I just finished working my way through Lost Girl, which recently finished airing, after years of people telling me to watch it. First, I was too busy, then, I was distracted, and then, I was so close to the end that I decided to just wait. I sort of like to be able to sit down to a whole series and watch it all the way through, rather than being hung up from week to week, or destined for disappointment if something really terrible happens. If you, like me, tend to wait until things go off air, definitely start watching Lost Girl ASAP, you will not regret it.
It’s a Canadian series, and yes, it is sheer gloriously cheesy fantasy complete with deliciously salacious outfits, ridiculous plotlines, and sparkly magic. It’s set in a version of Toronto where humans merrily go about their days while a fae underworld slips past them, and the fae community is itself split into dark and light, with characters battling for control of their culture, resources, and society. I happen to enjoy that sort of thing, especially when it’s backed with a bite, which Lost Girl definitely is. Bo, the lead character, is an unaligned succubus who refuses to pick a side — which could very easily go somewhere really bad, with a glamorous, beautiful woman trotting around the screen for the pleasure of men. But that’s…not what happens.
For starters, Bo is canonically bi, and involved in deep romantic as well as sexual relationships with both men and women, humans and fairies. If you think that a bisexual succubus would quickly fall into a schmaltzy trap of painful hypersexualisation, you’d be wrong. Yes, Bo has a lot of sex, and enjoys it, and talks openly about how much she enjoys it. She also refuses to be shamed for it, and more to the point, many of the characters around her treat it as unremarkable. It’s a part of who she is, not bound up in moral virtue or failing. When people do attempt to punish her for being sexual, they’re in for a rude surprise. We’re also supposed to see people who disdain her for her sexuality in bad light — when the Morrigan calls her the ‘succuslut,’ it’s further evidence of her unpleasant personality and allegiance to the dark.
Seeing women be sexual and enjoy it on television is extremely rare. Seeing bi women in that position is even more unlikely. Especially when they aren’t being punished for it — when their sexuality and sexual activity are very much a part of the story and who they are, but aren’t used to beat them over the head. Lots of ‘feminist’ television has failed at this, and yes I am looking at you, Joss Whedon. Bo has sex with partners, she has sex with friends, she tries to navigate relationships in a setting where she heals and gathers strength through sex, and sometimes it disrupts and strains her relationships, and she works through it.
It’s not a coincidence that many of the people who first recommended Lost Girl to me were bi women. We live in a culture where bi women are treated as a weird sexual fetish; all of them must be interested in risk-free threesomes with straight tourists, for starters, and none of them are capable of being in a monogamous relationship. They love having sex with women so straight men can watch them for titillation, naturally, and they’re ‘easy’ for any straight man looking for a quick lay. When the sexuality of bi women is on display in pop culture, it’s often cast in a negative light, whether through the way women are characterised or the way they’re treated by other characters. Truly canonically bi characters are also pretty rare — more often, bisexuality is a stop on the way to being converted by the Power of the Peen or driven into the arms of the waiting ranks in Lesbian Town. To see a bi female character presented as a whole, rounded, unapologetic person is a huge thing.
Bo shows us that this is a possibility, that it shouldn’t be so difficult to integrate diverse sexualities into television, especially in the world of fantasy, where anything is possible. If a woman can engage in threesomes for medical reasons, if a man can make things come true by writing them in his own blood, if a woman can lay waste to armies with a glance, surely, I think, we can have a bisexual character who delights in her own identity and feels strong and empowered by who she is, and who she is growing to be. Lost Girl is a coming of age story (though the main character is an adult) and part of that maturation comes in the form of growing to understand her relationship to her sexuality and the woman she wants to be.
I often comment that people tend to write fantasy and science fiction off as childish genres for people who aren’t interested in serious things. These genres, however, are often where the most diverse, thoughtful, challenging media are seated — without constraints and expectations, creators can do amazing and wonderful things with their work, and take audiences and readers along. Like any great work of media across genres, Lost Girl works because it has fun, engaging stories, and they’re often backed with a decided social justice aesthetic that sucker punches the viewer. Sure, you can read the show on the surface as being about a hot girl who likes to wear tight leather pants and kick ass, accompanied by her saucy human roommate and a supporting case of characters, but if you do, you’re missing out on the real point of Lost Girl, about family, community, sexual autonomy, and independence.