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Bait-and-Switch Lesbians

"We like our ladies to go les... but not full les."
Bryan Safi, That's Gay

In the eyes of fandom, a show's major selling point is that its principal characters are Schoolgirl Lesbians... but oops, it was just a Romantic Two-Girl Friendship after all! The viewers have been Ship Teased; and now that the writers got their attention, they can write more comfortable (to them) relationships. The lesbian subtext may not even last beyond the opening credits.

The is pretty common in Bishoujo fandom, where the Romantic Two-Girl Friendship develops for a number of unintentional factors. One could say that audience likes girls in large quantities, and seeing two girls acting cute, even at each other, is better than one. One could also point out that far more attention is put into the interaction and communication between the girls; while a relationship with a guy just "happens" with most development offscreen. And if they're the only people you see but the show still maintains particular tropes, the audience is sometimes led toward an imagined payoff that might not be there. Often, this is coupled with a young age for both characters as well as the lack of any actual 'sexuality' in either character, barring concessions, as this outcome is harder to rationalize for an adult character. Note that any romantic relationship with boys, on the other hand, is considered completely serious at any age. Yes, it's hypocritical.

Tends to raise the hackles of a show's Yuri Fandom, who tend to crop up more infrequently, but also makes them paranoid in the long run. Any male friend of one of the girls becomes the Sword of Damocles; a possible route of escape for the writers via Last Minute Hookup. So expect malevolence. It takes frustratingly little for a male character to become a love interest. A single scene, or a "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, can instantly make canon overturn entire seasons of meaningful interaction between female characters.

An ironic result of this is making a relationship explicit can result in enough fuel for viewers who oppose the shipping to simply scoff that any evidence of the pairing is "just fanservice." The fact that a great many shows avoid portraying relationships in significant detail muddies it further: so many other shows cop out at the last minute, so why should this one be different? The writers won't ever admit anything anyways.

Outside of canon this trope is invoked a lot especially in H-doujins due to a rather persistent tendency for male writers to be intimidated by the idea of girls who don't find them sexually attractive (though generally only mildly). This is the reason why a disturbingly large number of popular lesbian characters and characters who are popular in part because of their near lesbian tendencies are depicted in huge amounts of heterosexual porn with a random male insert or more and very frequently in the form of rape instead of with each other. Think of it somewhat as the Distaff Counterpart to All the Good Men Are Gay except this time, you can get them back on the "home team" so to speak.

This trope is also occasionally applied to male characters, usually in order to appeal to Yaoi Fangirls and an LGBT Fanbase without alienating straight viewers, in which case it's usually known as queerbaiting. Queerbaiting is usually considered quite homophobic, patronising and cynical when it's done these days, but in the past was often the only way queer creators could make media featuring characters like themselves due to the values of the time. In these cases the Slash Fic fanbase often shows up to make the Subtext text.

