LGBTQ+ representation in film and television hasn’t always been the greatest, though the turn of the 21st Century proved to be a pivotal time in representation. Mainstream films largely avoided gay themes while those that did have queer themes weren’t widely seen. Network television was taking baby steps towards queer visibility, such as in 1991, when NBC aired the first lesbian kiss on an episode of L.A. Law. Six years later, Ellen DeGeneres came out.
While gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals are becoming more widely represented in television and film, bisexual individuals are less seen, both in real life and on the screen. Bi-erasure is ignoring, dismissing, or explaining away bisexuality in culture, media, or history due to stereotypes. Many assume that bisexuality is a phase, and the person claiming to be bisexual is really just gay or straight depending on the sex of their partner. Others say that bisexuality is not real, and that the person should be identifying as pansexual. As such, bisexual individuals may struggle finding representation on screen. So, here are the 20 all-time best bisexual characters in TV history.
Kalinda Sharma — The Good Wife
Private investigator Kalinda Sharma is a groundbreaking character, because she didn’t have a coming-out moment. The Good Wife star was openly bisexual from day one and the showrunners never made her sexuality the core of her character. The fierce sleuth was one of the few empowered female characters on CBS at the time. Plus, Kalinda had more relationships with women than with men in the series, a refreshing contrast to many bi characters who have only one same-sex affair. It’s easy to see why actress Archie Panjabi won an Emmy for her portrayal of Kalinda.
Callie Torres — Grey’s Anatomy
Grey’s Anatomy is a medical drama television series that first premiered on March 27, 2005 on ABC. The series focuses on the lives of surgical interns, attendings, and residents as they become seasoned doctors. As a drama, the series also focuses on the characters balancing their professional and personal lives. Callie Torres, played by Sara Ramirez, was openly bisexual on Grey’s Anatomy. A recurring character in season two and a main character from season three to 12, she realized she wasn’t straight in season four. Callie was one of the first prominent bisexual characters on TV, as well as one of the longest-running queer series regulars.
Frank Underwood — House of Cards
House of Cards stars Kevin Spacey as the calculated and conniving POTUS Frank Underwood. Despite being, well, evil, House of Cards did present a dominant bisexual man in a position of power in Washington as its lead. While the accusations against Spacey damaged his career and victims, it also damaged one of the most visionary portrayal or bisexuality. Underwood has a raw masculinity that intertwines perfectly with his sexual identity.
Annalise Keating — How to Get Away with Murder
How to Get Away with Murder is a legal drama thriller starring Viola Davis as Annalise Keating, a defense attorney and law professor at a Philadelphia university. Along with five of her students, she becomes entangled in a murder plot. Annalise’s key relationships are with Tom Verica’s Sam, who starts out as her therapist, and Famke Janssen’s Eve, who she had a long-term relationship with prior to Sam. Later in the series, Annalise and Eve rekindle their love. Annalise is a major character lead on television, and her being bisexual is a huge step towards greater representation for the bisexual community.
Willow Rosenberg — Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Alyson Hannigan played Buffy’s best friend Willow from 1997 to 2003 on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She helps Buffy hunt vampires until learning that she is a witch with powers she must learn to control. In the early seasons, Willow has two major relationships with men, but then the series broke ground for the LGBTQ+ community when she forms a relationship with Amber Benson’s Tara Marclay. Despite Tara’s tragic and heavily criticized death, her relationship with Willow is still celebrated and revolutionized the way relationships between women were portrayed onscreen.
Rosa Diaz — Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Rosa Diaz is proof that television doesn’t need to make a character’s sexual orientation their entire personality. Rosa’s coming out was explored and dissected over two episodes and was made more genuine thanks the actress who plays her. Stephanie Beatriz is openly bisexual and advocated greatly for her character to be queer as well. Rosa is a cold, icy character, but is still one of the best characters on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, especially when the show unfolds her experiences as a bi woman.
Alex Kelly — The O.C.
The O.C. is a teen drama television series that focuses on a troubled but gifted young man from a broken home, who is adopted by a wealthy family. He and his socially awkward brother deal with life as outsiders in the high-class life. Oliva Wilde plays Alex Kelly who, while not a major character, has a memorable and pivotal story line on The O.C. Her sexual orientation boosted the visibility of bisexuality on television and became an icon for many fans.
Oberyn Martell — Game of Thrones
HBO’s Game of Thrones wasn’t exactly known for its progressive depictions of the LGBTQ+ community, but the characters from Dorne certainly represented a refreshing fluidity. Pedro Pascal’s Oberyn Martell is particularly treasured by fans. While his sexuality is never defined in the books, the showrunners decided to make this fan-favorite character explicitly bisexual, thus validating bisexuality on one of the most culturally relevant shows of its time.
Bo Dennis — Lost Girl
Lost Girl is a Canadian supernatural drama series that follows the life of a bisexual succubus named Bo Dennis, played by Anna Silk, as she learns to control her abilities, help those in need, and uncover her origins. As a succubus, sex was one of her main powers, and she needed to have sex to live. She will have sex with anyone – male, female, human, and fae. Her strong moral compass and her sex-positive attitude made for a progressive character rarely seen on television.
