It's A Sin 'not nearly as biphobic' fanedit

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As should be obvious, I am not a fan of the broadcast version of It's A Sin, because of the biphobic and bi-erasing script..

.. but some fanedits are about removing the worst of the crap and seeing what's left1 and assorted gushing articles about the show in the past month, both in 'best of year' pieces and on the anniversary of its first broadcast, did get me thinking: how much effort would it be to improve it?

Episode one

Henry, talking to Colin in the pub about sex pest Mr Hart: "I can always find ways to introduce his wife into the conversation."

Having the "wife" line adds nothing except a biphobic stereotype: 'married man who wouldn't want his wife to know what he's doing with other men', with added 'sex pest' thrown in. Having those can be fine – some lovely bi people do have an 'anything that moves' attitude to sexual partners, for example – but It's A Sin is yet another Russell T Davies series where the portrayal of bisexuality is nothing but biphobic stereotypes… when it's not actively bi-erasing.

Lose that, and there's no signal whatsoever that Mr Hart is married – in the previous "clean it, and clean it again" scene, he's not wearing a wedding ring – and isn't just yet another older gay sexual predator after much younger men.

Twelve words.

A bit later…

Jill: "Do you wanna meet him then? Ash?"
Ritchie: "I'm not, I wasn't, I was just literally looking."
Jill: "So, you're not gay then?"
Ritchie: "No! Oh, my God, no!
[Cut to a bar later]
Ritchie: "I'm more like bisexual really, 'cause, you know, then you can fancy anyone in the room. Walk into a party, there's double the choice."
(Later) Jill to Ash: "This is Ritchie, he says he's bisexual, so he can have sex with you or me, so what do you wanna do? Wrestle for him?"

When I first saw the show, I was already going "this is the 'gay really' stereotype" of bisexuality at this point. I was right: it's not even the 'just a phase' one, given that he's not interested in the clearly very willing Jill, and his porn collection is homosexual only.

Without that exchange, Ritchie would have been treated as gay from the start, confirming what we've already seen, what we're about to see, and what we see later: him saying about this exact point in his life "I came to London when I was 18. I thought, 'Great, I can be gay.'" Jill mentions he's never had a girlfriend, all his sexual fantasies we know about are exclusively homosexual, etc etc.

There are some people who identify as bisexual before going on to identify as something else, but without any positive representation of bisexuality, this is clearly him being shown as 'says "bi", gay really'.

This is the longest edit: if you lose from "just literally looking" to the scene immediately after, where Ritchie and Ash are about to (not) have sex, gay Ritchie is simply not out to Jill as anything (yet), and the jump between saying that and getting off with Ash is funny.

Sixty one words.

(You also could cut after "Oh, my God, no!" = fifty one words gone, with him just denying he's gay to someone who's just called another gay man "a bender".)

Episode Two

Ritchie: "Hm, what about bisexuals, do they only get sick every other day?"

It is an example of the 'bisexual = half gay' stereotype, but I'd keep that – it's not as if there was (or is) any shortage of biphobic comments on the gay scene.

Elsewhere, because of the cut in the first episode, Mr Hart's the gay cottager caught in some toilets with another young man, not the married bisexual cottager etc.

I could argue about "Barry Manilow" at the start, as the first of the 'married, then came out as gay' = 'just a phase / gay really' name drops (to remind you, the others are Philip Schofield, Rock Hudson, and Michael Barrymore). If I wanted to do a thorough job, I'd do it via dubbing someone else's name. Hmm, Kenneth Williams?

Episode Three

Scene: gay bar after an audition where Ritchie's been checking out Donald
Ritchie: "I thought this might be your sort of place."
Donald: "No, I'm just having a drink before I go back to the wife."
Ritchie: "Whoa. That's quite a bit of acting. No, I'm not convinced."
Donald: "Well, I got that part in 'The Chimney Sweep', which means you didn't."
Ritchie: "I know. You stole my life."

It's possible that Donald is having a joke – having listened to the line numerous times in the process of doing this, there is the slightest change in his accent when he says it – but he doesn't acknowledge that Ritchie has got him on that. Instead, Donald just says he's better at acting.

Until I did hear it a dozen times, one after the other, I saw it as Ritchie saying that that Donald's pretending to be bisexual: he's 'says "bisexual", gay really' too.2

Alternatively, with the 'Donald's making a joke' reading, Ritchie is saying that Donald's in a gay pub, therefore the idea he's married / bisexual is "whoa"-level unbelievable. (We know he's ignorant / prejudiced about bisexuality: see the 'half the time' line in episode two…)

You could go straight from them checking each other out at the auditions to the sex – there's one look between them in particular a couple of minutes earlier that means that doesn't come as a surprise – but that would mean losing the "you stole my life" line, the significance of which comes from the way that, later, the only clearly HIV+ man we see Ritchie having sex with will be Donald.

