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Bait-and-Switch Lesbians

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"We like our ladies to go les... but not full les."

In the eyes of fandom, a show's major selling point is that its principal characters are lesbians... but oops, it was just a Pseudo-Romantic 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.

This is pretty common in Bishoujo fandom, where the Pseudo-Romantic Friendship develops for a number of unintentional factors. One could say that the audience likes girls in large quantities, and seeing two girls acting cute to 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.

This practice tends to raise the hackles of a show's Yuri and LGBT Fanbase, 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 anyway.

This trope is also occasionally applied to male characters, usually in order to appeal to Yaoi Fangirls and an LGBT Fanbase without alienating homophobic viewers, in which case it's usually known as queerbaiting. Queerbaiting is usually considered quite homophobic, or at least 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 (and laws) of the time. In these cases, the Slash Fic fanbase often shows up to make the Subtext text.

Compare Faux Yay and Gay Romantic Phase. Related to the Sweeps Week Lesbian Kiss.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • While the original Maria Watches Over Us 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 Senpai-Kohai relationship — and Pseudo-Romantic 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 there on 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 Pseudo-Romantic 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 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 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.
  • Played with in the opening credits of Puella Magi Madoka Magica. There's a scene where two naked, sparkly versions of Madoka hold one another in a transformation sequence, with the second Madoka kissing the transformed Madoka on the forehead to complete the transformation. Cut to the actual show and there's barely any touching or sign of a romantic relationship between the nearly all-female cast. The infamous space hugs between the naked but sparkly forms of Madoka and Homura were edited in the movie cut to be wearing white dresses. Cue Rebellion, though, and the romantic tension seems to be turned all the way up in a deliberate fandom nod, with the English dub somehow being even more shippy between the girls.
  • 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 Dear Brother (which is a manga of The '70s) 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, except possibly Nanako, who refers to the "university student" she's dating with gender-neutral pronouns.
  • 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 Pseudo-Romantic 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, 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....
  • A particularly egregious example is the relationship between Akihito and Hiroomi in Beyond the Boundary. 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. Many fans complained about this trope applying to Alicia and Akari, the intimate mentor/student main duo; and Aika, who had a huge girl crush on Alicia for her work as one of the top Primas in Neo Venezia. That the story focuses so much on the former two's relationship, with the finale placing extra emphasis on their emotional goodbye before Alicia's retirement and Akari beginning to place herself in the same role for Ai, feels very weird when compared to the boys they were all actually teased with (who admittedly do get chapters devoted to their relationships with the girls, but not nearly as much as their relationships with each other). And sure enough, Alicia was revealed to be in a heterosexual relationship the whole time, with part of the reason for her retirement being that she's getting married soon.
  • 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 Mentor Mascots 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 duo 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 trouble 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. To be fair though, a big part of the reason why they're not a couple is that they're related... specifically Rika is Hanyuu's descendant.
    • There's a considerable amount of promo material for the anime involving Mion and Shion being rather intimate with each other, more than you'd expect out of siblings, even if Shion does love teasing her sister in ways as brazen as flashing both their underwear in the manga and the visual novel.
  • 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 Pseudo-Romantic Friendship in the series itself.
  • Comes up often in Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne, 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.)
  • In When Marnie Was There, Anna forms a Pseudo-Romantic Friendship with Marnie that comes perilously close to making the Les Yay subtext oozing between them virtually confirmed text with the two of them slow-dancing together underneath the moonlight and declaring each other to be the "the girl I love more than any other girl". Then all the Les Yay is killed dead in the water when it's revealed that Marnie is the spirit of Anna's grandmother. Or Anna's fantasy of her built on the half-remembered stories her grandmother told her about her life. It's complicated. This applies to the original novel the film is based on as well.
  • In the ending credits of Classroom Crisis, Mizuki and Iris are shown acting as if they were a couple, complete with meaningful gazes and going on dates. Alas, they are never shown to have such a relationship within the show, and at one point Mizuki even admits she has fallen in love with Nagisa, a guy.
  • In the opening credits of ×××HOLiC, Maru and Moro are seen holding each other and being very touchy-feely, and it's clear that they're about to kiss before looking at the camera. However, the show proper shows absolutely no clue of a romantic relationship between them, depicting them as young children who rarely emote and share a sisters-like relationship.
