EliathRose

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Message to Readers

After that mess of a publish, here it is again! I hope this one is correctly formatted, and again, correct me if anything I say is incorrect.
I did notice a typo: when it says "It explicit LGBTQ representation, giving off a feeling of 'it’s OK to be queer, just don’t announce it,'" it's supposed to read "It denies explicit LGBTQ representation." Sorry about that!

Queerbaiting | An Informational Piece

July 25, 2020

FREE WRITING

9
    *The term "queer" is used in this piece, but is not meant to be used as a slur*

    What Is Queerbaiting?
    Wikipedia describes the term "queerbaiting" as "a marketing technique for fiction and entertainment in which creators hint at, but then do not actually depict, same-sex romance or other LGBTQ representation." In other words, the writers or other creators of a piece of media will tease LGBTQ representation without any payoff, usually to attract more of an audience. This can come in the form of refusing to reveal a character's sexuality, making comments that could hint at a character being queer, making references that are only understood within the LGBTQ community, and coding the character as something other than heterosexual. Of course, the lines between ship teasing, queerbaiting, good friendship, queer coding, etc. can get really muddled and confusing, and there's not a straightforward, steadfast rule as to what is and isn't queerbaiting. I think that as a general rule, media that is created by creators who are aware of what they are doing are more deserving of the label than something that was, say, written by someone with the pure intent of showing a character that is simply different. In this piece, I am going to try my best to give some examples of what is queerbaiting and how it is harmful.
    
    What Are Some Examples Of Queerbaiting?

    Some of the most popular examples of media that includes queerbaiting are the shows Riverdale, Supernatural, and Sherlock, as well as a couple of different works by J.K. Rowling and some characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I will say now that all the information I say about Riverdale and Supernatural is mainly coming just from things I’ve heard from others about those shows, as I have never watched them myself. 
    In one of the earlier trailers for Riverdale, a prominent part that was featured was Betty and Veronica making out. This was bound to catch the attention of an LGBTQ audience, as it gives hope that there will be some type of representation within the show. Unfortunately, the kiss wasn’t exactly what it seemed, and it left some of the audience feeling disappointed. It seems like a pretty cheap way to rope people into watching the show, and it hurt more people than it helped.
    Supernatural is one of the largest shows accused of queerbaiting. There are many different examples of queerbaiting in this show, such as keeping sexualities ambiguous, jokes about characters’ queerness (especially based on the idea that Dean is bisexual), little comments in interviews about how characters were played (such as Misha Collins being instructed to act like a “jilted lover” in his character’s response to Dean), and making queer references (Dean referencing Purgatory, a gay bar in Miami). There are some indicators that the show’s ratings may have increased after they made Dean and Castiel’s relationship more ambiguous in its nature, which could indicate that they were succeeding in gaining a larger audience by using these tactics. The characters, however, through all of this, have not gotten together officially, and nobody’s sexuality has been completely confirmed. From the different places I looked, I gathered that Supernatural might not be over yet, so there is still a chance, but for now, it looks like there won’t be anything soon.
    Sherlock is another huge show that is accused of queerbaiting. From the very first episode, the possibility of the main characters, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, getting together romantically does not seem implausible. They are mistaken for a couple by Mrs. Hudson when they go to 221B Baker Street and again by Angelo when they go out to eat dinner, not to mention Mycroft making a sly comment about it; Sherlock’s sexuality is kept neatly ambiguous when John asks if he has a girlfriend, to which Sherlock replies, “Girlfriend? No, not really my area,” which then prompts John to ask if he has a boyfriend, and all Sherlock says to that is no, but “I know it’s fine;” the two share many intense stares; and, only hours after meeting, John readily shoots a man to save Sherlock. That’s only the first episode, too -- later on, there’s more intense staring, more being mistaken for a couple, and still, the characters do not get together. Outside of the show, the creators are always saying how the two’s relationship is incredibly important, and everybody who works on the show is completely aware of the fandom’s take on their “friendship.” Taking their relationship out of it, however, Sherlock gives almost no hints of being interested in a romantic prospects of any sort, and he is also sometimes viewed as asexual and/or aromantic. In response to this, writer Steven Moffat said, "It's the choice of a monk, not the choice of an asexual. If he was asexual, there would be no tension in that, no fun in that -- it's someone who abstains who's interesting.” Besides indirectly bashing asexuality in characters, this is explicitly stating that there is “fun” and “tension” in keeping Sherlock’s sexuality ambiguous, and therefore intriguing more LGBTQ audiences to stay interested in the character. If there was any indication that Sherlock’s sexuality was confirmed or that John and Sherlock ended up together, it might be a different story, but as the show looks to be finished, all of those indicators ended up going absolutely nowhere. 
    In J.K. Rowling’s works, the characters of Dumbledore and Grindelwald are occasionally accused of being used for queerbaiting. Dumbledore’s sexuality was never expressed in the books, and although it wasn’t really plot relevant for Harry to know about Dumbledore’s romantic life, he still knew something about the past and present relationships that some of his heterosexual teachers had. It would have been simple for the information to just pop up somewhere, and it didn’t have to change the story at all. Rowling only confirmed the character’s sexuality after the book had been released, and then she had the chance to portray the Dumbledore/Grindelwald relationship in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but it still didn’t happen. This made it seem as if Rowling was just using her comment about their relationship to gain more of an audience while still appealing to the more homophobic audience by not explicitly showing their relationship. 
    In the MCU (or Marvel Cinematic Universe), characters tend to be more coded as queer without it ever being explicitly stated. Valkyrie, who is widely considered to be bisexual, is never givin a confirmed sexuality within the movie itself. Loki, who was originally genderfluid and bisexual, is also never given the opportunity to state that in the movies. Marvel seems to be skirting around representation, especially when they’ve mentioned the possibility of creating queer characters in the past. This almost feels, at least to me, more like fear than purposely trying to draw in audiences, though the latter could still be at play. 
    
