Representation of bisexuality has been missing from a lot of popular television, so it is great to see White Canary’s sexuality is being highlighted in Legends of Tomorrow.
While fans of the Sara/Nyssa relationship in Arrow might not share in the excitement, Legends of Tomorrow has cast an interesting new potential love interest for White Canary. In Arrow, Sara Lance is an openly bisexual woman who we see engage in romantic relationships with both a man and a woman. That’s not meant to define bisexuality, but rather laud the show for actually depicting the character in more than one relationship with people of different genders in a (mostly) positive way.
As Sara Lance adopts the White Canary moniker and moves to Thursday night on Legends of Tomorrow, it seems she will also shed her past relationships and discover feelings for a new woman.
The CW has cast Fringe alum Ali Liebert as Sara’s potential love interest, Lindsay Carlisle. As Legends of Tomorrow executive producer Phil Klemmer describes her, Lindsay is “a soft-spoken, intelligent lady who is the ideal picture of 1950s womanhood.” Wait what? That’s not exactly who we expected to be Sara’s new love interest. Carlisle will be characterized as perfectly conforming to the social strictures of 1950’s America, minus one small (read: huge) secret: she is a closeted lesbian.
While Klemmer never explicitly told us what Lindsay’s arc might be, these details add up to a character that will be considerably conflicted. Carlisle likely has been holding on to her secret for a while when a beautiful time traveler (Sara) barges into her life. It seems that Sara and Lindsay will both disrupt each other’s lives in order to find love and freedom from their own strictures (in Lindsay’s case, society and in Sara’s, the lasting effects of being resurrected).
Multiple Angles of Representation
Arrow worked hard to give Sara Lance a distinguished sexual identity from not only the other characters of the series, but from most characters on television. It is very important that Legends of Tomorrow is continuing to place significance on keeping Sara, now as White Canary, openly and positively bisexual. Sara’s relationships are treated with as much respect and sympathy as any other. She is not oversexed or depicted as a vamp. So far the writers have avoided all of the notable stereotypes and negatives associated with bisexual representation.
Bisexual representation has often taken a back seat to leave room for characters of the more mainstream homosexuality (I hope the irony there was noted). Bisexuality has, historically, been treated as less than real and often “indecisive.” There is currently animosity and discrimination among some LGBTQ communities toward bisexuality and people who identify as bisexual. Therefore it is incredibly important to include more characters in popular media who identify as such in a positive way.
It is already a strong step that the only romantic plot confirmed for Legends of Tomorrow is between a bisexual woman and a lesbian woman. But the show will need to continue to portray Sara’s sexual identity (and now Lindsay’s) in a positive light. It’s also worth note that Legends of Tomorrow is (at least presumably) creating a positive romance between a bisexual woman and a lesbian woman where the difference between their sexualities will not be a conflict or matter of tension.
Having Carlisle exist in the 1950’s is a smart way to exercise the time travel premise engrained in the heart of Legends of Tomorrow, but it has also forces the romance between the two women into a corner. Any potential romance will be plagued by the struggle of the closeted Carlisle to grow confortable enough to indulge in a relationship with Sara, and for Sara to get back in touch enough with her emotions to reciprocate.
While all of that sounds like a reasonably healthy amount of turmoil to have to overcome for a television show, the addition of time travel really puts the whole thing over the top. With everything piled on the relationship it seems like the writers may be dooming the two women from the start. And from there one message seems to come through: the love between two women is inherently tragic.
It’s hard to truly condemn any of the choices since so much will come down to how they portray the couple on screen, but the fact that everything we know so far is pointing to a struggle doesn’t make for a welcoming introduction to a unique TV relationship.
In Good Hands
“It’s easy for our cold hearted assassin to kill a hundred people, but does she have the ability to care about one?” That is EP Phil Klemmer teasing fans with the intrigue of the newly announced romance. The answer is obviously, “Yes,” Sara will certainly come to care about Lindsay. Otherwise, what was this casting news about in the first place? But it’s worth nothing that Klemmer and fellow Legends of Tomorrow Executive Producer Chris Fedak have a history with this exact thematic dilemma. The two executives spent five seasons dealing with the exact same idea (can a cold blooded assassin find love?) on Chuck.
I mention this not because Chuck is my personal favorite TV show of all time (alright fine that’s part of why I’m bringing it up), but rather to say that Legends of Tomorrow’s executive producers know what they are good at. If the show runners treat Sara and Lindsay’s relationship with the same delicacy they have with other characters in their careers, this promises to be a strong sample of representation simply because it will be a strong relationship.
Another Month to Go
Obviously, much of this is speculation based on the few tidbits and scintillations Klemmer was able/willing to give when the casting was announced. I hope that everyone working on Legends of Tomorrow realize that they are poised to include an important character and have the power to create a strong positive representation for more than one group that still needs more visibility in popular media.