    • Doumeki and Watanuki are another example as they have an incredible amount of Ho Yay with Doumeki even implied as having feelings for Watanuki but by the series end Doumeki marries a woman and Watanuki is dedicated to waiting forever for the woman he loves to return to the shop.
  • Samurai Flamenco is teeming with Ho Yay between the two male leads Goto and Masayoshi with even an ending scene where Masayoshi proposes marriage to Goto while naked. In spite of this, the series' director stated in an interview that the two were not romantically involved, to the major befuddlement of many fans.
  • Sound! Euphonium has caused controversy due to this. Many (if not most) fans were drawn in due to Kumiko and Reina's relationship. Even though exact nature of their bond is never specified, the first season is incredibly heavy on the Homoerotic Subtext, which all seems to be moot when Reina confesses to Kumiko that she has feelings for their (male) teacher. This doesn't do much for the subtext between the two, but it's still unusual to confess feelings for someone else if you like someone, making fans debate whether anything canon was even really occurring between them. Season 2 began with the same sort of tension between the two, but over time Reina's crush on Taki took center stage in her arc (despite the continued Homoerotic Subtext between her and Kumiko). This made fans believe even more that they were being baited last season. In the books, Kumiko ultimately ends up with Shuuichi but the anime downplayed him heavily, making fans worry that they'd get Strangled by the Red String at the end. That didn't occur though. Nothing comes out of either Shuuichi/Kumiko or Reina/Kumiko. The ending of the TV anime actually had Kumiko sobbing "I love you" to Asuka, though it's hard to tell if it was platonic or romantic.. Complicating things even further is the revelation in later books that Shuichi and Kumiko broke up, which makes any subtext between Kumiko and other girls afterward stand out even more.
  • Tokyo Ghoul: Kaneki is established as Ambiguously Bi as he gets Ho Yay with a lot of male characters, particularly with Tsukiyama who is pansexual and obsessed with him to the point of "loving Kaneki above all over things" and they get much Ship Tease throughout the series with an omake having Kaneki be Cinderella with Tsukiyama as a perverted prince obsessed with eating him. Kaneki seems charmed by Tsukiyama essentially flirting with him to gain his trust and when he's acting in a caring manner to Hinami in an omake Kaneki thinks "What a gentleman. If only he could always be like this." (In regards to Tsukiyama's obsession with wanting to eat him) Although Kaneki makes emotionally charged statements of requesting Tsukiyama stay by his side until the end while naked it veers towards this as right after the Ho Yay moment Kaneki mentions Touka who he had sex with and who gave him her parents' ring which he shows Tsukiyama. Ultimately, the Ho Yay ends up being unrequited on Tsukiyama's side as Kaneki has sex with and marries Touka which he informs Yomo and Tsukiyama of. Some fans argue that Kaneki had more interactions with people other than Touka making it seem like the buildup to their romance was rushed and undeveloped. Tsukiyama seems to be crying when Kaneki tells him about his and Touka's engagement but rather than react with jealousy like he did when Touka and Kaneki were together in the initial series he chooses to go the I Want My Beloved to Be Happy route and organizes the wedding for Kaneki and Touka.
  • Count Cain and Godchild: Cain and Riff. There's an author's note about the high percentage of homosexual butlers in Victorian England. Riff is the only one allowed to touch Cain's scars and they have a ton of other intimate Ho Yay. And then Kaori Yuki claims they have a platonic relationship.
  • In Bloom Into You, one Show Within a Show inverts this, since it starts out with a heterosexual relationship, but midway through, two women end up dating and participating in explicit sex scenes. Yuu, who heard about the book, wonders if Touko went out of her way to come to Yuu's family bookstore to buy it in order to troll Yuu, but Touko later insists she had no idea about the plot twist and just wanted to buy something while Yuu was working.
  • Conversed in I Love Yuri and I got Bodyswapped with a Fujoshi!, where Yoshida explains to Hoshina what Yuri bait is and how to avoid it. The example used is two pictures of what seem to be Yuri couples. Photo A shows two girls in underwear with one hand on each other's sides and looking at the viewer, while Photo B shows two girls holding hands tightly while looking closely into each other's eyes. Which is the likely yuri bait? A, as the characters in it focus on an unseen third character.
  • In the Gender Bender manga Boku Girl, Mizuki's constant gender swapping combined with conflicting feelings for female crush Fujiwara and male best friend Takeru result in a Bisexual Love Triangle. Fujiwara eventually comes to the realization that she loves Mizuki no matter the gender, but her confession is turned down upon Mizuki both reaching the same conclusion with Takeru and realizing the series-long crush on Fujiwara was actually subconsious admiration of her femininity. The end of the story has Mizuki get with Takeru while deciding to live as female.
  • The Gender Bender manga Idol Pretender has Chinami in conflict with his desires for Yuika and his Camp Straight friend Oguri. Yuika is the first to Jump the Gender Barrier as she accepts Chinami's possible bisexuality and later her own, and confesses. Chinami starts to come to terms with his body and his growing femininity, so when he finds out Oguri does like his female form, he turns Yuika down for a shot at confessing to Oguri. The manga ends before answering if Oguri accepts.
  • In the Gender Bender manga Tensei Pandemic, the main character is about to have sex with her female crush, only to have said crush spontaneously turn into a guy and screw her.
  • SSSS.GRIDMAN features a heavy amount of Les Yay and Ship Tease between Akane and Rikka, with the marketing especially leaning into it (such as this official artwork of them in bridal dresses). However, despite the constant teasing, any hopes that Akane and Rikka could become canon were all swiftly dashed by GRIDMAN UNIVERSE, which has Rikka become an Official Couple with the male protagonist Yuta, much to the dismay of Yuri fans.

