“New Girl” brings in Clea DuVall to play Megan Fox’s lover, expands on tired bisexual tropes

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Female bisexual characters have not traditionally fared well on network television. They’re often used to titillate the audience for ratings or as a ploy during sweeps. They may kiss a girl once and spend the rest of the time dating/loving/attached to men. Or they may appear briefly to woo a female character for an episode or two before disappearing as mysteriously as they arrived.

So when Megan Fox was cast as bisexual pharmaceutical rep Reagan during Zooey Deschanel’s maternity leave, I was concerned. Turns out, I had no reason to be. Sure, New Girl plays with the classic “Bisexual girls are hot!” male gaze, but it also gives us a nuanced, confident character played by an out bisexual actress.

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While the loftmates look for a new tenant to take over Jess’s room for the month, Nick and Winston bump into Reagan at a doctor’s office. She is beautiful, confident, and quickly convinces the doctor on duty to buy the product she’s repping. Nick develops a huge crush on her and shows her the loft. Once Reagan meets the roommates, we learn that she and Cece partied together at the MTV Beach house in 2003…and by party together, they mean hooked up. Is the response of the men of the loft typical? Cece’s fiancée Schmidt is simultaneously threatened and aroused, but this response plays into Schmidt’s larger anxieties of not being good enough for Cece.

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More importantly, Reagan tells everyone that she is bisexual. She actually says the B word! This may not mean much to some people, but it’s actually a big freaking deal. Orange is the New Black features a bi protagonist and several fluid characters without ever mentioning the B word. Furthermore, Reagan’s sexuality isn’t a plot point: It’s just one facet of her character. And we don’t have to listen to the other character’s debate the existence or the validity of her orientation. Their response to Reagan’s bisexuality says more about them and their own insecurities than it does about her.

In an interview with Vulture, creator Liz Meriwether discusses how they approached this queer storyline:

We were really excited by it, and were also really aware that we didn’t want it to be this thing where, ‘Oh, Megan is hot,’ so we’re using it in that way — we just wanted to have it be part of her character. We were really aware of [not fetishizing it], and in the premiere, we were trying to tell the story of Schmidt dealing with his jealousy issues around Cece, and this kind of fit perfectly into that story, and felt surprising in a cool way that it wasn’t about a man. It was about this woman from Cece’s past.”

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Look, I’m not saying this show is perfect. We’re still treated to the “normal female interaction filtered through a sexy gaze for laughs” trope, as Reagan massages Cece’s hand after an injury and helps her deal with a broken showerhead. But you know what? It made me laugh.

We’ve only got Fox for five episodes this season before Zooey Deschanel returns, but I’m cautiously optimistic about her run. Especially when I found out that queer icon Clea Duvall will stop by next week to play Reagan’s lover. It’s like Lesbian Christmas!

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What did you think of last night’s episode? Tweet your feels to me @ChelseaProcrast.

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