“Love the coat”: Bisexuality, the Female Gaze and the Romance of Sexual Politics
Authors: Pullen, C.
Editors: Ireland, A., Palumbo, D.E. and Sullivan, C.W.
Place of Publication: Jefferson NC,USA
Russell T Davies’ Torchwoood offers complex imaginings of sexual identity, where bisexuality and homosexuality are foregrounded in service of rendering narrative, and social sexual change.
Torchwood is the culmination Russell T Davies’ life work as narrative enabler for gay and lesbian lives, extending from his groundbreaking drama Queer as Folk (Channel 4, 1999). When Davies was commissioned to reenergise the popular science fiction drama Doctor Who (2005), it was not surprising that he added a bisexual character Captain Jack Harkness into the recurring cast, and that he would be played by an openly gay actor John Barrowman. More audacious would be the showcasing of Captain Jack (and Barrowman) in the leading role of the Doctor Who spin off series Torchwood, where the central narrative foregrounds untrammelled bisexual desire. This chapter discusses this provenance, not only examining Russell T Davies and John Barrowman’s performative and discursive potential, but also the narrative construction of Torchwood, which I argue sensitises mainstream audiences to gay and lesbian lives, through the filter of bisexuality. In this way Torchwood’s Captain Jack’s eternal sexual arousal largely directed towards potential male (rather than female) bisexual partners, stimulates audiences to engage with same sex narratives, previously unimagined. The term ‘like your coat’ is a subtext for the initial sexual attraction between Captain Harkness and his on and off male lover within the regular cast, Ianto Jones. Their recurring sexual and romantic engagement is a continual point of reference within the series, where external and sometimes superficial desire, is juxtaposed with intensity and internal depth. In the same way a jacket or a coat covers the intimate body, yet traces and compliments that form, Torchwood stimulates audiences to engage in deeper surfaces, not expressly revealed.
Preferred by: Christopher Pullen