    Comic Books 
  • The original Runaways series ended with Nico Minoru declaring that she was done with boys and sharing a meaningful look with Karolina, who canonically had a crush on her. Throughout much of the second series, Nico angsted about losing Karolina after the latter went off to space, and it seemed like they might become a couple when Karolina returned. But then Karolina came back with a fiancee, and Nico ended up with Victor for the rest of Brian K. Vaughan's run. A similar thing occurred when Nico joined A-Force; the creative team hinted that something might happen between her and Singularity, only to turn around and state point-blank that it was merely a Precocious Crush on Singularity's part.
    • In Runaways (Rainbow Rowell), the creative team hinted that Molly was developing an interest in other girls, with her becoming particularly close to her classmate Abigail. It was then revealed that Abigail was a middle-aged woman in a teenage girl's body, they had a falling out, and the matter of Molly's interest in other girls was quickly dropped. However, the series does manage to avert this when Nico and Karolina finally get together.


    Fan Works 
  • At the end of the first chapter of Celestia Takes a Vacation, Princess Luna is seen tackling Twilight into her bedroom once they're sure Celestia is gone. Several chapters later, it's shown the two are actually engaging in all-night gaming sessions now that they don't have enforced bedtimes.

  • 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 definitely not gay, and she really meant they would 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 Les Yay 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!
  • 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 infatuated 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.
  • Jennifer's Body: The earliest trailers showed Jennifer and Needy in intimate situations and despite their making out in the movie, both are only seen and mentioned as being with boys. However, there is enough tension seen between them in the movie for someone to reasonably assume that the two girls were bisexual. The argument could even be made for Jennifer being a closeted lesbian since all of her male interests were either the result of jockeying for social position or trying to keep Needy for herself. In fact, after a scene of Needy gazing a little too blissfully at Jennifer, another girl says to her point-blank: "You are totally LesbiGay." Megan Fox even says she played Jennifer as a very closeted lesbian. Needy also may be at least bisexual, since she's very into kissing Jennifer. Still, this bit only makes up a small part of the film, and it goes no further.
  • The trailers for Sherlock Holmes (2009) 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.
  • Pitch Perfect: Bechloe (Beca/Chloe) had always been a popular fan pairing since the first film came out, but the social media advertising for the third film heavily ramped up the Ship Tease for it with posters of them embracing and gazing soulfully into each other's eyes and tweets coyly asking "Will Bechloe ever happen?" Much to fans' disappointment, however, Beca and Chloe remained straight in the third film. Beca's actress did push for a kiss to be filmed between Beca and Chloe, but it wasn't included in the final cut of the film.
  • Played for Laughs in one of the endings of Clue; after the whole movie is spent dropping as many hints and gay jokes about Mr. Green as physically possible while giving him tons of Ho Yay with other cast members, Green casually declares that he's going to go home and have sex with his wife, causing the entire cast to do a Double Take.
  • The Rise of Skywalker had various people in the runup announcing that the film would probably feature same-sex representation, when it was increasingly obvious one of the most popular pairings in the fandom was "Stormpilot", or Finn/Poe. Before it was even released, you had people assuming (correctly) that the moment in question would be a same-sex kiss in one shot between two unnamed characters that could be edited out of various international releases. Finn and Poe keep up their usual Ho Yay dynamic but confirm nothing, and the film also makes sure to introduce two new female characters pretty much for no reason other than for them to be the Implied Love Interest.