Compare Faux Yay. Related to the Sweeps Week Lesbian Kiss.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga 
  • While the original Maria-sama Ga Miteru novels are a bit more lenient in subtext, the anime only has one canonical pairing, derailed when one member went off to become a nun, and when two girls are about to kiss, the camera cuts away as if it were something much more Harmful to Minors. This is especially unusual, as Marimite is pretty much defined by its Girls Love fandom.
  • Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040 spent its first half building the Sempai/Kohai relationship — and Romantic Two-Girl Friendship — between Priss and Linna. The final half of the series drops this subplot like a hot potato for a sudden romance between Priss and Leon that fits the "offscreen explanation" part of the trope to a T; Leon shows up at her club while she's on stage, does a smarmy clap for her, Priss grins a bit, and from thereon in they're treated as dating. Ironically, it was the original Bubblegum Crisis OVA that gave rise to the mantra among many early anime fans that "All women in anime are lesbians. Unless they're bisexual."
  • Nana
    • At its core, the interesting relationship between the two titular Nanas: one a tough punk-rocker, the other a girly girl who likes frilly fashion. Disappointingly, most of the manga depicts the two girls' relationships with comparatively bland or annoying guys, to the point where the carefully set up romantic tension between them is all but thrown overboard—which isn't helped by the fact that one of them gets knocked up.
    • One Nana develops an infatuation with her roommate later in the series, encouraging her to get together with (and get back to) the one decent opposite-sex relationship that she finds... because the man in question is close to both of them, and that will keep them together. She moons over her in a way that she doesn't moon over the man she eventually marries. Nothing comes of it though and both women do eventually marry. In later chapters however, we find that, after a short while, both women do separate from their husbands. One of them leaves Japan, and the other plans to go after her, claiming that she "loves" her.
    • Ultimately, the theme of the series is that love is a hell of a thing to sort out.
  • The OVA for Saber Marionette J introduced Marine, a new Marionette who somehow imprinted on Lime as her Master — and therefore, her implicit love interest. Although there is plenty of subtext in their relationship, Marine eventually realizes that her true love master was the ocean, the first thing she saw when she awoke (underwater). Complicating this is Lime's perception of affection is generally much more childlike than the other androids. The more likely explanation is the OVAs are Non Serial Movies whose topics couldn't be put into the next season of the show.
  • The opening credits of Venus Versus Virus combine this with Bait-and-Switch Credits, although the two girls never really have that kind of relationship in the show, which isn't helped by the Gecko Ending of the anime. Despite all this the manga is licensed as a Girls Love manga. The two have quite the Romantic Two-Girl Friendship - not helped by all the touching, blushing, and lampshades- and by the end it's all but stated Lucia is in love with Sumire. However Sumire's bond with Lucia took a turn for the worse late into the series and even when it's rekindled it's ambiguous whether her affections are the same
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena shocked fans by giving them what they wanted, but through a conclusion that suggested more than it showed. Utena and Anthy are engaged, share a room, share a bed, make a wonderfully handsome couple on campus, and gaze at each other adoringly during the opening credits. Their feelings for each other grow more and more intense as the series progresses. And, in the end, they do choose each other over any male love interest! Many fans believed, however, that the way it was depicted wasn't explicit enough, leading to much debate about whether or not Anthy/Utena should be called a canon couple despite the director's confirmation that it is. Ironically, when The Movie went on to depict the relationship as explicitly romantic, many fans then claimed to dislike it because it was somehow TOO obvious and thus fanservice.
    • On the other hand, Utena has a rare male/male version of this trope in the relationship between Mikage and Mamiya. While their initial interactions are unambiguously romantic, it eventually turns out that Mikage (or better said, Professor Nemuro) was actually in love with Mamiya's older sister Tokiko all along, with his desire to help Mamiya being primarily for Tokiko's sake. Furthermore, the Mamiya seen throughout this story arc is revealed to actually be an illusion acted out by Anthy; the real Mamiya was Dead All Along, and the entire "relationship" was nothing more than a ploy by Anthy's brother Akio to manipulate Mikage.
  • The relationship between Fate and Nanoha in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has quite a bit of this, leading to some Internet Backdraft. The makers of the show likely didn't want to ruin the True Companions-dynamic with romantic relationships, but they really push the issue by making the female leads share an apartment and even a bed together—not to mention having them adopt a child who starts calling them both "mama".
    • Nevertheless, the Megami Sound Stages tried to explain that really, Fate was "more of a sister to Vivio" than a mama, and that Fate sent herself into deep space missions in order to "get out of the way." Something the voice actresses of the characters themselves have declared Canon Discontinuity.
      • The Vivid manga (which take place two years before Force, in the same continuity as the other works in the franchise) retconned the Megami Sound Stages, by the notes along the first chapter (which said Fate and Nanoha raised Vivio together) AND Vivio, who said in the same first chapter that she had two mothers (and acknowledging it's something strange, but they're her mothers), and the last Soundstages released for the C76 Comiket definitely sunk any possibility of the Yuunoha pairing. And in bonus, we have Vivio in this Sound Stage saying in the prologue that she is Nanoha and Fate's child.
