Being a Heroes fan, I have been pointed toward a selection of YouTube clips of the show Off Centre that feature Zachary Quinto, Heroes’ Sylar, as a bisexual guinea-pig-owning animal rights activist Real World cast member, who probably just made up all the former descriptions to get onto the show. I had never heard of Off Centre, and the Wikipedia description makes it sound too raunchy for my tastes, but the clips themselves are fairly amusing, if primarily because it offers a look at Zachary Quinto in his pre-Sylar days. I do find the depiction of this pseudo-bisexual character kind of troubling, though, as it seems to promote negative stereotypes.
Not wanting to look bad, the protagonist babbles that he has no problem hugging bisexual guys and gives Smudge a hug. They sit down and talk, making conversation that parodies the sensationalist atmosphere of Real World. Smudge holds up a half-full glass of water. “Hey, how come I only have a half-glass of water? Is it because I’m only half-straight?”
The protagonist looks weirded out, and quickly starts talking to his girlfriend. Smudge, however, has his guinea-pig feed off of the protagonist’s plate. He tries to get Smudge to stop, mistakenly calling him Smush. “It’s Smudge, dude. What, you can’t remember my name because I’m bisexual?”
“No, no!” the protagonist insists, pointing at the guinea-pig on his plate. “It’s just your little ferret.”
“It’s a guinea-pig,” Smudge corrects, taking him off the plate. “His name is Freedom… and he’s bisexual.”
The girlfriend worries that he doesn’t like animals, saying that her last boyfriend dumped her because of her cat. The protagonist tries to suggest not mentioning the ex-boyfriend’s name on TV, but she turns to the camera and personally insults the ex. When she then asks what he was going to say, his response is “I was thinking how great it is that Smudge is bisexual.” He gives Smudge a thumbs up, while Smudge looks unconvinced.
Later in the episode, someone gets back at the protagonist by telling the Real World members that the protagonist hates animals. He opens the door to be greeted by Smudge throwing blood on him while screaming that he kills animals. “That’s for you, Freedom,” Smudge says, giving Freedom a kiss. He continues to harass the protagonist about his supposed animal hating, causing the protagonist to run to another part of the building to get the guy mad at him to tell everyone he’s not really an animal hater. One of the people not involved thinks Freedom is a rat, and the protagonist reacts without thinking and kicks Freedom off the roof. Freedom survives the fall, but gets run over by a steamroller. Smudge has a Sylar-like look of murderous rage.
Later, while off-camera, the protagonist apologizes to Smudge about killing Freedom. “No, dude, don’t sweat it. I hate animals.” It was all a show for the cameras. Smudge seems like he’s actually an okay guy, and he starts to talk about potentially getting into a career as an investment banker. Then the cameramen show up, and Smudge jumps on the protagonist’s back and starts slapping madly at him. “That guinea-pig was my life! Taste my bisexual fury!”
So, yeah, that’s the gist of the clips. Smudge, or whatever his name is, is provocative for the cameras to be interesting enough to film, but is really faking. Bisexuality is used here as something weird for a guy to blatantly discuss, serving to make the protagonist uncomfortable. I find it a little offensive for accusations of biphobia to be portrayed as senseless complaints thrown out all willy-nilly. In the real world1, prejudice against bisexuals is a real issue, and it is often expressed by both the straight and gay communities. I’m sure there can be some kind of humor poking fun at bisexual guys that is both funny and respectful, as is much of the geek humor on The Big Bang Theory, but this just misses the mark.
1“I know not this Real World of which you speak. My real world is the real real world.” –Cory, Boy Meets World