  • A major criticism of The School for Good and Evil series was this trope, especially in the second and third books. Sophie and Agatha choose each other at the end of the first book, complete with a kiss, and spend a lot of the second and third books going between a Foe Romance Subtext and Les Yay, only for it to be revealed that they're actually sisters so the subtext is moot.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 never explicitly have a relationship.
  • Ally McBeal copped a lot of shit when it turned Ally and Ling's kiss into an Aborted Arc.
  • Sherlock: Some of the interactions between Sherlock and John (being mistaken for a couple, jokes from other characters about being in love, Steven Moffat's trademark Ship Tease banter) coupled with John's continuous insistence that he isn't gay are seen as signs that the writers were trying to manipulate and bait the LGBT Fanbase.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • 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.
    • Creators were accused of Queerbaiting by LGBT fanbase in regards to the relationship between two main characters - Emma and Regina (I.E Swan Queen). This went to an extreme as Season 5 launches with Emma risking her soul for Regina's well-being, putting her before her son, parents, and her boyfriend.
  • In the third generation cast of Skins, Mini and Franky were supposed to have an arc where they fell in love with each other and the fifth season ends with Mini in love with Franky... then there was the announcement before series 6 that states Mini was officially straight and Mini/Franky was never going to happen.
  • Supernatural has taken quite a bit of heat from cynical fans for supposedly playing up a bi relationship between Dean Winchester and Castiel without any plans to follow through with it. The debate over whether the series' producers are knowingly baiting its LGBT Fanbase this way or not became heated enough that mainstream media outlets have reported on it. This issue was finally resolved in the final season when Castiel was confirmed to be in love with Dean, although whether or not Dean felt the same about him was left unaddressed and Castiel's immediate death after telling Dean about his feelings opened a whole new can of worms in regards to a different LGBT representation issue. This Fansplaining podcast has a good rundown of the show's complicated relationship with this trope and its LGBT Fanbase.
  • Classic Doctor Who often did this - while the people making the show were open-minded about the subject (as theatrical people tended to be even in those days), homosexuality was illegal for the first five years of its run and then prohibited from children's television by Moral Guardians for the next ten. Same-sex innuendo was often put in as a means of adding colour to the often programmatic side characters or as a means of poking gentle fun at the Doctor's enforced lack of interest in women. Naturally, this got it a large LGBT Fanbase, and many of its stars (Frazer Hines, Tom Baker, Kate O'Mara, Sophie Aldred...) got serious gay-icon cred for their roles in Who. By contrast, the 2005 revival series skips the coy innuendo and allows itself to be actually gay (with occasional falls into friendly Queer People Are Funny from time to time).
    • Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines were given a lot of room in how they wanted to play the Doctor and Jamie and chose to interpret a lot of their scenes as if they were lovers. Particularly of note is the scene in "The War Games" where the Doctor has to look for an item in Jamie's sporran, and starts rooting around in there, with Jamie making appropriate facial expressions. There's also a telesnap of the Doctor looking up Jamie's kilt with an approving expression.
    • Mike Yates would technically be the first canonically bisexual companion, but due to the era, it's mostly expressed via innuendo, such as a very suggestive look at the tea-boy who helped him infiltrate Global Chemicals and a little scene where he flirts with the Brigadier.
    • The Fourth Doctor was designed to be a 'bohemian'. His look and personality were inspired by Aristide Bruant and Oscar Wilde, both famously gay. The character himself never shows any particular interest in men note , but his high-Camp aesthetic combined with the No Hugging, No Kissing rules of the time were enough to make him an icon to a whole generation of confused gay teenagers who found little else in pop culture that even gave them room.
    • A common interpretation of "The Brain of Morbius" is that Mehendri Solon (who also has a lot of 'Ancient Greek', Sissy Villain and Effeminate Misogynistic Guy coding) is attracted to the Doctor, which makes a good deal of thematic sense considering how it's paralleled to his minion Condo's attraction to Sarah. This might also have been something that was added to justify Solon's nonsensical plan, which Terrance Dicks had complained about to the story's writer Robert Holmes.
    • Guiliano in "The Masque of Mandragora" is often considered to be gay, and appears to be in a sort of love triangle between his 'friend' Marco and the Doctor, who Marco jealously dislikes. The Doctor becomes affectionate towards Guiliano (unusual for this Doctor), giving him sympathy when he has an attack of fear; and at the end of the story, Guiliano slips the Doctor the salami (literally). The Doctor is pleased, but then gestures to Sarah with the sausage and says "I'm afraid I am otherwise committed." Draw your conclusions.
    • The guest characters in "The Stones of Blood" are based heavily on a pair of real-life lesbian socialites of the Victorian era, and a Shout-Out to their story stays in the script. It never goes further than talking suggestively about 'sausage sandwiches before bed' and one of them excitedly telling Romana about how much fun she can have with a bicycle seat.
