Pride Month Character Spotlight: Darryl Whitefeather
Welcome to the twenty-sixth article in our Pride series for the month of June! Each day we will be highlighting a different LGBTQ+ character who we think is a great example of representation, dynamic characterization, and overall badassery. Check out the rest of the series here.
He’s gettin’ bi.
As one of the few bisexual male characters on television, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Darryl Whitefeather (Pete Gardner) is paving the way for positive bisexual representation in media.
Darryl comes into the series as the title character Rebecca Bunch’s (show co-creator Rachel Bloom) new boss at a law firm in West Covina, California. A proud 1/8 Chippewa, Darryl immediately steals your heart as a goofy, endlessly loyal, earnest figure who wants to do right by his friends, employees and people in general.
From the beginnings of his exploration into his sexual identity to his pink, purple and blue-colored Huey Lewis-esque coming out song, Darryl’s journey towards accepting his bisexuality was fun, awkward, confusing, and enlightening–much like in real life.
At the beginning of the series, Darryl is undergoing a divorce from his wife and trying his best to be a loving father to his daughter Madison. He starts to discover another side to his sexuality as he hangs around Rebecca’s male friends, especially Josh Wilson, aka White Josh (David Hull).
What I appreciated most about Darryl’s coming out storyline was that it was gradual, taking quite a few episodes for him to come to the realization that he is bisexual, culminating in one of my favorite songs in the entire series:
The song works to dispel many of the misconceptions of bisexuality (that bisexual people are “confused” or “indecisive,” or that they are a “player or a slut”). He acknowledges these in the song, working to reaffirm that bisexuality is a valid sexual orientation and is not a “phase”. The song is also very much in keeping with Darryl’s character, so instead of coming off as hokey or overdone, it’s instead sincere and a bit goofy (like many of the songs in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) as that is who Darryl is.
While to the characters the song seems to come out of nowhere, the audience recognizes that the song comes from gradual and well-done character development. Even though his realization is put in a staged musical number, the fact that the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend writers took the time to write Darryl exploring this side of himself rather than making it some sort of sudden epiphany shows an understanding of how a person might come to terms with their sexuality. Everyone does it differently, but it’s refreshing to actually see that played out on screen.
Another important aspect of his character is that Darryl, like Raymond Holt in Brooklyn 99, is shown in a loving and normalized relationship with another man, White Josh, for much of the series. Despite Darryl’s initial interest in WhiJo as his “fitspiration,” the two men are, for the most part, shown as equal partners in the relationship, and other than some early miscommunication as Darryl was discovering his sexuality and some jealousy, there’s no sense of one man not being good enough for the other. They are balanced and both bring something to the table. Both are earnest, open and honest in their pursuit of each other, and neither feels like they have to change themselves drastically for the other to love and accept them (something that some straight couples in media seem to struggle with).
It is also important that Darryl’s daughter Madison and WhiJo have a relatively good relationship in the series, and that Madison has all but accepted her father’s new relationship, regardless of WhiJo’s gender identity. Through WhiJo and Darryl, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend addresses and effectively dismantles the misconceptions and arguments against gay couples raising children. Madison doesn’t care what gender WhiJo is as long as he’s good to her father and her father is happy.
Darryl’s bisexuality doesn’t take over his personality. He is still the same lovable Darryl he is at the beginning of the series, but he is a little more secure in himself and happier. His relationship with WhiJo is a major part of his story, but it’s not his entire story and none of his friends and colleagues treats him any different for it.
In short, bisexuality is an identity that often gets the short end of the stick in media. Rather than taking the time to show a character on a journey, it is usually handled in a slapstick fashion, slamming labels onto poorly-written characters whose journey of self discovery can be summed up in a fifteen-second recap.
LGBTQ+ representation, when done well, is about normalizing the presence of such characters in media particularly because LGBTQ+ people are present in everyday life. Darryl Whitefeather’s bisexuality is another part of who he is, a goofy boss, a loving dad, an earnest friend, and an excellent addition to an ever growing roster of well-written LGBTQ+ characters in media.