  • The opening credits of Magical Pokaan feature TWO pairs. Although the four main female characters are paired up and almost-kiss each other while sort of naked, nothing even close to this happens in the actual show... but then again the entire OP seems deliberately misleading.
  • Used in an episode of Rental Magica. In order to ensure the safety of her mage corporation, Addie plans on getting married - to Honami. Almost the whole episode is spent on them preparing for this girl-girl wedding. Then Itsuki interrupts, runs off with the brides, and declares that he'd rather marry them both. It was an Almost Kiss too...
  • A lot of relationships between the girls in Oniisama e... (which is a manga of The Seventies) get blown up prematurely by various degrees of human failings. In the end all female main characters - with the exception of Rei, who is dead by this point - enter relationships with men.
    • Actually, Nanako refers to the "university student" she fancies in the end... with gender-neutral pronouns. She could perfectly be about to date an university girl, as far as we know.
  • Hidamari Sketch has a mild example, in that Miyako sometimes flirts heavily with Yuno, just to let things fizzle out because of her unfocused nature. And then of course there is the relationship between Hiro and Sae, although that is more a clear case of Romantic Two-Girl Friendship.
  • The relationship between Mikan and Hotaru in Gakuen Alice has something of this. Despite both girls becoming ever closer in the course of the series, leading to numerous heartwarming moments, it is becoming very clear that the writer intends to hook Mikan up with Natsume, a boy. Sure, all of the characters are relatively young, but still...
  • The Aoi Hana anime combines this with Bait-and-Switch Credits, what with all the romantic imagery involving Fumi and Akira. Sure, Fumi is openly lesbian and seen in an unambiguous relationship with a girl, but that girl is not Akira.
    • The manga almost moved into this territory. Of all the (potential) yuri pairings, it seemed only the one between Hinako (the girls' adult teacher) and her girlfriend Orie would survive the author's penchant for odd plot twists, only for the ending to reveal Fumi and Akira got back together and are in a live-in relationship after graduation.
  • A particular egregious example is the relationship between Akihito and Hiroomi in Kyoukai no Kanata. The narrative is not at all shy about Will They or Won't They? tension between Aki and Mirai, and yet Hiroomi acts gay as hell whenever he's around Aki, including lovingly touching his body and giving him an Affectionate Nickname. When Akihito and Mirai inevitably ended up together, some fans complained about Hiroomi allegedly existing just to trick Yaoi Fangirls into watching a show revolving around yet another heterosexual romance.
  • The emotions between the girls in ARIA often reach romantic levels, only to be cut off before they become too obvious.
    • Fans noticed quite a few scenes in which Alicia and Akari seem to be very close to kissing. Maybe this is the reason why Amano introduced some rather forced male romantic interests later on.
  • A somewhat mild version occurs in Magical Project S between Sasami and Misao, since the characters are underage. They're very close friends, and there's subtext there, but the end of the show very haphazardly pairs them up with their Ryo-ohki and Rumiya respectively, even though they didn't know either boy had human forms until the end of the show.
  • The old Girls Love manga Maya's Funeral Procession ends with one of the girls marrying her male childhood friend, even though up until that point she'd been very Squicked by the idea of marrying him, since she viewed him as Like Brother and Sister.
  • You're Under Arrest! features a very intimate relationship between two Lovely Angels. The couple gets a lot of Ship Tease from manga omakes, endings of the anime, and official artwork. However, they both have male love interests and don't express any romantic feelings for each other. Compared to their male love interests, which tend to be forced and they typically have an awkward relationship with, their relationship is the main cause of troubles in the series.
  • Rika and Hanyuu come millimeters away from kissing -with hands intertwined and eyes closed, no less- in the closing theme of Higurashi: When They Cry: Kai. Rika is fairly Ambiguously Bi but it's never so obvious.
  • After all the heightened emotions, almost-declarations of love and subtext between them, Canaan and Maria choose to separate because their lifestyles are too different—and they don't even once contact each other again. A lot of yuri fans felt this was quite a cop-out. At least the makers decided not to kill any of them off or suddenly give one of them a straight option out of nowhere...
  • DearS combines this with Bait-and-Switch Credits with an on screen kiss between Ren and Miu during the credits.
  • Hyouka has a lot of implied romance between Chitanda and Ibara in the ending credits. Strangely, this isn't even shown until the end of the second episode, and by then it's pretty clear that they don't even have a Romantic Two-Girl Friendship in the series itself.
  • Comes up often in Rinne no Lagrange, especially in the scene where Madoka and Lan make dramatic Love Confessions to each other...for a movie. That last detail was left out of the episode preview. They were actually supposed in a relationship at some point, but this was written out of the show before it aired and replaced with lots of subtext and this trope.
  • Minako and Saki in Erica Sakurazawa's Between The Sheets. Not only does Saki vehemently reject Minako and even denounce the friendship at the end after a series of events, but Minako ends up with a new boyfriend. (Though she does say she'll never love him as much as she loves Saki.)

