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The cast and crew of Sherlock have consistently denied that the relationship between the titular detective and his flatmate are intended to be seen as romantic, but critics have called the depiction queerbaiting.[1][2][3][4][5]

Queerbaiting is a marketing technique for fiction and entertainment[6] in which creators hint at, but then do not actually depict, same-sex romance or other LGBTQ representation.[7] They do so to attract ("bait") a queer or straight ally audience with the suggestion of relationships or characters that appeal to them,[8] while at the same time attempting to avoid alienating other consumers.[6][9]

Queerbaiting has been observed in popular fiction such as films and television series, as well as in celebrities who convey an ambiguous sexual identity through their works and statements.[6] It arose in and has been popularized through discussions in Internet fandom[10] since the early 2010s.[11]


Queer audience concerns[edit]

Queer fans have reacted with concern and anger to an identity they consider defining being used as a mere marketing ploy, a plaything for creatives, a mark of "edginess", or a commodity.[11]

Fans have derided, for instance, queer characters being used as plot devices rather than as characters for their own sake. For instance, Glee, a series with many queer series regulars, was criticized by fans for presenting "superficial stereotypes of queerness for dramatic effect".[12]

Queer fans consider 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".[13] Emmet Scout wrote 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."[14] 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."[13]

Societal shifts[edit]

According to media scholars, the perceived increase in queerbaiting reflects a shift towards a more positive perception of queer relationships in modern societies—and therefore, in a sense, societal progress.[11] However, the same societal shift has also increased expectations by queer fans as to the quality and authenticity of queer representation—they demand not just any representation at all, but rather "respectful and meaningful depictions" of their relationships.[11] That is why, according to media researcher Eve Ng, the ambiguous sexuality projected by twentieth century entertainers such as David Bowie, Elton John and Madonna was not scrutinized to the same degree as that of their successors.[11]

Various businesses and corporations, such as Starbucks, Ben & Jerry’s, and Tylenol have showcased queer people and queer families in advertisements, helping to normalize and increase awareness surrounding the queer community.[15] Although greater awareness for queer people is a positive side effect of queerbaiting, typical depictions of the queer community within advertisements include homogenous white middle-class individuals/couples.

Queerbaiting has brought the spending power of the queer community to light, and businesses make economic decisions that promote and support the queer community and its representation that ultimately entices the pink dollar. Terms associated with the queer community, like pink money, have shown the importance of queer people within an economy and a society.[15]

May 2020, a reviewer, Sophie Perry, writing for a lesbian lifestyle magazine, Curve, noted how queerbaiting has long endured in LGBTQ+ representation, noting how She-Ra and Harley Quinn both had same-sex kisses, happening within stories which could have turned out to be "typical queerbaiting" but did not.[16] Perry added that the "queer conclusion" of the show is thanks to Noelle Stevenson, describing it as very different from the conclusion of The Legend of Korra which confirmed Korra and Asami's relationship but left it "purposefully ambiguous" so it could air on a children's network. She concluded by calling She-Ra culturally significant, and added that as more creative queer people come to the fore, inevitably queerbaiting will "become a thing of the past."

In March 2021, a writer for Vanity Fair, Joanna Robinson asked when "queer coding" veers into the territory of "queer baiting," with Dana Terrace saying it happens a "lot in modern anime," with Robinson saying this is also seen in shows like the end of Supernatural or the "hubbub around Finn and Poe in The Rise of Skywalker."[17]



In fiction, the following characters, or relationships between characters of the same sex, have been interpreted as examples of queerbaiting by at least some reliable media sources. This interpretation is not necessarily shared by all critics or fans.


Some series did portray a same-sex relationship after being criticized for queerbaiting:


Other media[edit]

In music, Katy Perry's 2008 song "I Kissed a Girl" raised concerns because, according to one reviewer, "its appropriation of the gay lifestyle exists for the sole purpose of garnering attention".[45] Perry said in 2017 that she has done "more than [kissing a girl]" and is attracted to women, without specifying or labeling her sexuality.[46] The singers Ariana Grande (in 2019) and Rita Ora (in 2018) were also criticized by fans for queerbaiting after their lyrics contained references to bisexual love. In response to these concerns, Ora came out as bisexual to her fans.[11]

In advertising, the clothing label Calvin Klein apologized in 2019 for queerbaiting the public with an advertisement in which the model Bella Hadid kissed the character Lil Miquela.[47]

