The Lesbian Never Wins: Bisexuality and Reality TV

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a (straight) man in possession of a libido must be in want of hot chicks making out. MTV quickly filled this void with their series of “bisexual dating shows,” A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, A Second Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, and finally,  A Double Shot at Love with the Ikki Twins.

So let’s talk about bisexuality! Specifically, let’s talk about the Ikki Twins, mainly because I just finished watching it and partly because thinking about Dani from the first season makes me both sad and slightly horny.

We all know that reality TV rarely bears any relationship to reality, so let’s ignore the “dating” part of the equation and just talk about the issues raised about bisexuality in the media and in the public consciousness. I will add the disclaimer now that I am not nor ever have been bisexual.

The Good

Tila Tequila was the titular bisexual party girl for the first two seasons, and in a twist, the identical bisexual twins Rikki and Vikki headlined for the latest run (which, to be completely honest, ended in 2008). And the great thing about it was that they were bi. There was never the assumption that their sexual preference for both men and women would be negated by their eventual choice of mate. In fact, Rikki and Vikki made it a point to make this clear to both the finalists and their families. The message was clear: bisexuality is a free-standing sexual preference that is inherent; someone does not “become straight” or “become gay” upon choosing to be in a monogamous relationship with someone.

The importance of monogamy was also discussed. Again, it was made clear that this was a competition which would end in a monogamous relationship with a bisexual woman. Bisexual =/= polygamous.

Another thing that I liked about all three seasons, especially the latest, was that there was a much wider variety of physical types present. Yeah, you could argue that the girls weren’t supermodels because there is a perception that lesbians aren’t supermodels, but I prefer to think that it’s just refreshing to see small boobs, natural blondes, rangy bodies, and, of course, butchy dykes (yum).

And, present in the various Shots at Love that is absent in almost every other reality television arena except RuPaul’s Drag Race and possibly Big Brother, is discussion about being gay. Not only the difficulties and triumphs of coming out, but also the dangers of coming out, the hardships of living an openly gay lifestyle, and the hurtful stereotypes and beliefs of the general public.

The Bad

Okay, I know I make this sound a lot deeper than it is. Most of the show is close-up shots of hot girls making out, skinny dipping, pressing themselves up against translucent shower walls, and tumbling around in soapy bathtubs. There is a lot of petty drama and catfights. The footage is cut for maximum ratings.

It’s a man’s world, and the Shots at Love producers know it. This is every man’s ultimate fantasy girlfriend: a hot chick who will make out with another hot chick at the drop of a hat. In the case of Rikki and Vikki, it’s hot identical twins who will make out with another hot chick at the drop of a hat. The fantasy aspect is only played up by the softcore porn music that plays over every shot of a girl-on-girl kiss.

No matter how enlightened the attitudes of the bisexual contestants may be, there is a dichotomy that is strictly maintained. All the female contestants are referred to as “the lesbians”, especially by the male contestants. Only one of the female contestants in the last season actually referred to herself as such, and that was to clarify that she was a platinum lesbian (also known as a “gold star lesbian”, this is used tongue-in-cheek to mean a gay woman who has never been with a man, ever). All of the male contestants are 100% straight. Except for the title girls, bisexuals don’t exist.

And, despite the relatively enlightened attitudes of the bisexual contestants, they are still considered to be automatic party girls and – I’ll be harsh here – sluts. The Ikki Twins’ own father called them trophy wives.

Each week, men and women are let go in equal proportions. This is so rigidly adhered to that it is obvious that it has no bearing in the girls’ actual chemistry or attraction. How scripted this was became painfully obvious at the end of the latest season. The final choice was so clearly and obviously what none of them wanted – but it was the most dramatic conclusion, and one that would keep viewers hooked to the very end.

The Ugly

The lesbian never wins.

This is my main beef with the Shots at Love series. The lesbian never wins.

Alright. I’ll be fair. Technically, the lesbian “won” once, but instead of accepting the proposal of a relationship from Tila, she declined because she “wasn’t ready for a relationship with a woman”. This is the only outcome from these shows. The endings are utterly non-threatening. After a season of titillating girl-on-girl action, it safely ends with normalcy restored and heterosexuality reaffirmed. No scary lesbian relationships here, no sirree. To that end, the choices made by the title girls, if they are even choices and not the producers’ edicts, seem to be completely baseless in either reason or passion. It’s as if the final episodes are written by someone who hasn’t seen the rest of the season yet. It’s so frustrating, because there were pockets of good – drowned out by the softcore porn music, maybe, but still good – that is ultimately wasted by the non-threatening choice of a bisexual woman deciding to be “normal” and date a boy.

Overall, I give the Shots at Love three and a half Bechdels out of five. Because if you don’t watch the last episode, you can almost pretend that you didn’t just waste nine or ten hours of your life on trashy TV.

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