Female Director Spotlight: Desiree Akhavan Tackles Sexuality with Refreshing Honesty

Often semi-autobiographical in nature, Desiree Akhavan’s work unabashedly celebrates what it means to be an Iranian-American bisexual woman. As an openly bisexual filmmaker who centers her experience of bisexuality in most of her works, Akhavan has had to frequently deal with critics expecting her to deliver a “taboo-breaking drama on bisexuality.” To this, Akhavan responded in an interview for the Independent that she is merely trying “to figure shit out for [her]self” rather than put forth a “taboo-breaking” narrative on the matters of gender and sexuality. Indeed, it is worth questioning why gay artists are expected to deliver ground-breaking work when the film industry persistently denies funding, access, and support for gay artists. When gay people are still fighting for their right to simply exist, ground-breaking becomes a luxury reserved for the most privileged. 

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Art, Autobiography, and Sexuality in Desiree Akhavan’s ‘The Bisexual’

Many critics of Desiree Akhavan’s The Bisexual have condemned it for not being explicitly subversive enough, somehow implying that because of Akhavan’s bisexuality, she necessarily has to write a neat arc which leads up to a climatic acceptance of main character Leila’s sexuality. I believe that form of criticism in itself is worth interrogating: Why do we expect LGBTQ-centered media (particularly, those by LGBTQ artists) to live up to a totalising and universalising narrative, when all of us have differing experiences on sexuality because of our varied socio-political circumstances? And why do we place the burden on LGBTQ people to figure out all there is to do with sex, gender and sexuality when the world is persistently denying and censoring our access to all these things?  Continue reading “Art, Autobiography, and Sexuality in Desiree Akhavan’s ‘The Bisexual’”