William Hill — This Is Us
While William Hill had a short arc on This Is Us, his introduction gave audiences a rare sight: an elderly, bisexual, Black man. The show addressed his sexuality in a realistic way, showing that bisexuality isn’t just present in the youth, but continues throughout life. Bisexual audiences watching the show sees representation in William, reinforcing that bisexuality is not “just a phase.”
Jack Harkness — Doctor Who
BBC’s Doctor Who is a legendary British science fiction television series that follows the adventures of the Time Lord called the Doctor as he explores the universe in a time-travelling space ship called the TARDIS. When John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness joined the series, he became the first openly queer character on the show. The companion to the Doctor first appeared in 2005, then got his own spinoff series in Torchwood in 2006, which allowed Jack to have several notable relationships. Jack is a great bi character, as he is not solely defined by it.
Avatar Korra — The Legend of Korra
Nickelodeon made history in animation when The Legend of Korra’s leading character, Korra, became a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Korra is the next avatar in line after Aang, and was revealed to be bi early in the series who brought representation to a wider audience. Later in the series, she and Asama have a sweet storyline with a happy ending that left fans wanting more.
Darryl Whitefeather — Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
With a memorable musical number called “Gettin’ Bi,” it’s hard to leave Pete Gardner’s Darryl Whitefeather from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend off this list. Darryl is a newly divorced dad who is just coming to terms with his bisexuality early in the series, when he gets a crush on David Hull’s Josh Wilson. Throughout the show, the two have a very stable relationship and offers that just because Darryl is with a man, he is still bisexual.
Clarke Griffin — The 100
In 2015, the CW had it’s first LGBTQ leading character with Eliza Taylor’s Clarke Griffin in The 100. The series is about teens being sent down to Earth following a nuclear apocalypse. In season two, the romantic tension between Clarke and Lexa is confirmed when the two share a kiss. The scene brought up several questions, with some fans believing Lexa initiated the kiss and Eliza is still heterosexual. However, the show continued exploring the relationship. At least, until Lexa is killed off.
Ilana Wexler — Broad City
Ilana Wexler is part of the main cast on the television sitcom Broad City. The series was created by Ilana Glazer, who plays Ilana Wexler, and Abbi Jacobson, who plays Abbi Abrams, and is based on their real-life friendship and their attempt to make it in New York. As half of the iconic duo, Ilana was a queer icon from the get-go. She is best known for rejecting labels and focusing entirely on what’s right in the moment. She’s also one of the few women characters who engages in casual sexual relationships without facing guilt or emotional conflict, something that is rarely seen on television.
Eleanor Shellstrop — The Good Place
Played by Kristen Bell, Eleanor Shellstrop of The Good Place is a seriously relatable character. She ends up in “The Good Place” after her death, only to realize that she really doesn’t belong there. She wants to stay (and avoid the Bad Place) and must figure out a way to keep her true identity a secret. It’s highly entertaining, but so are her scenes with Tahani. It was not explicitly stated in the show that she is bisexual, though it is strongly implied. However, William Jackson Harper, who plays Chidi, confirmed that Eleanor is super bisexual.
David Rose — Schitt’s Creek
David Rose describes himself as the black sheep of the family in Schitt’s Creek. He is introduced as the adult son of Jonny and Moira Rose and a former gallerist who curated avant-garde exhibitions and performance art pieces, but struggles with finding direction. During a conversation with the motel clerk, he describes his orientation with a wine analogy. When asked if he drinks red or white wine, David says he likes the wine, not the label. However, the show did not present David’s sexuality or is story as explicitly educating the audience on LGBTQ+ issues, but rather presented as it should be. David is allowed to be who he is without facing intolerance or bigotry.
Eretria — The Shannara Chronicles
Eretria is the main character in The Shannara Chronicles, a fantasy drama series that follows three heroes as they protect an ancient tree to prevent the escape of banished demons. The series is adapted from The Original Shannara Trilogy novels by Terry Brooks. In the books, Eretria’s identity is never explicitly stated, but her only romantic interest was with Will. However, in the series, she is bisexual. She flirts with Amberle, has a relationship with a female Elf Hunter, and by the time the series was canceled, she had a girlfriend.
Kat Edison — The Bold Type
The Bold Type is a comedy-drama television series inspired by the life and career of Joanna Coles, the former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine. The series follows the lives of three millennial women, portrayed by Katie Stevens, Aisha Dee, and Meghann Fahy who are all employed at the fictional global population Scarlet in New York City. Aisha Dee plays Kat Edison, the former social media director at Scarlet. The series is celebrated for its respect and understanding of Kat as she questioned her own sexuality and came to realize that she wasn’t straight.
Audrey Jensen — Scream
Initially calling herself as bicurious, Audrey Jensen of Scream had her interest in women outed to the entire school before she was ready to tell anyone. Regardless, she didn’t let this invasion of privacy take away her identity. The show didn’t give Audrey much time to explore relationships with men or women throughout the two seasons she appeared on, as she was working to figure out who was trying to kill her and her friends. But her bisexuality was never forgotten, such as giving her and her best friend a superhero nickname, “Bicurious and the Virgin.” She even mentioned that she had a crush on Emma when she was younger, a story that is a lot like other LGBTQ kids.
This story originally appeared on Movieweb