Representation of bi men in popular culture is practically nonexistent ― but a new YouTube series is starting to change that.
“The Feels” was created by writer Tim Manley and filmmaker Naje Lataillade, who met as high school teachers in New York City. The series, which was released online on Sept. 1, stars Manley as the awkward and endearing Charlie, a bi illustrator and high school teacher trying to navigate manhood and queerhood.
Manley told The Huffington Post that as a bi man the lack of representation of men similar to him in popular culture sometimes made him wonder, “Am I the only person whose had these experiences? No, it’s just that not enough people’s stories are being broadcast. It’s not yet a cultural norm.”
The episodes are about five minutes or less in length and many portray Charlie openly grappling with his bisexuality. In the episode “Visibility,” for example, he talks about the frustrations of dating and being an openly bi man.
“The stories Charlie tells of his love life are heavily based on true stories I’ve told... The other actors are friends and family from my regular life. My best friend from kindergarten is in it, my mom is in it,” Manley told HuffPost in regards to how he came up with his character Charlie.
Rather than a typical major story arc, Manley said that each episode of the show is more a series of tender human moments. “We could probably construct a traditional narrative around this character, but life (at least my life) doesn’t always follow a clear narrative,” Manley told HuffPost. “Our original intention was to make a live-action comic strip, a daily dose of humanity.”
“The Feels” deals directly with the topic of sex or sexuality, but there are some episodes about family, friends, general neuroses and random human moments in our day-to-day lives (the first episode, “Wet,” is all about Charlie dealing with his thinning hair.)
“It seems to me that if a character on a show is queer, it’s often their defining feature,” said Manley. “But this doesn’t feel true to my life, where queerness is sometimes but not always central to my experience.” So rather than making every single episode a statement about bisexuality, Manley has instead created a show about a sensitive and complex man who just so happens to be bi. “The Feels” beautifully normalizes that a person’s sexual orientation is just one facet of who they are overall.
He credits the show’s tone to having co-created it with documentary filmmaker and photographer Lataillade. “We’ve wanted to collaborate on something for a while, and finally sat down to brainstorm together,” he said. “It grew into this larger project, but it started with two friends just trying out what seemed most interesting to them. I think that’s why the resulting show may feel so intimate ― it was created in that safe space where you’re allowed to say things you can only say in front of a close friend.”
Manley explained that he didn’t necessarily create the show to “fill a gap in representation.” He wanted to write a character who felt true to him. “I was writing straight from my heart,” he said. “And it turns out my heart is pretty queer.”
Manley and Lataillade release a new episode of “The Feels” every day ― catch them all here.