In Thursday’s episode of Will & Grace, the NBC series clumsily attempted to tackle biphobic beliefs and yet stumbled throughout, relying on lazy jokes and tired stereotypes.
In “Bi-Plane,” Grace’s niece Fiona (played by the late Debbie Reynolds’ granddaughter, Billie Lourd) visits her aunt and brings along Trevor (Peter Graham), a flamboyant 22-year-old with a love for musicals. Will and Grace both quickly assume that Trevor is the gay BFF — a miniature mirror image of the two of them. They’re shocked when Fiona reveals that Trevor is her boyfriend, and that he’s bisexual.
It’s immediately clear that neither Will nor Grace believes Trevor, so what follows is a lot of biphobic jokes with tired punchlines. Will proclaims that “bisexuality isn’t even a thing,” inanely comparing it to someone saying they’re a cat and dog person instead of choosing just one. Will tells Trevor that sometimes saying you’re bi is “a safe half-step when you’re scared to jump all the way in,” implying that Trevor is actually gay. Later, Will strips away the implications and says it explicitly: “Trevor, you’re not bisexual, you’re gay.”
Will goes on to tell Trevor that he’s only choosing to be with a woman because of “societal pressure” and exasperatedly claims that, within the LGBTQ community, “The ‘B’s and the ‘Q’s just haven’t figured out if they’re ‘L’ or ‘G’ yet.” Grace generally agrees with Will but is scared to admit as much—she wants to be seen as the cool aunt—but eventually does admit that she also doesn’t think Trevor is being honest with himself.
“Bi-Plane” reads like a bullet point list of all the things bisexual people hear constantly—and the things that frequently keep bisexual people from coming out (and bisexuals are the least likely group to come out). Hearing over and over that bisexuality isn’t real, or that it’s just a stepping stone before inevitably identifying as gay or lesbian, can cause bisexuals to doubt their own feelings and desires. Such biphobia and bisexual erasure contributes to heightened mental health issues within the bisexual community, and plots like this don’t do anything to help.
This bisexual erasure is especially hurtful when it comes from the queer community—which should, ostensibly, be the place we feel safest—which is why it’s doubly frustrating that Will & Grace is the series choosing to do this storyline.
Will & Grace has always had a huge platform and has been credited with “normalizing” queer relationships on television. The original run also contained biphobia (…as well as transphobia and lesbophobia..) and its return could’ve been a way to make up for its past mistakes. Instead, Will & Grace hasn’t changed much and in some instances, it’s even gotten worse — such as last year’s season finale that found Karen, whose bisexuality has been a running gag throughout the entire series, unequivocally coming out as straight. (And what’s worse, her “coming out” scene was a reference to Ellen‘s famous “The Puppy Episode.”)
Instead of using “Bi-Plane” to clearly dispel the common myths about bisexuality, the show leaned into them even further. Though it is clear that we’re meant to be on Fiona and Trevor’s side, the episode doesn’t do much to showcase just how wrong and harmful Will and Grace’s beliefs are. At the end, Will admits they were both being “intolerant of someone’s sexuality” and claims that “when we were shamed into it, we were willing to learn” — but we don’t actually see that at all. There is no moment when either character apologizes to Trevor, or indicates that they learned anything (except, I suppose, to keep their biphobia to themselves). Instead, we get a tired joke about how they just don’t understand because they’re old and stuck in the ’90s (as if bisexuality is a recent development).
Will & Grace has always been a show that centered solely on cis gay men while ignoring the rest of the queer community, and it’s sad to see that it’s still the case—22 years after it first premiered. It just further proves that television should focus on finding new queer creators for new queer series instead of dipping into the past.