    • There's a common fan theory that "Arc of Infinity" is based slightly on the Eurotrash gay porn that was popular in the '80s...
    • Ace was intended by multiple writers to be bisexual, with her final televised story ("Survival") involving her having a hugely suggestive relationship with a cheetah-girl. When the Expanded Universe books came out, Ace became exclusively straight (and very promiscuous.)
  • In Van Helsing (2016), Vanessa is very close with her best friend Susan, to the point that they share The Big Damn Kiss while at the Farm. And then the very next episode has Vanessa hooking up with a new male character, and the episode after that has Susan being murdered by Sam.
  • A large amount of Riverdale fans have speculated about the sexuality of Veronica and Betty. This occurred when the trailer was released showing the two kissing. In context, Veronica kisses Betty as part of an in-universe queerbaiting Girl on Girl Is Hot 'special move' during her cheerleading tryout, and Betty's main love interest in the show is Jughead. Actress Lili Reinhart, who plays Betty, stated that Betty and Veronica are just friends and that the show is not meant to be fan fiction (as if making characters non-heterosexual makes it fan fiction...), and that the kiss was just a taste of their friendship. Many fans have since stated that the kiss was used for queerbaiting. The fact that, after the kiss, the Genre Savvy Cheryl points out that hot girls kissing each other for male attention is cliché shows that the writers knew exactly what they were doing, as well. Riverdale then did it again by showing Archie and Joaquin kissing in a promo for a season 2 episode. In the actual episode, Joaquin only kissed Archie to distract him enough to stab him.
  • In the Netflix original Crazyhead, Amy and Raquel become incredibly close as the first season progresses, with plenty of subtext and awkward gay jokes suggesting that Raquel is queer and masking an attraction to Amy. Hell, the season finale features The Big Damn Kiss between the characters and what sounds like an Anguished Declaration of Love from Amy! However, by the end of the episode, Amy reaffirms that she only loves Raquel as a friend, and Raquel expresses her genuine support for Amy dating a male character.
  • The Other Two: Male example. "Pat Gets an Offer to Host 'Tic-Tac-Toe'", Cary goes out with Dean Brennon, a straight actor who deliberately 'gay-baits' by going out with men on pap-infested dates, taking gay roles, and pointedly not clarifying his sexuality to boost his career. As he later says, the prospect of him maybe being gay is more enticing than the public knowing he is either fully gay or straight.
  • Teen Wolf teased at Stiles potentially being bisexual for the first three seasons with the most blatant tease being Stiles responding to an openly bisexual character's query if he likes boys too with a thoughtful silence instead of an outright "no". This was compounded by the show's cast and crew expressing their support of Stiles/Derek, an extremely popular slash pairing in the fandom, with a number of promotional material explicitly referencing or teasing the pairing. Then in season 4, Stiles and Derek both got female love interests and the cast and crew began making statements denouncing the possibility of Stiles/Derek or Stiles being bisexual, leading many fans to accuse them of using the bisexual-Stiles subtext to attract slash shippers but then backpedaling from it when the Stiles/Derek following grew too large for their liking.
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier got in some hot water for engaging in this, particularly since it was a sequel to the Captain America films which were already very well known for having amassed a large LGBT Fanbase due to the homoeroticism between Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes. Writer Malcolm Spellman implied in an interview that Bucky's often-speculated sexuality would come up as a plot point only for it to not be the case, causing fans to accuse him of luring viewers into watching the show with false promises of queer representation. The show's advertising didn't help his case, having placed a lot of emphasis on the growing relationship between Sam and Bucky, but in a way that crossed a line from Heterosexual Life-Partners into Queer People Are Funny jokes and blatant Ship Tease. Cynical fans saw it as them deliberately manufacturing homoeroticism to replicate the popularity of the Steve/Bucky relationship for the sake of baiting the existing LGBT Fanbase without any plan to deliver on actual queer representation.
  • Victorious has been accused of playing up the chemistry between Tori Vega and Jade West to draw in viewers. While Jade has a boyfriend, Beck, she often makes suggestive comments towards Tori, including having Tori pat her down to search for scissors while telling her not to be shy, asking her at one point if she was "having fun" patting her down and telling her to "beg" for her Christmas present. Tori also goes to great lengths to help Jade, including founding her play, refusing to kiss Beck because it would hurt Jade, helping her get back together with Beck, and lying to Beck because Jade asked her to. The two are also twice made to play a married couple, are forced to go on a date, and as show creator Dan Schneider revealed years later were supposed to kiss, as a joke. However, nothing ever came of these moments with Jade getting back together with Beck not long after the "date", which lead to accusations of Nickelodeon "queerbaiting" their fans. Even the NickRewind channel posted a video on whether they should have dated or not.

