Let's talk about that scene from Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. You know which one I mean — the one where an unexpected ex of John Constantine's is revealed.
In a post-Apokolips-tic world, Constantine and his accomplices including Etrigan and Raven go to recruit the Suicide Squad, led by Harley Quinn, to help them in their fight against Darkseid. They arrive at an underground fight club where the whole squad is hanging out slash beating each other up.
Constantine sees Harley and her crew and says, "Oh bollocks. It's my ex."
Raven says in her best mean girl impression, "You and Harley? Gross."
"Do I look mad?" Constantine asks.
The camera cuts to King Shark who gives Constantine a little wink and smiles with a seductive growl.
That's the scene that has led to no fewer than a dozen articles claiming Constantine canonically bottomed for King Shark in the film — add to that fact that the infamous clip from the film was viewed over a million times, and it's safe to say people are pretty worked up.
But here's the thing: there's never any mention of their sex life in the movie. When I first saw the clip making the rounds on Twitter, I was sure that film had to go into their relationship in greater depth given all the hubbub. I was pretty sure DC hadn't wandered into showing full-on sex scenes, but I had to see for myself. The above scene is the extent of their interaction, outside of maybe a few moments where they're battling hordes of baddies.
The insistence that a smirk, a wink, and an admission of an ex means that we know all about Constantine and King Shark, how they bone down, and their relationship dynamics is deeply problematic and, honestly, biphobic.
John Constantine has long been one of the most visible bisexual men in comics — and when Matt Ryan transitioned from portraying him on his own titular series to portraying him on DC's Legends of Tomorrow, we got to see a bisexual Constantine onscreen, too. As Ryan has continued to voice the character in numerous animated appearances, it's created some interesting connections between the different portrayals, including his bisexuality translating to the animated film Justice League Dark: Apokolips War.
In the film, Constantine and his main squeeze Zatanna are recruited by Superman to attack Darkseid and kill him before he conquers earth. Constantine, as he does, tells everyone this is a supremely bad idea. And what do you know? As he watches first his colleagues and then his love succumb to Darkseid and his forces, Constantine's theory proves out. Whoopsie doodle.
A couple years later, Raven and a de-powered Superman decide they need Constantine's help to find Damian Wayne who will help release Batman from Darkseid's control. It's a bit convoluted, but the whole thing results in characters who have historically been at odds working together to bring Darkseid down.
In the process, we learn that King Shark and Constantine are exes in the scene above. Notably, this represents the first time King Shark has been presented as overtly queer, but the humanoid shark and son of the Shark God has always embodied a certain relationship to one's body that could be read through a queer lens. (Another article for another day.)
So let's just go ahead and take a stroll through the horses***tery that is the discourse around this moment in the film.
To start, the presumption that you can look at two people and know who does what to and for whom relies on heteronormative assumptions about queer sexuality — that one person be the penetrator and one the penetrated. This reeks of a long and storied history of straight people asking queer couples, "Who is the man? Who is the woman?" This very notion is tired (and not just because of the outdated gender binary reference.)
Queer relationships have their own dynamics — and yes, some reify heteronormative practices and norms, but the queer people I know? The queer relationships I'm in? We all actively work to de-center heteronormativity and the toxic gender binary in our relationships.
Why does anyone assume they know anything about King Shark and Constantine's relationship from that moment? All we really know is that they're exes and that Constantine feels awkward seeing King Shark at that moment. Help me out here… how does that lead to bottoming? When did they say that that's how they frakked? Who said they even did?
Perceiving all bisexual+ people as if we are DTF at all times a boring, tired trope. To also presume that they must have had sex to be exes is…oh my god, I don't know. Childish? The best way I can think to clarify this oversight is through another of John's relationships. On DC's Legends of Tomorrow, he and Gary Green have a relationship. There's an episode that requires a virgin sacrifice (I know, eyeroll) and Constantine offers that they can use Gary as bait. Gary is like, "Hey, John, didn't we… I mean, am I a virgin?" And Constantine says something to the effect of: "What we did doesn't count."
Setting aside the deeply problematic virgin thing and the does/doesn't count thing, this instance sets a precedent for understanding that Constantine's relationships take many forms — and that being sexual can mean more than one thing. To be clear, I'm not saying what Constantine and King Shark did or didn't do. What I'm saying is that to claim that we know what they did is BS.
Furthermore, two other love interests of Constantine's are also mentioned in Apokolips War: Orchid and his main love interest, Zatanna. Where's the speculation about him bottoming for them? What, you don't think feminine people can do that? Do I need to teach you about how queer people of all genders use the terms topping and bottoming to describe a variety of behaviors, acts, attitudes, and dynamics?
Listen, I can't even get into the nuances of bottoming and why it's gross for people to be applying that term to someone who hasn't self-applied it.
So, maybe you can see why it's more than a little frustrating for all this complexity to be collapsed down into "LOL Constantine bottomed for King Shark" with the implied "Gross," as if some viewers are doing their best mean girl impressions, too. And, hey, it's not just straight people engaging in this, but also queer people and publications — and to me it just highlights how far we have to go in creating equity for bisexual people.
Queer people are more than sex organs and sex acts — and that's all the more important when it comes to discussing bisexual+ people, a group of folks like me who are more likely to experience sexual assault and poor health outcomes than our monosexual (gay, lesbian, and straight) peers.
How we talk about fictional characters reveals how we think about real people. And the way some of y'all are talking about Constantine and King Shark betrays how little you think of bisexual+ people like me.