A media work's attempt to lure an LGBT fanbase with either false hints of representation or stereotyped, non-essential LGBT characters
"Sometimes we'll do a take for that demo. I'll brush by [Maura's] blouse or maybe linger for a moment. As long as we're not being accused of being homophobic, which is not in any way true and completely infuriating, I'm OK with it."In the world of newspapers, there is one definition of "queer baiting": to invoke homophobia as a means to suggest unreliability (e.g. "... an openly-gay ex-Olympic fencer"). In popular media, there is another: to portray queerness in order to attract an LGBT Fanbase (and also the liberal and Millennial viewers also more interested in seeing representative stories), but never actually confirm it. Though the term seems pejorative, queerbaiting is not necessarily negative, but as a means to capitalise on both the queer and straight storytelling potential, and to retain as large an audience as possible. Basically, it's allowing the audience to see what they want to — and never outright denying nor confirming anything. This is the queer preamble to a Ship Tease scenario, but it is not always surrounding a couple — in some cases, it may be the suspected belonging to the LGBT+ community of a single character. This extends it to include cases of characters that may appear to be trans*, asexual, polyamorous, and other identities under the LGBT umbrella. Queerbaiting may also be present in works where the suspicion has in fact been resolved: confirmation either In-Universe or out, either for or against (i.e. explicitly stating a character's sexuality, even if their behaviour is contrary). One of these resolutions is the Bait-and-Switch Lesbians trope: teasing a lesbian couple, but they're really just very close, straight, friends. It is frequently commonly associated with the television shows Supernatural and Sherlock, surrounding their male leads. In these cases, the characters are named as straight, but still given homoerotic interactions with each other — it is also most likely a conscious decision. It is important for fans to remember that not all instances of perceived queerbaiting are a malicious effort on the part of the work's creators, that it may be unintentionally appearing that way, or just noticed by queer fans. Of course, there are many deliberate examples, both in works and in cleverly designed promotional materials. In works the queerbaiting is likely to be rather overt content, or the kind of subtext which has a long queer-related history; in promos it will likely be moments that only appear as queer as they do without the actual context they would appear in. Within the use of queerbaiting versus actual representation, you may have noticed a gender divide, and it is reasonably apparent: creators are much more open to showing actual queer women characters. This is probably because it will supposedly not alienate any part of the audience: it appeals to queer people and straight men, and both marketing and psychological research suggest that if the characters (no matter gender or orientation) are developed then female viewers will not care to not watch. There is another situation which fans may also designate as queerbaiting, this is the inclusion of characters that are gay in-name-only: examples where a character, who could be a main character, is confirmed as queer, but the ramifications of this (same-sex attraction, interest in queer causes, etc.) are never seen — they might as well be straight for all the effect it has on the character and story. This being practically the reverse of standard queerbaiting by taking a queer character and giving them wholly straight attributes, may perhaps be an attempt to hide this sexuality whilst still having "representation" and to attract queer, and liberal, viewers whilst also placating Heteronormative Crusaders. This scenario is one that appears to be happening more often in The New '10s, possibly in line with progressive social change forcing more representation. Of course, not all representation is done well, and may even further be teasing queer audiences without substance. What is today referred to as queerbaiting was once the only legitimate way to incorporate homosexuality into a work, for example in the play Rope, but is now often seen by fans as an excuse to avoid having representation whilst reaping the benefits of playing both sides, getting the queer and straight audiences happy to watch, and "punishing" the queer viewers by leaving them without a satisfactory storyline and exploiting their desire for one to keep them watching with only little chance of genuine queer characters. One specific, 2010s, form of queerbaiting is the Bury Your Gays version that caused public outcry and even sparked campaigns against the trope. The queer character's death would occur shortly after either confirmation of their sexuality/gender or something significant related to this (first happening in Buffy the Vampire Slayer when Tara got shot after having sex with Willow). Thus, it further supports that the character is being killed or Put on a Bus for their queerness, both in universe and out, and is more meaningful in the way that the representation had only just occurred but has been taken away before it can be cemented and have an effect on the work. See also: Homoerotic Subtext, Hide Your Lesbians.
— Angie Harmon (Jane Rizzoli) on Rizzoli & Isles
Examples of commonly-discussed queerbaiting works, with descriptions and explanations, can be found in the Analysis tab.
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