in fact hit peak oil in 2005 - and there are many who say we have - it’s all downhill from here.  Once production outpaces global population and demand, the price for gas and oil will skyrocket.

What does that mean for us?

Sadly, our global economy is built on oil and gas.  Without it, we will crumble.  One essay on the effect of peak oil states, “for instance, during the 1970s oil shocks, shortfalls in production as small as 5% caused the price of oil to nearly quadruple. The same thing happened in California a few years ago with natural gas: a production drop of less than 5% caused prices to skyrocket by 400%.”  The crisis of the 1970s was a short-lived “shock”.  If peak oil theorists are correct, then the decline that follows the peak in global crude oil production could result in a semi-permanent condition.

Resource wars.  Rioting.  Looting.  When the price of gas goes up, the price of everything must go up.  Our food production is powered, at every step, by fossil fuels.  If crude oil goes into a steady decline, it won’t be long before food starts to disappear from our shelves.  Flights will be grounded.  We won’t be able to make jet fuel.  Public transportation will shut down.  All of our electrical systems which run on natural gas or coal will go dead.

Without transportation, how will food get to our local marketplace?  Even if it could, without refrigeration, and other electrically powered food storage devices, how would we preserve our food?

Whether you buy into peak oil, or take the NPC and oil companies at their word, the question of a global oil crisis isn’t if, it’s when.

When life after oil does hit, what will happen?  What can we do to survive the years of crisis?  How long will it take before our global economy - and the world at large - stabilizes?

Stay tuned for more information on global oil crisis predictions, and what our life might look like… AFTER OIL.

What would be the first thing you would do if a global oil crisis hit?  Leave your answers in the comment section down below, and subscribe to our newsletter for updates on production for AFTER OIL.

Want to learn more about the future of oil? Here are some links where you can find out more information.

Watch more:
World Without Oil, National Geographic

Read more:

Life After the Oil Crash
Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas
Crude Awakening, MSN
The Rainwater Prophecy, CNN