  • Pop group t.A.T.u. 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. Subverted in that Julia is bisexual and Lena has suggested she isn't necessarily straight, though they never dated each other specifically.
  • 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 the boyfriend she briefly mentioned in the song.
    • 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.
  • This is the reason Todd in the Shadows declared "Girl Crush" by Little Big Town the 9th worst hit song of 2015. It starts out seeming like an inexplicably downbeat song about lesbian curiosity, then turns out to be a song about jealousy. (Though this didn't stop homophobic idiots from misinterpreting the song.)

  • Elphaba and Glinda from Wicked have a very close bond. It starts off as 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.
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy hit this hard given their fierce devotion to each other is at the heart of the whole play and they invoke almost every romantic trope along the way. Their formerly-warring families disapprove of their friendship, when the rest of the school shuns them they declare they don't need anyone but each other, are canonically "heartbroken" when they're forced apart and exchange numerous heartfelt confessions about how much they mean to each other. note  Albus is named after one of the only confirmed gay characters in the franchise, and the two of them together are pretty much a Generation Xerox of its most popular gay pairing. Scorpius refuses to live in a world without Albus in it, the villain knows Scorpius is Albus's greatest weakness and the script outright parallels their feelings with the doomed Snape/Lily romance. Then in the second-to-last scene, Scorpius... asks out Albus's cousin Rose who has acted like a complete Jerkass and treated him horribly. A number of fans were not pleased. A later update of the play would address this somewhat, by omitting the Scorpius/Rose Relationship Upgrade and all notions of the boys getting girlfriends, all while ramping up the subtext between Albus and Scorpius considerably. Despite this though, the two still don't get together.

