Spoilers for Life is Strange and Life is Strange: Before the Storm
Yesterday was Bi Visibility Day, a day in which bisexual people are enthusiastically—or sometimes begrudgingly—acknowledged as actual real members of the LGBT community. It was also a Pagan holiday, but never mind that. This isn’t about Pagan holidays because this blog isn’t about Paganism yet. Right now, it’s about whatever its been about for the last few posts. And in the case of Bi Visibility Day, I think it’s worth mentioning a certain bisexual character whose sexuality is often ignored by both fans and non-fans alike. An icon—or dare I say “bi-con”–due to the down-to-earth aspects of her character. I’m of course talking about Maxine Caulfield, main character of the video game Life is Strange.
Although Max is never directly identified as bisexual, her sexuality doesn’t necessarily need to be stated. It would have been nice, but unfortunately the writers shied away from committing to a label. In fact, sexuality is never really discussed or mentioned in the first game. Life is Strange: Before the Storm is a little better about this, as one of the characters—Steph–directly mentions wanting to be in a relationship with Rachel Amber. Yet they never actually use the word “lesbian”, despite the implication being there. It’s almost like the writers were scared of using that word in any possible context, even while dealing with the subject matter. However, Max is very clearly bisexual. In the beginning of the game, Max mentions—depending on whether or not you trigger the dialogue, but whether you trigger it or not doesn’t really impact the validity of the statement—that she likes “skater boys”. Max also seems to have a very obvious crush on Mark Jefferson, as expressed by her nervousness and how often she gushes about him. The game still gives you the option to have Max pursue Chloe, a relationship that eventually—depending on player choice—shapes the majority of the game’s romantic aspect. But of course some people choose to interpret this as a binary choice—i.e. “Max can be either gay or straight, depending on how you play”–while ignoring small little bits of dialogue that indicate that Max is bisexual. To put it simply, Max is only eighteen years old and has very little romantic experience. She is still figuring out her sexuality. When the player enters the narrative and takes control, the game seems to be pushing Max towards Chloe and away from Warren. While Max wholeheartedly flirts with Chloe, she expresses very little interest in Warren as anything other than a friend. Regardless, she is still given the option to kiss him in Episode 5. This kiss has no bearing on anything else and can be interpreted as Max “throwing Warren a bone”, which would be very problematic in most circumstances, but especially problematic if Max really was intended to be “straight or gay” depending on the playthrough. The fact that the option exists indicates that—regardless of whether you choose to pursue Chloe or not—Max is bisexual in every possible version of the narrative. The options in the game are based on Max’s mindset. If she chooses to consider kissing Chloe, it’s because she—whether consciously or subconsciously—sees nothing inherently wrong or undesirable about kissing a girl. There is no choice in the game that doesn’t inevitably lead to Max considering kissing Chloe. Every choice is a plausible decision within Max’s own mind. That’s why the player cannot manipulate the narrative based on their own perceptions. Specifically, even if you realize that Mr. Jefferson is responsible for everything, there is no option for Max to come to that exact realization on her own because that goes against her character.
In short, Maxine Caulfield is a flawlessly written bisexual character. It’s just unfortunate that people often ignore this aspect of her, painting her as either straight or gay depending on how they feel about the Chloe-Max relationship. But bi-erasure is very real and very prevalent in media. Movies like Below Her Mouth present a very binary and ultimately harmful view of womens’ sexuality in which a boyish lesbian seduces a previously straight woman who is forced to conceal the relationship from her boyfriend. The concept itself misses the existence of bisexuality in order to market the movie as “a lesbian love story”. There are so few truly and blatantly bisexual characters in media.
This is another reason we need a day dedicated to bisexual visibility. We need to be reminded what the B in LGBT stands for, because apparently people very often forget.