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Queerbaiting is the practice to hint at, but then to not actually depict, a same-sex romantic relationship between characters in a work of fiction, mainly in film or television. The potential romance may be ignored, explicitly rejected or made fun of.
The derogatory term "queerbaiting" is meant to imply that this is done for the purpose of attracting ("baiting") a queer audience with the ultimately unrealized suggestion of relationships that appeal to them. The concept arose in and has been popularized through Internet discussions among the fandom of popular films and television series.
The media has little queer representation outside of queer-specific shows (such as The L Word or Queer as Folk). According to research compiled by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the 2012–13 television season saw 4.4% of series regulars as queer characters; a marked increase from the statistics from previous years (2.9% in 2011, 3.9% in 2010, 3% in 2008, and 1.1% in 2007).
Audience reaction and consequences
Queer viewers and many other viewers may not care about or may even be uncomfortable with openly queer characters. Queerbaiting has been seen as an approach by creators to both appeal to the queer market and to "avoid the backlash that comes with writing queer characters."
Queerbaiting may lead queer fans to believe that queer characters are added as plot devices rather than as characters in their own right. For instance, Glee, a series with many queer series regulars, was criticized by fans for presenting "superficial stereotypes of queerness for dramatic effect".
Some queer fans may accept queerbaiting as "a way to throw us a bone when we normally wouldn't have anything, to acknowledge that we're there in the audience when the powers that be would prefer to ignore us". But others are unsatisfied by the poor representation they are given. Emmet Scout suggested that "queerbaiting works on its audience because it offers the suggestion that queer people do have a vital place in these stories, that they might even be the defining figures, the heroes. The suggestion—but not the reality." Rose Bridges summarized the practice's effect on queer fans as receiving "just enough [representation] to keep us interested, but not enough to satisfy us and make us truly represented."
Queerbaiting has also been seen as hurting the queer audience. It may play potentially queer hints and references as mere jokes, but "if the representations in question utilize humour, are queer people in on the joke or are they the joke?"
Queerbaiting may portray queer relationships as heterosexual, platonic relationships that were misunderstood. Scout believes that "this dynamic is often set up in such a way that the characters and creators must constantly remind us that the queering of their relationship is a joke, or even a perversion of their friendship. Intentionally or not, this sends a message that a gay relationship is not only less interesting, but less deep, less valuable, and less pure."
The following relationships between characters of the same sex have been interpreted as queerbaiting:
- Gregory House and James Wilson in the TV series House.
- Arthur Pendragon and Merlin in the TV series Merlin.
- Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge in the TV series Riverdale.
- Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles in the TV series Rizzoli & Isles.
- Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in the TV series Sherlock. Cast and crew of Sherlock have consistently denied that the relationship is intended to be seen as romantic, to the dismay of many fans.
- Castiel and Dean Winchester in the TV series Supernatural.
- Scott McCall and Stiles Stilinski in the TV series Teen Wolf.
- Kara Danvers and Lena Luthor in the TV series Supergirl.
- Fathallah, Judith (2014-07-17). "Moriarty's Ghost". Television & New Media. 16 (5): 490–500. doi:10.1177/1527476414543528. Retrieved 2017-02-11.
- Nordin, Emma (2015-01-01). "From Queer Reading to Queerbaiting : The battle over the polysemic text and the power of hermeneutics". Master's thesis, Stockholm University. Retrieved 2017-02-11.
- Panigrahi, Kerishma. "Queerbaiting in Online Communities: Television, Fandom, and the Politics of Representation" (PDF). Wordpress. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
- Scout, Emmett. "Please Do Not Bait the Queers". The Next. University of Washington. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
- Bridges, Rose. "How Do We Solve A Problem Like 'Queerbaiting'?". AutoStraddle. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
- "Queer Representation in the Media". Media Smarts. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
- Scout, Emmett (19 June 2013). "Please Do Not Bait the Queers". The Next. University of Washington. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
- McGrath, Mary Kate. "'Riverdale', Queer-Baiting, & How One Tweet Exposed The Fan Conversation We Need To Pay Attention To". Bustle. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
- "Rizzoli & Isles". 1 February 2016.
- Romano, Aja (26 April 2013). ""Sherlock" fans lash out over sunken JohnLock ship". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
- "Steven Moffat talk about JohnLock and Season 3 & 4". YouTube. 13 May 2013. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
- Bridges, Rose (26 June 2013). "How Do We Solve A Problem Like "Queerbaiting"?: On TV's Not-So-Subtle Gay Subtext". Autostraddle. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
- Cruz, Eliel (17 July 2014). "Fans Take Supernatural to Task for 'Queer Baiting'". Retrieved 14 December 2014.
- Biele, Natalie (20 February 2017). "Queerbaiting: The Misrepresentation of the Queer Community". Odyssey. Retrieved 4 March 2018.