    Why Is Queerbaiting Harmful?

    Queerbaiting is harmful for different reasons. It gives creators the opportunity to use people’s sexual and gender orientations for their own profit, almost as if it’s nothing more to them than a tool to gain a following. It explicit LGBTQ representation, giving off a feeling of “it’s OK to be queer, just don’t announce it.” Representation is so important in media, whether it’s people of color, people with different religions, or people with disabilities, and LGBTQ representation is no different. It’s incredibly affirming to see somebody like yourself on TV or in a book, and I think that it needs to happen more often. Normalizing the existence of queer people is also important, as some homophobic people just don’t know much about the community, and media has the ability to give those people the tools they need to become more understanding. In conclusion, queerbaiting is a system used by creators to gain more LGBTQ following, and is harmful to those who just want to see themselves represented in media.
 
This is a nonfiction piece, not a social post or conversational piece (looking at you, WtW).

Sources:
All of the shows, books, and movies mentioned
TV Guide
Wikipedia
I can't remember every specific place I looked, sorry; however, I did look up all of the information I used on this and made sure different sites were saying the same thing; if something is factually incorrect, please let me know.

Another good resource for more information on queerbaiting is Sarah Z's YouTube video WHAT IS (AND ISN'T) QUEERBAITING. I've found it to be one of the most helpful essays dealing with the topic.

Also, happy 10th anniversary of Sherlock! Despite all the problems with that show, it still remains my favorite one to this day. 

 

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  • July 25, 2020 - 9:14pm (Now Viewing)

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9 Comments
  • curiouser

    Replying: I didn't know exactly what Queerbaiting was until I read this piece (but I had heard it thrown around a fair bit; I just assumed it meant purposely leading on someone who was gay by being ambiguous in sexuality/interest). Thanks for educating me! It was very well written too. As an questioning asexual myself I found myself nodding vigorously at the mention of Sherlock. It's... beyond insulting to be called boring for something I can't help-- something that couldn't be put in a show for the director's greed (as you said, sex sells). Reminded me of the shockingly poor representation of asexuals in the TV series House (curing it like a disease "What does it matter if she says she's asexual?" "It's the fundamental drive of our species. Sex is healthy..." "You're going to have to accept that she just doesn't want sex." "Lots of people don't HAVE sex. The only people who don't want it are either sick, dead or lying."), the end of the fucking world and other such shows. Implying that myself and many others are broken and lack any feelings at all has had a lasting effect on me, but I won't get into it here, as I've already written quite the essay for you here (oops). Anyways, what a great work!


    20 days ago
  • outoftheblue

    replying: ajshshgsshshhs fr though cursed child was an avpm 2 fanfic alright.


    20 days ago
  • outoftheblue

    This is so well-written and informative! Jughead was also asexual in the comics, but the *cough* Riverdale writers made him straight, so they're terrible on that front too :(

    (also jkr who?)


    20 days ago
  • EliathRose

    Ah, noticed a typo: when it says "It explicit LGBTQ representation, giving off a feeling of 'it’s OK to be queer, just don’t announce it,'" it's supposed to read "It denies explicit LGBTQ representation." Sorry about that!


    20 days ago
  • Paisley Blue

    Replying: yeah, she was one of my, like, heros, and then I found out about all of the stuff she was saying and changing with Dumbledore and other characters. It almost felt like personal betrayal, which makes no sense, but... I guess I think an author has a responsibility for their book and the people who are reading it. They can't... idk disrespect it. Sorry, the words arent coming out right at the moment, but do you get what I mean? I felt very let down by her actions. It was almost like she wasnt mature enough to move on when Harry's fame crested. Shes making herself look bad, and that is almost as bad as looking bad itself. Sorry for the rant—I'm done now! :)


    20 days ago
  • Paisley Blue

    This is a great, informative piece! Thank you for this!


    20 days ago
  • pineapples

    omg you're so right though, awesome piece!
    also, the thing about harry potter is it was written in the late 1990s/early 2000s, and it was kind of okay (not really, but compared to now, there was much less awareness) that there was basically no representation in the books. I was pretty much fine with it: the book was written in a time that didn't demand too much of authors when it came to characters (I'm not saying it's okay, i'm just saying i sort of understand why there was NO representations) but I think j.k. rowling's problem was that she was trying to keep up with the times way after the series was over. harry potter was obviously her best and most well-known work, and it just feels like she's just trying to keep it alive. she could've dropped it. everything would have been okay. dumbledore's sexuality didn't matter AT ALL, but it's definitely queer baiting that she announced that he was gay.
    the thing is, i don't really care what she has to say now. if he was gay, she should have said it in the books. if hermione was black (i believe she said that) then she should have outright said it in the books.

    sorry for the rant lol.
    basically, love the piece!


    20 days ago
  • sunny.v

    awesome work again, haha glad i could help! nice dissection of the examples: keep it up!


    20 days ago
  • kemi

    Thank you for this informational piece! I love your analysis of the shows and all your research is so beautifully compiled.


    20 days ago