Emmerdale Demonstrates How to Get Bisexuality Right

emmerdale00031Last week rural soap Emmerdale broke an unwritten rule of primetime storytelling: you don’t say bisexual. Robron fan Charlie tells us what else they’re getting right.

Finding an on-screen bisexual is about ten times harder than finding one in real life. This is because films and TV shows seem to have an obsession with alternating a character’s sexuality depending on who they are with at that current moment – especially in soap operas. ITV soap Emmerdale, has been no stranger to this trend. 

Ali, who was on the show last year with her partner Ruby, was the butt of many lesbian jokes as she left her husband to be with her new girlfriend, yet it was never explored whether she was bisexual or gay. Earlier this year, a plotline involving Lawrence’s old lover returning did nothing but create confusion regarding his sexuality, since he had been in love with both men and women but seemed to have no sexual attraction to either (biromantic asexual anybody?), yet those around him repeatedly accused him of being gay. Queer soap viewers are simply used to seeing non-monosexual identities erased.

With the introduction of the ‘Robron’ plotline, I expected there to be no change. In fact, for the first few months of Robert and Aaron getting together, characters repeatedly referred to Robert as gay despite him having been with a woman when he entered the show.But Robert’s character has evolved immensely since he became involved with Aaron. Twitter user @lindsayshalstud sums it up:

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Fans familiar with Aaron’s harrowing back story have been rooting for the two to finally settle down since they bring each other so much happiness.

But many viewers, myself included,  were infuriated with the fact that the word ‘bisexual’ or ‘pansexual’ was never used in relation to Robert’s sexuality, on multiple occasions I am unashamed to say I shouted it at the television, just in case that somehow helped.

This all changed on Monday with the start of what was possibly Emmerdale’s most dramatic week in recent years. Robert had finally figured out what he wanted from life (marrying Aaron, drinking from a welly, and many other fun Dingle family activities) he was ready to propose to his boyfriend – yet this was ruined by the news that a woman Robert had once had an affair with had kissed him, causing Aaron to lapse into insecurity and a bout of biphobia. Not only were Emmerdale finally addressing Robert’s bisexuality, but biphobia from the gay community was also tactfully displayed, with Robert and Aaron finally understanding each other. One of the best lines from the episode was Robert saying: “I’m bisexual, okay? I like both. It doesn’t mean I’m gonna cheat.”.

When Robert finally opened up to Aaron about how his father had essentially beaten and shamed him into identifying as straight, there couldn’t have been a dry eye watching as Aaron replied “You’re not a disappointment, you’re amazing. […] I love you.”.

Despite the following trauma of a car crash, plummeting into a river, Robert saving Aaron from a sunken car, and then finally proposing to him on the hospital bed, Robert’s coming out scene was possibly the most emotional of the week. This was made even sweeter by the fact that neither of them died in the aftermath, defying not only the ‘bisexuals do not exist’ trend on TV, but also the ‘queer characters must die’ one that is also frighteningly prominent. Overall, it was a great week for bisexual representation and Robron fans everywhere.

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Charlie

Charlie is a nineteen-year- old, non-binary, panromatic, asexual (in short, extremely queer) attending the University of Birmingham. They currently host a radio show dedicated to women and queer people in music and can usually be found holding their cat, watching Star Trek, and/or crying about David Bowie.
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