    Video Games 
  • 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 Project 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.
  • Fire Emblem Fates came under fire for this with Soleil. Despite many in-game hints that she's bisexual with a strong preference for women, she's not actually a romance option for the female player character. Worse, she's subjected to a plot point in her supports with the male player character that some have likened to a Cure Your Gays aesop, which has drawn criticism from LGBT groups in both the West and Japan.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses also came under fire for this with Alois and Gilbert, both of whom are listed as S Support options for both the male and female protagonists. It turns out that both are already Happily Married (to women) and their S Supports with the player character are platonic, and the male player character's ending with Alois has them marrying an unnamed woman.
  • League of Legends
    • Former lore writer Runaan wrote a Twitter post where she accused Riot of queerbaiting with Graves and Twisted Fate after the Double Double Cross cinematic. Within the post, she explained she had been trying to write the pair as married for years and faced open hostility about it from her higher-ups, only for Riot to claim the Homoerotic Subtext between the pair was intentional after the fandom responded positively to it, suggesting that teasing the pair was okay but actually having the two be married was unacceptable. Riot soon did make efforts to walk the walk for Pride Month 2022, not only making Graves and TF their promotional mascots for the month (providing gay pride-themed cosmetics featuring the two), the very start of the month saw the release of "The Boys and Bombolini", a short story explicitly confirming them to be gay in canon and attracted to each other, though not officially a couple.
  • Metal Gear is very, very, very homoerotic, which is a major part of its appeal (as it's one of the things that sets it apart from other cinematic-styled games). This was not really the focus in Metal Gear Solid, which, despite the innuendo-laden subplot about Gray Fox, was marketed as a heterosexual love story about Snake and Meryl, but has received increased attention from Metal Gear Solid 3 onwards - Metal Gear Solid 4 trailers showed Raiden and Vamp in white-blood-spraying Orgasmic Combat, and trailers for Metal Gear Solid V prominently featured Snake and Kaz's Almost Kiss, for example. Despite this, the most indication of Snake's bisexuality is kept to acting choices (whether voice or motion capture) or humorous Easter Eggs, with Snake and Otacon remaining nominally heterosexual (although clear Not-Love Interest) characters until the very end. And Kaz is supposed to be a womaniser, something that gets on Snake's nerves enough that Snake has to fight him completely naked with soap flying everywhere. The only same-sex relationships that are utterly, canonically confirmed are: Volgin is having sex with Raikov, Ocelot is in love with Snake (whose degree of reciprocation is ambiguous), and Strangelove was a lover of The Boss. Even Vamp, an openly bisexual character, is only rumoured to have been involved with Scott Dolph, who he never mentions in the game (outside of a Loose Canon bonus mission); his relationships with Fortune and Naomi are way more important than anything he has with a male character.
  • The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories majorly plays with this trope. The game begins with what appears to be J.J. and Emily on a romantic camping trip until Emily goes missing and J.J. goes looking for her. Their conversations in the messenger app show J.J. to be a lot more talkative than with other people, and go into more in-depth, personal issues, and giving mentions of J.J. having a secret that only Emily knows. Everything looks like the two of them are in a potentially secret, lesbian relationship. Near the end of the game, things become even more complex. The events were a dream J.J. had while in a coma, having tried to commit suicide some time earlier. She did this because she's transgender and began to get bullied and harassed over it, and leaving her relationship with Emily in the 'real world' to be even more ambiguous. And that's not getting into the fact that Emily herself is implied to be a homoromantic asexual — someone attracted to their own gender, but having no sexual interest in anyone — and she might have been going through her own little journey.
  • In Mystic Messenger, apart from the requisite four Bishōnen you can date, you can also develop a relationship with the other woman on the team, Jaehee. Although all the other routes are romantic, Jaehee's is very...mixed. She says many times that her feelings for the main character are friendly, not romantic, but she also does things like calling the MC just to hear her voice, and shortly before the end of her route, she admits that she's starting to better understand herself and how she really feels about the MC. At the end of the route, she asks the MC to be her partner (in business), and they start a coffee shop together. It certainly doesn't help that the MC is given many opportunities to act like she has a crush on Jaehee, such as by declaring that Jaehee belongs to her. So, the possibility of romance is definitely there, but it's ambiguous enough to save it from being Canon.
    • The Christmas DLC, however, escalates the subtext enough to confirm the romance to all but the strictest of canon snobs. If the player calls Jaehee after the 10am chat, they'll get a scene where Jaehee gets hit on by a guy, but turns him down, explaining to the main character that she doesn't believe in immediate love and would want a romance with someone she's already intimate friends with. The only option the player can choose is 'So like us...?' which makes Jaehee laugh happily and agree - and say that yes, her relationship with the main character right now is the most ideal one for her. And if that wasn't enough, in her good ending, the main character travels to see Jaehee at her office, where she's fallen asleep from overwork. There, the player kisses her on the cheek while blushing, and has the option to say 'One day I'll tell you my true feelings...' And then there's a solo chat where Jaehee writes about how she dreamed the main character came to see her, and says 'Perhaps...I've developed feelings over you without knowing.' with a flowery text box. So although they don't get to become a couple like the main character does with the guys, there is no longer any doubt about the nature of their feelings for one another.
  • Several otome mobile games feature what seems on the cover or in the intro to be a female Gay Option included among the female protagonist's potential love interests but turns out to actually be a crossdressing male. Examples of this are Hinata from Shall We Date?: Heian Love and Kirisato from Destined to Love.
  • Atelier Ayesha: In an early cutscene, Regina jokes about marrying Ayesha if she can't find a man. In a later cutscene, she gropes Ayesha in a dark cave, and Ayesha tells her to stop "Before I get confused about a lot of things," which suggests that Regina's attentions are not unwelcome. Nothing comes of any of this: Ayesha ends up living with her sister, and Regina gives up adventuring to look after her younger siblings.
  • In the runup to Disco Elysium: The Final Cut, the official Twitter account shared romantic fanart of Harry and Kim, marketed Kim's jacket with a photograph of one of the writers holding a notebook reading "Harry 4 Kim" with a heart, and the official trailer ended with a shot of Harry being embraced by other fan-favourite ship partner, Jean Vicquemere. Pre-release interviews in which writers promised you would be able to 'get intimate' with the characters and talk about 'love' with them once you shared their ideology, and that a new feature was getting to find out what Kim smells like (!), also ended up giving some of the fanbase the impression that you could date or romance Kim in the game. The Final Cut does contain a little more Ship Tease than the base game, but the Harry and Kim relationship remains strictly platonic.
    • It should be said that in both the original and The Final Cut, Harry is a Transparent Closet bisexual and Kim is gay, so it's more that the relationship doesn't happen rather than that the writers are doing anything cynical.
    • Justin Keenan, a writer on The Final Cut, stated in an interview (when asked why The Final Cut had no option to kiss Kim) that "desire is stronger when it's not totally satisfied".

