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Clarkisha Explains: Why I Hated ‘Life Sentence’ So Much and Other Bi Things

A couple months ago, there was a little show on TV called Life Sentence. It took me a minute but I finally got around to watching it. I was mainly excited to see Lucy Hale do different things besides being terrorized by A (who she should have been by the way) and see Nip and Tuck star Dylan Walsh back on my screen.

I was also interested in its concept, which specifically deals with the aftermath of cancer if you just so happen to survive and deals with flipping all of the usual tropes. Which is pretty awesome.

I was super excited. And boy was that excitement misplaced as fuck.

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I learned I was going to be over this showand learn that it simply wasn’t for mevery quickly. Firstly because there was literally only one person of color in the main cast for the entirety of my time watching it and he was married to the main character, Stella, played by Hale. And like…your show should not be that White in 2018.

But still, that wasn’t the worst part. You wanna know the one thing about this show that really chapped my ass? Well, I’ll tell you:

It was the treatment of queer women on the showbut particularly bisexual women.

Now, make no mistake. Bisexual representation is by (ha) no means perfect, but as of 2018, it looks like it’s finally trying to pop. We have Callie Torres (played by Sara Ramirez) on Grey’s Anatomy, who did A LOT of the heavy lifting for bisexual representation for over 10 years (especially the years everyone was pre-PC, and folx were probably asking that character the most trifling questions about bisexuality, and during the height of The L-Word…which had the opposite of good rep for bi folx). We’ve had others like Petra (played by Yael Grobglas) and Adam (played by Tyler Posey) from Jane The Virgin and Rosa (played by Stephanie Beatriz) from Brooklyn Nine Nine. There are others of course, but I’ma keep it real with you–the ones I named are some of the better ones.

Now. As for Life Sentence?

Well, let’s just say that watching this show felt like I had stepped back into 2004-2005 where bi rep is concerned.

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To explain, the show subjects its main bi character, Ida Abbott (who is Stella’s mother), to classic and regressive tropes about bisexuality in the name of being funny and cheeky or whatever, but it’s just so cringeworthy that it doesn’t accomplish any of that. For starters, Ida’s coming out story follows an age-old and trope-filled trajectory that culminates in her coming out in the midst of a pending divorce. See, she’s a middle-aged White woman who suddenly discovers during Stella’s long battle with cancer that she may be bisexual. This in itself isn’t an issue because I know plenty of folx who didn’t really come into their sexuality until later in life for whatever reason. And there was some potential for this storyline to play out in that same way and you sort of see that when Ida explains that she found solace in Poppy, Stella’s godmother, when she was undergoing chemo, but it’s quickly played for laughs and for how messy it is and reads like she got all emotional with Poppy and then BAM, she caught the bi.

The story takes a very typical “this was clearly a bored suburban mom” arc instead. She’s portrayed as bored and messy and it is very clear that she was fed up with her husband/soon-to-be ex-husband’s shit. So instead of the story honing in on her self-discovery, her “sudden” bisexuality is portrayed as almost accidental. Incidental. Coincidental. Peter, her husband, wasn’t emotionally supportive of her, so she found solace in another queer woman that was attracted to her and figured her suburban life was totally not where it was at. I’m pretty sure there exists a subgenre of porn and erotica that is all about this. They probably call it “Bored suburban Caucasian soccer mom/housewife wants to feel alive again and experiments with her sexuality.”

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I ain’t one to yuck people’s yums, but for a show that propped itself up as wanting to flip tropes, it surely doubled down on this one.

But believe it or not, that wasn’t the worst part. No. The WORST part aside from this tired, “bored Bisexual” tropebesides her family’s “what all of a sudden???” questions and her soon-to-be ex-husband’s general asininitywas her soon-to-be ex-husband’s bitterness and blatant biphobia/femmephobia and obsession when it comes to her sex life with Poppy.

You probably read that last sentence and were like “no…”, but I’m here to say that it’s true. It happened. Man’s was salty and made sure the whole world knew about it. Besides his lamentations about her leaving him for a woman, literally almost every time he was on fucking screen, he would refer to Ida and her partner as “scissor sisters”.

Seriously.

I know cis and straight men are generally obsessed with “lesbian sex” and “queer sex” because they can’t fathom how anyone could enjoy intercourse without the presence of their so-called phallic member (lol, trust me, it is possible), but this just seemed so extra and over-the-top. Every time the family gathered, he’d mention “scissor sisters” and what he knew about them and was learning about them. There were overt and covert jabs from him about their “lesbian relationship.” Like, think of everything a muthafucka with wack dick energy would say to a lesbian couple and he said it. There were moments where there would be intense family arguments and spats and in an attempt to break the seriousness, scissor sisters would get brought up again. It’s like someone found a bunch of South Park’s “pre-PC” jokes about queerness and wrote them into this show. It was terrible and incredibly tone-deaf. 

And though I consider myself a hardy bisexual with a fair amount of fortitude, I’m not gonna lie. I think I only lasted like three or four episodes. I jumped ship as soon as it became clear that the biphobic jokes weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

So, you can imagine my “shocked face” when I found out that Life Sentence was cancelled back in May of this year.

The jury is out on whether or not one should ever celebrate the cancellation of an otherwise “promising” (and I use that word very loosely here) show, but I’m not gonna front, I was okay with the TV Gods letting this show GO. Because no shade to Lucy Hale or the cast involved, but it’s 2018. Your queer representation shouldn’t be that abysmal, especially with the strides bisexual characters have been fighting to make.

So, tread carefully folx. Because The Gays are always watching.

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Clarkisha Kent

Clarkisha Kent aka Lex Luther aka [REDACTED] doubles, triples, and quadruples as a Blerd, a Crystal Gem, and a Care-Free Black Girl. She is the creator of #TheKentTest as well as the co-creator of the entertainment blog Sublime Zoo and co-creator of the podcast We Robbed A Zoo. She has also been featured on The Root, The Establishment, Wear Your Voice Magazine, Huffpost, BET. Fun Fact: Her nemeses include Lena Dunham, Frank Grillo, and Taylor Swift.

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