Queerbaiting – Definition and Meaning
What is this queerbaiting I speak of?
Well, since you’ve asked,queerbaiting is a marketing strategy in many spheres of popular culture(TV, fiction, music) that baits audiences into consuming the product with a promise of same-sex relationships or LGBTQ+ representation. Suffice to say, no such thing ever occurs: Only hints are dropped, and fans are left disappointed. No wonder there’s so much queer fanfiction.
As we celebratePride Month, we should be able to recognize problematic practices around LGBTQ+ representation like rainbow-washing (brands pretending to support LGBTQ+ but never following through, likegreenwashing) and queerbaiting. This is why I’m taking the liberty to trash some of the most popular and notorious examples.
Why is Queerbaiting Harmful?
I know that many people dismiss LGBTQ+ representation in the media, saying that what happens in the real-life fight for equality is far more important. They are right to a degree: Real-life rights are certainly more impactful than TV rights. But they are also wrong. In order to normalize LGBTQ+ in wider circles, the world of entertainment needs to step up and increase visibility – and queerbaiting is a lousy way to do it.
Normalizing queer content is only the tip of the problematic iceberg.The most harmful effect of queerbaiting is that it invalidates LGBTQ+ experiences.想象看一个电视节目,你与character: They seem to have the same dreams as you and hint at following through, and then, suddenly, they do a 180° turn and go off to raise a mongoose farm (although there might be something to it). You might feel disappointed, right? Well, queerbaiting is ten times worse than that.
The LGBTQ+ community already suffers from erasure and invisibilization inhistory, politics, and media, so seeing someone out there to whom they can relate can offer solace and comfort. Thebait-and-switch tactic of queerbaitingdenies them that opportunity and possibly increasesanxiety and depressionbecause the media sends a (somewhat subliminal) heteronormative message by doing so.
The Most Notorious Queerbaiting Examples
I promised I would trash popular culture, and I’m going in with a bang with some of the most mass-consumed media content that suffers from incorrigible queerbaiting.
Queerbaiting in TV Shows and Movies
If anything is massively produced and consumed, it’s TV and film. You’d think that it would also mean more legitimate representation, but alas, it seems like all the major productions are only rainbow-washing. For example:
- Sherlock and Watson.There is both implicit and explicit queerbaiting going on here. Explicit queerbaiting is when characters joke about or express outrage at the idea of being in a romantic relationship (which happens in the first episode when Mrs Hudson assumes that the two are in a relationship and seeking to move in). Implicit queerbaiting happens in various symbolic hints, subtexts, and underlying ideas, whichSherlockabounds in. And yet, Watson marries Mary, and it seems like even Sherlock has a thing for Irene Adler. Not. Nice.
- Dean and Castiel fromSupernatural。Now, this is a hot mess of a show. Dean and Castiel build a steady, definitely-looking-like-a-romance relationship before the show tanks everyone’s hope of it ever happening. The fans are outraged, massive criticism happens, and, suddenly, Castiel is confessing his feelings. Only to die straight afterwards. Like, what!? The whole “bury your gays” trope is detrimental to the entire LGBTQ+ community because it acts as the so-called narrative prosthesis that serves as a crutch for luring audiences in before being stomped out of existence.
- Once Upon a Time– basically everyone。If there ever was a show that was throwing queer hints like that dude dishing money in a meme, it wasOnce Upon a Time.Emma and Lana, Kristin and Lana, Maleficent and Regina – all those baits and nothing to show for it.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe。Marvel producers announced it was high time Marvel got a queer superhero, only to have a throwaway comment dropped in inAvengers: Endgame。On the flip side, the Valkyrie inThoris widely accepted as queer, with Thor himself (somewhat) clumsily supporting her. We’re waiting to see what Loki brings in his TV show, especially since Loki is extremely gender-fluid and pansexual in actual mythology.
- Daenerys and Missandei fromGame of Thrones.Now, Daenerys has had her fair share of lesbian sex in the novels, but it seems that the TV adaptation was not so keen on developing it into a more structured narrative.
And, sure,Dumbledore and Grindelwald in theFantastic Beastsfranchise. JK has stated that Dumbledore was gay, but the movie seems too reluctant to tease that out. Make of that what you will.
Queerbaiting in Cartoons
Cartoons also use queerbaiting tactics sometimes, although, arguably, not as much as some other media. For example, the Disney movieLucahints heavily at a same-sex relationship between the protagonist and another kid, but there is no realization in the end. Still, given that the protagonists are children, maybe it’s not the most dramatic thing if the cartoon is not too focused on sexual themes (not because it’s not for kids, but because sometimes it is nice to stay kids).
Disney has been criticized for upholding “traditional American family” values and using queerbaiting as a marketing strategy. So far, it seems that they are aware of the potential in creating LGBTQ+ content, but we haven’t got much to go on. We’ll see when the real full-fledged LGBTQ+ protagonists will hit the Disney screen.
Queerbaiting in Music
Music is not exactly the first source of queerbaiting that comes to mind because it generally does not come with a whole narrative in each song (unless we’re talking about musicals, but I’ll be honest with you, Broadway is fairly queer). Music functions on multimedial levels right between the screen, the reality, and the sound system.
Like TV shows, music’s success depends on fans’ active engagement. If fans aren’t watching music videos, buying CDs, and listening to songs on Spotify, the artist’s revenue suffers. Even more so if the fans aren’t there for live performances. Some pop-culture icons have resorted to queerbaiting in order to draw the fanbase in, promising representation and falling short of it.