While this narrative tendency isn’t gender-specific, bi male superheroes are more rare to see than bi female ones. (Lists of queer superheroes indicate that women in comics are represented as bisexual more frequently.) This is likely due in part to the fraught idea that women are naturally less sexually binary than men, and the fact that comics still cater largely to the interests of straight men, who might find sexually fluid women appealing but fluid men threatening. Beyond Gail Simone’s Catman, Prodigy from the Young Avengers, and (if we take him seriously) Deadpool, it’s hard to come up with examples of bisexual men in the superhero world.
And then, of course, there’s Legends of Tomorrow’s Constantine.
From the moment he steps foot on the Legends’ time-travel ship known as the Waverider in “Daddy Darhkest,” the warlock sweet-talks both men and women of different backgrounds, sexual preferences, and, yes, relationship statuses. When he first introduces himself, Constantine hits on both Leonard “Leo” Snart, a gay hero from another Earth, and Vixen, a woman from the past who can harness the spirits of animals. Constantine also has eyes for the team’s leader, Sara Lance, a.k.a. the White Canary, a bisexual assassin whose romantic history includes, across multiple timelines, a variety of men and women.
To reinforce Constantine’s sexual fluidity, Legends engages in a playful subtext. Throughout the episode Constantine alternately asks Lance and Snart to light his cigarette—calling to mind the old Hollywood trick of using shared cigarettes as an indirect way of suggesting physical intimacy. The message: Man or woman, past or present, this Earth or another, bisexual, gay, or straight—anyone can get Constantine fired up.
Some viewers might worry that depicting Constantine’s attraction as wide-ranging and unpredictable risks reproducing a couple of stereotypes: There’s the promiscuous bisexual, who wants to have it all, and the confused bisexual, who doesn’t know what he wants yet. But it’s precisely Legends’s reluctance to foreclose on the ambiguity of Constantine’s desire that I, and many other viewers, find bold and exciting. This decision allows the show to navigate some of the trickier aspects of bisexual representation. Because of a common assumption that the gender of someone’s love interest determines that person’s sexuality, viewers can often read characters as either straight or gay only. As the author Maria San Filippo writes in The B Word: Bisexuality in Contemporary Film and Television, “At any given moment a bisexual person or film character might appear heterosexual or homosexual depending on his or her present object choice.”
By showing Constantine as shifting between men and women, Legends actively pushes against the inclination to read him as either straight or gay. This strategy, which leaves his ambiguity intact, is reinforced by the classic trope of the “bisexual love triangle” that Constantine forms with Sara Lance and Leo Snart. At one point in the episode, Constantine stands between Lance and Snart, as the three attempt to bind magically and exorcise Mallus from the young woman he possesses. By placing Constantine in the center of this configuration—next to a gay man and bisexual woman—the show emphasizes the warlock’s simultaneous expression of same-sex and opposite-sex desire. In short, he isn’t forced to choose.