  • Sydney in an early Unintentionally Pretentious. While she acknowledges the act of leading Mia in public to be innocent, she believes people see two girls walking together arm in arm and extrapolate to sexy results, and suggests that she get a guide dog for her benefit.

    Web Videos 
  • Alexander Avila: Discussed in his Our Flag Means Death video, "The End of Rainbow Capitalism". Alex finds that fictional works will often directly hint at the potential for a queer relationship between two male characters, only to not follow through on it. However, he points out that this happens less often with regard to women as he finds people are far more willing to actually follow through with lesbian relationships.

    Western Animation 
  • Subverted in Big Mouth season 5. In "Lovebugs," Jessi gets assigned a "lovebug" that's supposed to go off when she falls in love. It goes off at the end of the episode while she's looking at Ali, making the audience think Jessi has a crush on her, but then in the next episode, her lovebug clarifies that she loves her as a friend, and doesn't want her to spend time with anyone else. A few episodes later, however, Jessi develops an actual crush on Ali.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender revealed at Comic-Con that Shiro had been in a relationship with a guy named Adam, and said that a major point of the seventh season would be their development. As it turned out, Adam was an Advertised Extra, the romantic nature of his relationship with Shiro is heavily implied but never stated outright, and they share a single brief scene where they have an argument. Following this, Adam is killed off and Shiro gets over the death remarkably quickly.
  • By and large, this was Played for Laughs in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic with Lyra and Bon Bon. The couple started out as nothing more than two background characters who were paired together thanks to their complementary color schemes, but as fans took notice of this and began to assume they were a couple the showmakers went wild. The couple kept popping up doing increasingly intimate things, holding hooves, hugging, heart-shaped iris-outs, and being each other's "special someponies" on Hearts and Hooves Day (an analog for Valentine's Day), and even supplementary material got in on it by putting the duo alongside other couples on a Valentine's Day card. However, the show would insist they were simply best friends, and when asked about it on Twitter show staff would make it clear they were just friends. In the series' final season, they proposed and married.