    Cross-Media 

    Film 
  • A common complaint about Kissing Jessica Stein, in that the two women don't end up together (and it's implied that the Jessica ends up with her ex-boyfriend shortly after the two come out). The problem with this, though, is that people don't seem to note that it's outright stated that neither woman is explicitly gay—in fact, outside of the relationship, Jessica is only seen dating guys while Helen dates both. Also, the film shows the entire course of the relationship, over the space of nine months.
  • In Twilight (the movie) Alice says that she and Bella will be "really good friends" in a suggestive manner, and Edward responds with a sneering, "Can you keep your thoughts to yourself!" It turns out that Alice is SO TOTALLY NOT GAY, and she REALLY REALLY MEANT THEY WOULD JUST BE GOOD FRIENDS.
    • The book has a good bit of this at well. That line is in the actual book, as is Alice pointing out that Bella" does smell good!" As is the bit about Alice loving Bella deeply. Then throw in how often Alice hangs on Bella, carries her around, etc. and you've got a ripe lesyay shipping bed—except Meyer, as a devout Mormon, would not write lesbians into her story.
  • On the DVD commentary for Bring It On, the director notes that a scene showing Kirsten Dunst and Eliza Dushku (who has a strong lesbian fanbase) in bed together wasn't intended to hint at girl-on-girl action. Really!
  • The Israeli movie Walk on Water is about a Mossad agent who is sent to assassinate an aging former Nazi, then meets the man's grandson, who gives him a new outlook on life. They get really close. I mean, really close, and then it is revealed that said grandson is gay. Then, in the end, the Mossad agent gets together with the grandson's sister, an until-then-minor character. The Ho Yay between the agent and the grandson, however, was so blatant that I couldn't help but wonder if the grandson was originally intended to be the agent's Love Interest.
    • Considering that the film is all about people of different categories looking past their differences, I think it's actually thematically necessary the Mossad agent to be straight. But I would agree that the homoeroticism between the two leads is thick, and it's easy to see him marrying the sister as a thin substitution for his real goal.
  • In the Female Prisoner Scorpion series, protagonist Matsu's relationship with Yuki is pretty ambiguous. In the first film, they clearly care about each other a lot, but it's not clear if this has a sexual dimension. The third film features the same actress playing someone with the same name, but who is clearly a different character, although Matsu apparently recognises her (it's a tad complicated). This Yuki is either enfatuated or fascinated with Matsu, but is fairly Messed up when it comes to sexual matters.
  • A rather old example, from a 1930s play-gone-movie. Karen and Martha from The Children's Hour share a close intimate friendship, though Karen is engaged to a man. Their friendship is full of subtext on both sides but only Martha is revealed to be gay.
  • The trailers for Jennifers Body tended to focus heavily on the Les Yay kiss between Jennifer and Needy. In the actual movie, Needy is completely straight and Jennifer is a literal man eater. It is possible that the kiss was shoehorned into the film explicitly for trailer material. That said, Jennifer's true orientation is left ambiguous. It's possible that she dates a lot of men simply because of social-jockeying and indeed, some of her lines hint that she's bisexual or a closeted lesbian. Given that she frequently interrupts intimate moments between Needy and Chip and is incredibly possessive towards her, there is a lot of evidence to support the latter theory.
  • The trailers for Sherlock Holmes focused on the sexual subtext between their Hotter and Sexier versions of Holmes and Watson with other characters commenting that they should get a room, and the trailers for the second one focused on Holmes trying out crossdressing and flirting with Watson and so on. All the cast interviews emphasised it, too. This subtext is in the actual films, but goes absolutely nowhere - the only payoff of it in the first is a scene with Holmes talking to Irene in a way that can be interpreted as either romantic for her or romantic for Watson.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Quite a few Alias fans suspect that Rachel was intended to be a lesbian due to her pointedly saying that Agent Grace wasn't her type in an early appearance. For whatever reason, she was confirmed as straight later.
  • A decidedly vocal section of the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit fandom firmly believed that Alex and Olivia were together, Shipping Goggles aside. This was later disproved by Olivia being baffled at the idea that she might be gay, much to the irritation of the A/O shippers. (Dick Wolfe is not known for his bravery about this, however. "Is this because I'm a lesbian?", anyone?)
  • The majority of the advertising for Rizzoli & Isles seems to be created with the mandate "do everything you can short of blatantly lying to convince prospective viewers that the leads could end up making out at any moment." Anyone actually tuning into the show will discover that, despite copious amounts of Les Yay, they are both, in fact, heterosexual.
  • Ally McBeal copped a lot of shit when it turned Ally and Ling's kiss into an Aborted Arc.
  • A constant criticism of Sherlock is that the copious amounts of Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today? and Not That There's Anything Wrong with That between Sherlock and John is an attempt at queerbaiting, especially since both characters are quite obviously never going to kiss and get various female love interests. However, the first episode to give Sherlock a female love interest (Irene) delved quite deeply into the heartache caused by the various Incompatible Orientation-dependent romantic attachments that he, Irene and John had stumbled into, pushing it further into being actually queer, if also loaded with Unfortunate Implications depending on how you feel about out lesbians falling in love with men. It should also be pointed out that one of the series co-creators is an openly gay man.
  • Once Upon a Time has been accused of this.
    • The first season had Emma and Regina share several long, angry stares with their faces inches apart while fighting over Henry, who is Emma's biological son and Regina's adopted son, in a way that resembled a custody battle. They have also combined their magic to form a portal to reach another world when it was previously said that true love is the only magic powerful enough to transcend realms. They have also combined their magic on several other occasions. The two have since been paired off with male love interests.
    • There have also been complaints regarding the relationship between Mulan and Aurora in the second and third seasons, which had some very heavy sexual innuendo. It ended with Mulan seemingly on the point of declaring her love for Aurora, before finding out that Aurora was pregnant by her husband and walking away sadly. Shippers were not happy.
  • Faking It basically does this in-universe as its central plot.

