Simply having sympathetic bisexual characters is not enough
When Lucifer first aired on FOX in November 2016, the show sent ripples through the online bisexual+ community.
The bisexual community isn?t spoilt for choice when it comes to sympathetic representation on television, and a bisexual title character is a big deal. A second bisexual character, Mazikeen, was the icing on the cake.
For that reason, the reception of the show has been overwhelmingly positive, even though it leaves an unpleasant aftertaste that seems to indicate that something is wrong with the recipe.
Lucifer and Mazikeen are sympathetic bisexual characters, but they aren?t exactly good.
The relationship between bisexuality and evil
From the very first moment that the titular character appears on camera, Lucifer plays into the classic film tropes like the effeminate villain and the flaming devil, conflating queerness with evil. The positive twist is that we?re supposed to root for him.
As he makes his first appearance in the pilot episode, Lucifer is driving an expensive sports car with the top down. He is impeccably groomed, if a bit windswept, and his suit looks tailored. The camera cuts to sartorial details long enough to establish character, but briefly enough that we don?t think too much about it. He is wearing cuff links and a very prominent ring. Before the actor, Tom Ellis, delivers his first line, we have established that this character is something of a dandy.
That Lucifer ? Satan, Beelzebub, Old Scratch ? swings both ways is first established in the second episode of the series, when he rolls out of bed in the morning and reveals a sleeping woman and man. ?It?s called a Devil?s threesome for a reason,? he quips.
As the series progresses, we learn that Lucifer is obsessed with dressing for his part, happily holding up important police business for a wardrobe change. Grooming is also of utmost importance, verified both visually and by Lucifer?s unabashed admission to ?manscaping?. He also has the stereotypical gay man?s great taste in food and wine, and more than a passing interest for interior decorating. Lucifer could single-handedly host Queer Eye.
The visual character design only serves to accentuate the Devil?s queerness. His fitted three piece suits give him a lanky appearance and creates a stark contrast to the other male characters, whose clothing serves to add bulk across the shoulders or accentuate their heteronormative muscularity.
To offset his apparent gayness, the show makes Lucifer aggressively sexual towards women, and women aggressively sexual towards him. Until the writers? room is confident that we don?t think Lucifer is gay, he is a notorious womaniser, everywhere he goes women fall over themselves to have sex with him, and he sexually harasses his partner in crime-solving, Chloe, even going so far as to expose his genitals to her without consent.
While Lucifer himself points out that he is in fact not evil ? that is a human misconception ? he is most certainly amoral. And even if the show?s primary bisexual isn?t evil, it?s secondary bisexual might be. Mazikeen is a soulless demon who thrives on immoral behaviour, and she was literally ?forged in the bowels of hell?.
If you blinked you might have missed it, but the show has a third potential bisexual. When Chloe frisks her, the Goddess has a moment of sexual enjoyment. Like Lucifer and Mazikeen, she literally came from hell, where she was sent by God after trying to destroy humanity.
The otherness of the bisexual misfit
The Lucifer writers? room often uses bisexuality as a shorthand for otherness. This is particularly striking in the case of Mazikeen. The first time we see her having a sexual interest in women is when she brings Lucifer two women for a foursome. Her bisexuality thus established, every single other time that it comes up its purpose is to show the audience her lack of humanity.
In Pops, the tenth episode of the series, for example, Mazikeen turns to Dr. Linda for help learning to act human ? to be, in her own words, ?normal?. A heartbeat later we learn just how abnormal Mazikeen is, when she offers to pay Linda by having sex with her.
In the second season?s God Johnson, an episode where she offers to have a threesome with Chloe, Mazikeen?s otherness is played up in every way possible, from her lack of social skills to her demonic taste in pizza.
In the third season, we get Mr. and Mrs. Mazikeen Smith, an episode that focuses on how demons lack souls. Although the moral of the episode suggests that even demons have the choice to behave like an ensouled being, the scene where Mazikeen has sex with a woman for personal gain is seated squarely in the part of the episode that is supposed to have us believing that there is no hope for the soulless. When, a few episodes later, in Til Death Do Us Part, Mazikeen suddenly has a very predatory desire for Charlotte Richards, it?s simply because Mazikeen can smell the pain and despair on Charlotte, who recently returned from punishment in hell. She doesn?t want Charlotte, she is excited by the scent of torture. Her pansexual attraction is, in other words, neither real nor human.
Mazikeen pretends to be a masseuse to seduce a woman for information, and to cause her male partner pain.