Lose from "before I go back to the wife". It's still a joke – he's just having a drink, and it just happens to be in a gay pub3 – or with some dubbing and fitting work, you could change "the wife" into, oh, "the factory" or "t' pit" or "the palace" or.. and have it more clearly as acting the line.

Six words gone, and Donald is what we see him as throughout the rest of the series: a young gay man on the scene, who gets HIV, develops Aids and – presumably – dies.

A bit later…

Landlady's son in a flashback, fucking Colin: "Shut up, you little bender."

Hmm, Colin has to get HIV for the purposes of his dramatic arc and it has to be from sex that the rest of the gang don't know about. You could lose the last three words, but I would be tempted to keep them.

Episode four

The Roscoe / Garrison exchange would be the most difficult:

Roscoe and Garrison are hiding in a store cupboard, waiting for the right moment to make an official entrance at the event the latter has organised. Mrs Thatcher has just arrived – they've just seen what's supposed to be her from the rear.

Roscoe: "Oh, my God. Have you got a hard-on?"
Garrison: "I am standing to attention."
Roscoe: "You dirty dog."
Garrison: "Well, I can't help it. She does make things rather exciting."
Roscoe: "That's for her??"
Garrison: "The Lady."
Roscoe: "You're hard for her??"
Garrison: "It's quite a thrill."
Roscoe: "She gives you a hard-on??"
Garrison: "Roscoe, you're young, you don't understand the world yet."
Roscoe: "I understand that you're gay."
Garrison: "Good God, I'm not gay."
Roscoe: "Then what are you with me?"
Garrison: "Well, every so often one has to shove one's face in the shit just so you can lift your head up and smell the sweet roses afterwards."

Mmm, lose the middle, so it becomes:

Roscoe: "Oh, my God. Have you got a hard-on?"
Garrison: "I am standing to attention."
Roscoe: "You dirty dog."
Garrison: "Well, I can't help it … every so often one has to shove one's face in the shit just so you can lift your head up and smell the sweet roses afterwards."

Fifty five words gone, but keeps everything nasty about Garrison without going LOOK YET ANOTHER BISEXUAL BEING BAD.

Episode five

I don't think there's anything that needs doing with this one.


So one hundred and thirty four words gone and the vast majority of the biphobic crap has gone: both "says 'bisexual', gay really" characters are now what they're exclusively shown as, gay; the main predator is no longer a married man4; and the Tory MP isn't explicitly bisexual in his erections.

There's still the bi-erasure – quick reminder that not only does the series start at exactly the same time as the UK bisexual community, it even has scenes in (what's supposed to be) exactly the same place the London Bisexual Group met for its first couple of years.5 If someone wanted to tackle that, it'd be possible to edit in a poster or two, or have the London Bisexual Group banner6 at the 'not ACT-UP' demonstration, for example..

.. but if twenty four words was enough to say something about the problems of having no legal status for same-sex relationships,7 with nearly five and a half times that, you could have had a single named lesbian character!

Or you could justify one of Jill's words to Ritchie in episode two:

If there was an illness, and say you had it, and you slept with him and then you slept with him and then you slept with 500 people, like all of you do, every weekend, then tell me, Ritchie, if you're so clever, what's going to stop it spreading? What's gonna save you? Your A Levels? Get smart, idiot. [kisses him on the forehead and leaves]

Even though we're only shown all the men she's talking about being exclusively interested in other men, and she's just said "slept with him.. slept with him", note that it's "500 people" not "500 men".

I'm not including this as a bit of bi representation as it stands – it's just as likely to be meant as a subtle 'promiscuous gay men are people too' – but with a bit of work elsewhere, it could have been.

This is how easy it is to not to have a script with bisexual characters who are only bisexual stereotypes without any positive representation of bisexuality.

  1. See the ones of The Phantom Menace, for example. It'll never be great, but they save it from being utterly terrible. 

  2. The eye contact they've had, and the rest, says Donald's not straight even before we see them having sex. 

  3. For UK readers in January 2022, think "I went out into the garden and it just happened to be an (illegal) party I stayed at for twenty minutes" or "That meal just happened to have my interior decorator invited amongst others and involve a birthday cake for me, but it wasn't a 'birthday party'…" 

  4. Remember that this was decades before same-sex marriage! 

  5. The management of Heaven may have been running London's gay superclub, but they knew far more than a certain writer that bisexual people were there as part of the wider queer community. 


  7. "And there's just nothing we can do. Nick's got no legal standing whatsoever. He's not a widow, he's not an ex. He's just nothing." 

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