Why Perfect Match's bisexual representation is so important
Perfect Match spoilers ahead.
In a world where reality TV dating shows continue to be predominantly a straight person's game, Netflix's Perfect Match has achieved the impossible – by displaying not one, but three separate bisexual experiences in the space of one episode.
Turns out it's extremely easy to have these discussions if you allow the space for it.
Perfect Match – dubbed by fans the "Avengers: Endgame of the Netflix reality multiverse" – brings cast members from a string of previous shows in order to give them a second shot at finding love.
On the one hand, it's kind of Love Island, with those not left in a couple at the end of each day being dumped from the Panama mansion. On the other, it's a little The Circle, with couples who win daily challenges influencing dates and bringing other faces into the game thanks to a computer screen.
Largely these couples remain heterosexual, but when The Circle: France's Ines and The Mole's William are given the choice to bring two new women into the show, they shake things up by opting to create a bisexual coupling.
Seizing the opportunity to test one of the most competitive stars in the game, Too Hot To Handle's Francesca Farago is sent on a date with the soon-to-arrive Twentysomethings: Austin star Abbey Humphries. Despite at that moment in time being matched with Damian Powers from Love Is Blind.
Francesca is someone rightly self-assured and confident in her sexuality, with open and public relationships with both men and women – most notably Harry Jowsey, who she starred on THTH with, and TOWIE star Demi Sims shortly after in 2021.
Francesca is honest about her inherent desire for sex, her willingness to experiment, and her hesitance to remain with one person. She later reveals in a challenge while she wants to get married, she wants an open marriage, stating she can't imagine having just one sexual partner for the rest of her life.
In stark contrast to this, Abbey came out as bisexual on Twentysomethings, but added she "wasn't very out about it" given her religious upbringing and the fact she was previously married for five years, getting divorced in 2021.
During her camera interview on Perfect Match, Abbey declared she had since remained single in order to "figure her shit out" as she navigated what her sexuality meant to her going forward, ultimately choosing to just be "open" to what comes her way.
The pair have contrasting experiences with their sexuality, and on their date they discuss this in a validating way. Francesca sits attentively as Abbey admits her long-held attraction to her from seeing her on TV, and how she's taking her time getting back into romance after the end of her marriage.
In return, Abbey is interested to hear about the men Francesca has been matched with during her time on Perfect Match, and her life of highly-publicised relationships away from the show.
As the episode goes on, a third bisexual experience is brought into the fold thanks to Sexy Beast's Kariselle Snow back at the mansion.
In perhaps one of the most uniquely important conversations around queer love shown on reality television in recent years, the girls' date galvanizes Kariselle to open up to her match, The Circle's Joey Sasso, about her own sexuality and the effect it's had on her identity.
By this point, Joey and Kariselle have shaped themselves as the strongest couple in the house, reigniting an old fling in order to give things an actual try while they were on the dating series.
With the latest dates being a talking point, Kariselle discusses her own bisexuality, and the level of insecurity that comes with it for her thanks to her own past experience, which sits somewhere in between that of Francesca and Abbey.
Kariselle is someone who makes little secret about her desire to get married and have children as soon as possible. Iconically, she grilled her dates on Sexy Beasts two years ago about their health insurance and life plans to make sure they matched her own intentions.
Kariselle's proudly self-assured of her bisexuality after coming out at the age of 13, but she's also frank and aware of how it has unwittingly had certain negative impacts on her life.
She admits her parents found it hard to wrap their heads around to begin with, she was branded weird by bullies for liking girls as a teenager, and admits previous partners have even split with her because they were intimidated by her liking women.
Giving Joey the opportunity to share any worries he may have, she bluntly asks him: "Does it freak you out at all that the last person I was in love with was a female?"
To Joey's credit, it doesn't bother him in the slightest – in fact he's actively accepting of this part of her, having known it way before coming on the show.
As for her exes having issues with it, Joey bluntly responds: "Then that's their own f**king problem."
His willingness to communicate on the topic allows Kariselle the platform to go deeper and admit she's become fearful of being in a male-female relationship, due to unspoken stigma around bisexuality.
"All these things make up who I am as a person," she says. "So I'm afraid that if I marry a man, that my sexuality is going to be invalidated because I'm in a heterosexual relationship."
"I accept you for you, because it's who you are – it's literally who you are," Joey reassures her, later adding with a shrug: "God, it's 2022, people should get their heads out of their asses."
Kariselle's fear of bi-erasure is not an unfounded one, and Perfect Match putting these conversations out into the world is what makes it stand out from rival dating shows. In fact, counterparts have been accused of actively contributing to bi-erasure by literally erasing similar conversations from their edits and formats, even when the opportunity to have more inclusion presents itself.
Sexy Beasts, Kariselle's original series, set up exclusively heterosexual pairings on a mission to find The One (while dressed as animals in heavy prosthetics). Even with the half-hour, in-and-out concept completely affording it to be LGBTQ+ inclusive, it chose not to be.
Too Hot To Handle featured bisexual people without much discussion, but Love Is Blind – which has a heteronormative "man meets woman and they marry" format – featured a couple whose relationship broke down as a direct result of Carlton Morton admitting his bisexuality back in season one.
Then, of course, there's the juggernaut of dating shows, Love Island. In 2021, ITV commissioner Amanda Stavri caused a backlash by claiming it was "logisitically difficult" to incorporate same-sex pairings onto the series due to its coupling-ups – despite Sophie Gradon and Katie Salmon taking matters into their own hands and doing exactly that in the 2016 series.
Logistically difficult or not, it should at least leave room for some conversation around sexuality – just because someone is opting for an opposite-sex pairing on the show, doesn't mean they don't have a past (or future) in a same-sex relationship.
And yet Sharron Gaffka, who appeared on Love Island's 2021 series, has gone on record to state she had openly discussed her bisexuality while in the villa, only for the conversations to hit the cutting room floor and never air. Same with Megan Barton-Hanson.
Megan has also said in the public eye she's felt almost under scrutiny for "not being bi enough", telling Florence Given on her You Come First podcast in January 2022: "As a bi person you have to prove it. If you're stereotypically a girly girl and quite femme, you have to prove that you like girls..."
"I went to the extent of wearing a golden vagina necklace round my neck to make it clear that I do like vagina."
So Perfect Match's multiple variations on queer love, bisexuality and the complicated feelings that may/may not come with that part of your identity is a refreshing, surprisingly deep, and much-needed positive take. It also displays positive examples of how to be an ally to loved ones who need that reassurance and support.
The message is ultimately clear – bisexuality doesn't come in a one-size-fits-all package, with Francesca, Abbey and Kariselle all displaying different but perfectly valid ways to be queer. It's something to take pride in however you decide to navigate it.
See Love Island? It's really not difficult.
Perfect Match is streaming on Netflix now.
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