Fluctuating sexuality and bisexual erasure
For all of their apparent sexual interest in people of their own gender, neither Lucifer nor Mazikeen ever self-identify as bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual, polysexual, heteroflexible, sexually fluid or any other sexual orientation. This erasure of bisexuality is particularly damaging because the show actively promotes heterosexual pairings as true connections for its bisexual characters. Chloe is the only person Lucifer has ever had feelings for. Mazikeen only falls for Amenadiel and a particularly insightful male bounty. The Goddess only cares for Dan.
This allows the viewer to interpret the characters? bisexual dalliances as artefacts of their demonic nature, their immortality or even how morally lost they are without their one true heterosexual love.
It also allows the writers? room to conveniently forget Lucifer?s bisexuality whenever he must appear to be a viable candidate for Chloe?s love ? a pureblooded morally straight heterosexual ? and bring it back again whenever he is supposed to falter and risk losing her because he is not good enough.
Take the episode Orange Is the New Maze, for example. Lucifer is losing Chloe to the strikingly, heteronormatively masculine Pierce. ?I?m not one for gorilla-sized ham-hands or stale alcohol breath or, just in general, blokes,? Lucifer tells Chloe, clearly indicating that he is not sexually attracted to men. In the very next episode, his banter with Chloe is interrupted by Pierce, and Lucifer snaps: ?I usually have women over, or men, or both, for sex.? Remember that Lucifer is proud of the fact that he never lies. This means that either he has sex with men despite not being attracted to them ? unlikely, given that we see him turning down men who are not his type, specifically for not being his type ? or he is so confused about who he is that he genuinely thinks he?s straight one day and queer the next.
Biphobia and homophobia in the writers? room
Although the show doesn?t directly link Lucifer?s and Mazikeen?s behaviour and personalities to their sexual orientation, it?s notable that all bisexuals on Lucifer play into the harmful stereotype of the depraved bisexual. They lack a moral compass, they are promiscuous, and they often sleep with the same sex only for personal gain. But the show?s dim view on sexual minorities doesn?t end there.
Not counting Lucifer and Mazikeen, the number of episodes where gay, lesbian or bisexual characters occur can be counted on the fingers of one hand: there is one episode with a sympathetic gay security guard, there is another with a shady same-sex couple suspected for murder, in a third episode there is a queer female murderer, and in a fourth there is a same-sex couple in which one partner is the murder victim and the other is the murderer.
It can certainly be argued that Lucifer is primarily a police procedural, and as such most parts are going to be murder-adjacent. That doesn?t mean that characters with same-sex attractions must necessarily be murder suspects, have the murder weapon in their possession, or be driven to murder as a direct result of their same-sex attraction. These are the roles gay people play in Lucifer ? not police officers, laboratory technicians, judges, lawyers, experts or witnesses.
For a show where none of the recurring characters are fazed by their friends? displays of bisexuality, there is also a surprising amount of ?no homo? being bandied about. This is particularly stunning in Chloe and Pierce. Both characters are blas about Lucifer?s sexuality, and both characters are markedly uncomfortable going undercover as part of a gay couple.
We are to believe that Chloe and Pierce both have a passion for police work, unwavering work ethic, and a deep desire to catch the killer. Yet, when Mazikeen, playing the role of Chloe?s wife in a murder investigation, lightly touches her, Chloe is so uncomfortable she risks blowing her cover. When Chloe, on the other hand, goes undercover as Lucifer?s fiance, she happily clings to him despite their painful romantic baggage.
Pierce is uncomfortable with the male touch, and kissing is no exception.
When Piece and Lucifer likewise go undercover as a couple, Pierce is willing to risk the entire investigation to avoid touching fingers with Lucifer. Pierce has been alive since the dawn of humanity, and we are to believe that he has seen the whole world and participated in its various cultures. Yet, somehow he has a modern American homophobe?s reaction to the masculine touch. One might argue that Pierce simply loathes Lucifer, but Piece has shown many times that he is perfectly capable of restraining his emotions.
Pierce and Lucifer?s entire undercover coupledom is unfortunately played for laughs. They unwittingly convince the entire neighbourhood that they are having a touching gay reconciliation, when in fact they?re talking about their satanic pact to have Pierce killed. As gay as the conversation sounds, the viewer is in on the joke and knows this is ?no homo?.
The bisexual representation in Lucifer is incredibly important, but it does not erase the harmful stereotyping, which feels particularly sinister given the show?s attitudes to heterosexual love. Whether they are queer or straight, all of the recurring characters (except for Ella, whose focus has been on her family) have been transformed for the better by the power of heterosexual love. Heterosexual love saves, homosexual love kills. Hopefully, some of these attitudes will be remedied when Lucifer returns for its fourth season. In the meantime, for merely existing and being likeable, Lucifer and Mazikeen remain bisexual icons ? or bicons ? for a large section of the bisexual community.
Lucifer ran for three seasons on FOX and will return for a fourth season on Netflix in 2019.