    Music 
  • Pop group Tatu did this for early marketing. Horny guys think the two singers are lesbians, buy the CDs, find out they're a pretty good group. Continued onstage after they were known not to be, sort of an odd musical equivalent of Kayfabe.
  • Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl", which is pretty unambiguous in its title and rode to success on being a mainstream song about girl-on-girl action, backs away from the idea in the video by not showing any girls kissing each other and finally turning out to be Katy's dream as she wakes up beside her boyfriend. Her boyfriend, you see? Okay.
    • The fact that she has a boyfriend is stated in the lyrics, so it's not too much of a switch.
    • There was a spoof of the song featuring Karen Gillan as Katy Perry called "Why I Kissed a Girl" where she claims she only kissed a girl to get a hit. At the end of the video she is picked up by her boyfriend and rudely ditches the female dancers she was performing with up to that point.

    Theater 
  • Elphaba and Glinda from Wicked have a very close bond. It starts off as pure Foe Yay full of Belligerent Sexual Tension but morphs into a fluffy friendship, most likely the closest in the musical. It's even thicker than in the source book, as the musical focuses almost entirely on them. However Glinda is apparently in love with Fiyero and Elphaba's in love with Fiyero, plus he lives in the musical, so that gets in the way of any of their romance. Word of Gay backs their romance up but it's hard to say whether they were ever together.

    Video Games 
  • Since your typical hentai game has one or two major male characters and boatloads of pretty girls, the marketing images often involve multiple female characters looking mighty friendly, even if there's not even a romantic friendship between them in-game. For that matter, several games play up a romantic friendship between two girls and teasingly suggest that one of them may be gay for the other, only to eventually drop that subject without so much as a girl/girl kiss ever being shown. Obviously some authors do not agree that Girl on Girl Is Hot. Or are using Girl on Girl Is Hot to advertise.
  • On the surface the Neptunia series seems to have all the Les Yay an all female game could want, but playing through the games themselves shows that there is only one, possibly two, girls that like girls, and the only certain one is a dlc character in a game that got retconned.
  • You can bet that, considering the Improbably Female Cast, the Touhou fandom has every trope regarding to love etc covered in detail multiple times over - including this one. That said, ZUN never stated or denied homosexual relationships between his characters and also never used this trope himself, so when discussing it with fans, please use discretion.

    Web Comics 


Badass GayQueer as TropesThe Bear
Men Use Violence, Women Use CommunicationGender Dynamics IndexThe Bechdel Test
Badass PrincessAlways FemaleThe Baroness
Bait-and-Switch GunshotBait and SwitchBait-and-Switch Tyrant
Venus Versus VirusImageSource/Anime & MangaVideo Girl Ai

alternative title(s): Queerbaiting
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