Building on the keen queer comedy of her webseries The Slope, iconic 2014 film Appropriate Behaviour, and her most recent feature The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Iranian-American director Desiree Akhavan sparkles on the small screen in her new Channel 4 project The Bisexual.
She plays Leila, a commitment-wary businesswoman who decides to take a break from her long-term romantic partner Sadie (played by the legendary Maxine Peake) after she proposes to Leila.
Leila, like all of Akhavan’s lead characters, is deeply and relatably flawed in most of her interpersonal relationships. She is dishonest with herself and others, susceptible to flattery, and impulsively vindictive, all of which ironically makes her an extremely appealing protagonist, even if sometimes her actions grate with their brutal honesty. So far, The Bisexual seems to be a study on the differences between fantasy and reality when it comes to sex – while Akhavan does show the fantasies of the multiple straight men who fetishize her queer lifestyle, they are quickly and roundly condemned, and she then leads us to another, more interesting question: how do lesbians and queer women deal with their heteronormative fantasies?
The difference between Leila’s fantasy of heterosexuality and the reality of it is brought to a head in her interaction with the Coat Check Guy at the end of the first episode, and it is every bit as awkward and disjointed as anyone might expect. The power dynamics between men and women are studied on a strikingly personal level that recalls Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag when, as she leaves, the guy asks her to pass him his phone charger.
Akhavan also fearlessly showcases a wildly diverse cast of characters of all sexualities, races, and classes, in what seems to be a kind of love-note to London. Leila and Deniz’s friendship especially demonstrates an acknowledgement of individuality and an intimacy that Akhavan seems to advocate for in all relationships, romantic or not. The Bisexual is funny, dark, and open-eyed television that will teach you more about yourself and how you relate to the people around you.
The Bisexual is available to watch on All4 and airs on Wednesdays at 10 pm.