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BBC Drama Bosses Claim Bisexual Representation 'Hasn't Been Quite Right' In 'EastEnders', 'Casualty' And 'Holby City'

'We’re not brilliant at having characters who love men and women.'

14/07/2017 15:42 | Updated 14 July 2017

BBC drama boss Oliver Kent and ‘EastEnders’ scriptwriter Pete Lawson have admitted the corporation can do better when it comes to representing bisexual characters on screen. 

Oliver, who oversees work on ‘EastEnders’, ‘Casualty’ and ‘Holby City’, said that while strides have been made in portraying gay and lesbian characters, there is still a lot to be done with bisexual representation.

BBC
EastEnders' Sonia Fowler has been in relationships with men and women

Speaking at an LGBT+ themed Royal Television Society (via Digital Spy), he said: “I think that something we could be better at exploring is bisexual characters. I don’t think we’ve quite got that right yet as often as we could.

“You don’t want the sexuality to be the story, and yet if you hide it too much, it’s not part of the story at all. I think we could probably be better at that.”

Pete Lawson, who is one of the writers on ‘EastEnders’, added: “I think ‘Hollyoaks’ is brilliant at both bisexuality and gender fluidity. With a younger audience, I think there’s a totally different attitude. So I think ‘Hollyoaks’ does it really well – and we haven’t quite got there yet.

“We’re not brilliant at having characters who go: ‘I am bisexual, I love men and women’. We do much more: ‘Oh, I’m not a lesbian anymore’.”

Among the current ‘EastEnders’ characters, Sonia Fowler has been romantically involved with both men and women, while Steven Beale has been attracted to both genders in the past.

However, his sexuality has not been referenced since the character returned to the soap in a relationship with Lauren Branning last year. 

Gary Lucy also played the soap’s first openly bisexual male character, Danny Pennant, from 2012 to 2014. 

BBC
Steven Beale is in a relationship with Lauren Branning, but was previously attracted to Christian Clarke

‘Hollyoaks’ boss Brian Kirkwood also admitted the show had encountered difficulties in telling stories of bisexual characters in the past: “I wouldn’t say a ‘backlash’, but anything close to a backlash was to a character called Lockie, who was a bisexual man and declared it almost in his first episode. We also have Grace Black, who is a bisexual woman and a fierce leading lady.

“It’s the only time I’ve ever heard anything approaching concern from the audience, where people thought the characters were just ‘flip-flopping’.

“Maybe that’s because we didn’t tell the stories well enough, I expect, or probably because we didn’t declare it loudly or clear enough.

“Whereas our audience absolutely seem to accept the Ls and the Gs, not so much the Bs so far.”

Back in March, some viewers voiced their disdain for a plot which saw Robert cheating on his husband Aaron Dingle while he was in prison with former flame Rebecca White, claiming that having a bisexual character cheat with someone of a different gender to their spouse played up to negative stereotypes.

“This has been an interesting exercise in checks and balances,” he said. “It’s forced us to reassess how do we deal with characters, and should we consider their sexuality more prominently when telling stories?

“It’s been interesting for us. I still feel like you should reserve the right to have a bisexual character do something scurrilous if that’s consistent with their character and if it’s truthful, but certain portions of our audience haven’t agreed. Sometimes you can overlook the sensitivity around certain areas.”

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