In theater, the relationship between Albus Severus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was criticized as queerbaiting.[48][49]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Romano, Aja (26 April 2013). ""Sherlock" fans lash out over sunken JohnLock ship". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Steven Moffat talk about JohnLock and Season 3 & 4". YouTube. 13 May 2013. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  3. ^ a b 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.
  4. ^ a b c Scout, Emmett (19 June 2013). "Please Do Not Bait the Queers". The Next. University of Washington. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Biele, Natalie (20 February 2017). "Queerbaiting: The Misrepresentation of the Queer Community". Odyssey. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  6. ^ a b c Ritschel, Chelsea (9 April 2019). "What is queer-baiting and why do celebrities do it?". The Independent. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  7. ^ Harrad, Kate (2018-10-05). Claiming the B in LGBT: Illuminating the Bisexual Narrative. Thorntree Press LLC. ISBN 9781944934613.
  8. ^ Fathallah, Judith (2014-07-17). "Moriarty's Ghost". Television & New Media. 16 (5): 490–500. doi:10.1177/1527476414543528. S2CID 145508280.
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  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Honderich, Holly (8 April 2019). "Queerbaiting - exploitation or a sign of progress?". BBC.
  12. ^ Panigrahi, Kerishma. "Queerbaiting in Online Communities: Television, Fandom, and the Politics of Representation" (PDF). Wordpress. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  13. ^ a b Bridges, Rose. "How Do We Solve A Problem Like 'Queerbaiting'?". AutoStraddle. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  14. ^ Scout, Emmett. "Please Do Not Bait the Queers". The Next. University of Washington. Archived from the original on 9 March 2016. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  15. ^ a b Abidin, Crystal (2019-09-03). "Yes Homo: Gay influencers, homonormativity, and queerbaiting on YouTube". Continuum. 33 (5): 614–629. doi:10.1080/10304312.2019.1644806. ISSN 1030-4312. S2CID 204369535.
  16. ^ Perry, Sophia (May 22, 2020). "Is Queerbaiting Finally Being Put To Bed?". Curve. Archived from the original on May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  17. ^ Robinson, Joanna (March 5, 2021). "Raya and the Last Dragon's Kelly Marie Tran Thinks Her Disney Princess Is Gay". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on March 7, 2021. Retrieved March 14, 2021.
  18. ^ name=https://tvline.com/2019/01/01/911-buck-eddie-gay-storyline-season-2-interview/
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  21. ^ McGrath, Mary Kate. "'Riverdale', Queer-Baiting, & How One Tweet Exposed The Fan Conversation We Need To Pay Attention To". Bustle. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  22. ^ Reilly, Kaitlin. "Riverdale Accused Of Queerbaiting Over That Joaquin/Archie Kiss". Refinery29. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  23. ^ "Rizzoli & Isles". 1 February 2016.
  24. ^ "Op-ed: The Trouble With 'Teen Wolf'". www.advocate.com. 2014-09-17. Retrieved 2020-05-01.
  25. ^ Mallikarjuna, Krutika. "How "Teen Wolf" Failed Its Bisexual Fans". Teen Vogue. Retrieved 2020-05-01.
  26. ^ ""Here We Go Again": The Endless Cycle of Queerbaiting in Pop Culture". Georgia Voice - Gay & LGBT Atlanta News. 2019-03-14. Retrieved 2020-05-01.
  27. ^ Haasch, Palmer (16 August 2018). "Voltron creator addresses fans over season 7's queerbaiting controversy". Polygon. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  28. ^ Young, Sarah (6 June 2019). "Killing Eve accused of queerbaiting by viewers". The Independent. Retrieved 16 June 2019.
  29. ^ Gutowitz, Jill (25 June 2019). "'Killing Eve', 'Dead to Me', and The Confusing State of 'Queerbaiting' on TV". Cosmopolitan. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  30. ^ Abraham, Amelia (29 June 2019). "Why culture's 'queerbaiting' leaves me cold". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  31. ^ "Killing Eve Finally Ends Eve & Villanelle's Queerbaiting With an Epic Kiss". CBR. 30 April 2020. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  32. ^ Smith, Craig (4 June 2020). "Pride Month 2020: How Sandra Oh's Eve Polastri redeemed 'Killing Eve' from falling prey to queerbaiting". Checkersaga. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  33. ^ Bandyopadhyay, Alakananda. "Pride Month 2020: How Sandra Oh's Eve Polastri redeemed 'Killing Eve' from falling prey to queerbaiting". meaww.com. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  34. ^ Cruz, Eliel (17 July 2014). "Fans Take Supernatural to Task for 'Queer Baiting'". Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  35. ^ Radulovic, Petrana (2020-11-06). "Supernatural actually made Destiel canon(ish)". Polygon. Retrieved 2020-11-07.
  36. ^ "Black Panther Screenwriter Addresses Rumors of Cut Gay Romance". CBR. 2018-02-12. Retrieved 2020-04-02.
  37. ^ "Are 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Power Rangers' queerbaiting LGBT fans?". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2020-04-02.
  38. ^ "Fantastic Beasts 2 is Queerbaiting That Puts Dumbledore Back in the Closet". Den of Geek. 2018-11-20. Retrieved 2020-04-02.
  39. ^ Donald, Ella. "Pitch Perfect Has a Queerbaiting Problem". them. Retrieved 2020-05-01.
  40. ^ Obropta, Clement Tyler (2019-06-27). "PITCH PERFECT 3 A Ca-Queerbaits Its Audience". Film Inquiry. Retrieved 2020-05-01.
  41. ^ Yee, Lawrence (6 December 2019). "Is JJ Abrams' LGBTQ Tease for 'The Rise of Skywalker' Just More Queerbaiting? (Commentary)". The Wrap. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  42. ^ Turner, Molly Catherine (8 December 2019). "Is Disney continuing to queerbait fans with The Rise of Skywalker press tour?". Culturess. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  43. ^ Zane, Zachary. "Analysis | 'Thor's' Valkyrie is Marvel's first LGBT character. But you wouldn't know it from the film". Washington Post. Retrieved 2020-04-02.
  44. ^ "Of Marvel and Queerbaiting". 2018-11-20. Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  45. ^ Cinquemani, Sal (2008). "Katy Perry - One of the Boys" reviewArchived June 19, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, Slant Magazine. Posted: June 15, 2008. Retrieved June 22, 2008.
  46. ^ "Katy Perry Opens Up About Accepting Her Sexuality For The First Time". Grazia. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  47. ^ Richards, Kimberley (18 May 2019). "Calvin Klein Apologizes Amid 'Queerbaiting' Criticism Over Bella Hadid, Robot Ad". HuffPost. Retrieved 16 June 2019.
  48. ^ Romano, Aja (2016-09-04). "The Harry Potter universe still can't translate its gay subtext to text. It's a problem". Vox. Retrieved 2020-05-03.
  49. ^ "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a gay love story don't @ me". Time Out Melbourne. Retrieved 2020-05-03.

Further reading[edit]