What Is Queerbaiting?

President Obama recently proclaimed the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village a national LGBT+ historical site. During NYC Pride, Joe Jonas was invited to speak about the Orlando shooting in the LGBT+ nightclub, Pulse. Joe Jonas is a straight, white, singer-actor while a majority of the victims of the nightclub were not straight, were not white, and were not singer-actors.

Before I go further it should be mentioned that I will switch between LGBT+ and queer. They do not mean the same thing for everyone, but for ease of language they will in this context.

Joe Jonas is one of the more recent examples of the term “queerbaiter.” Queerbaiting is when a piece of media or a person uses queer subtext or introducing an LGBT+ character to appeal to LGBT+ audiences and in doing so they showcase how “proactive” and “accepting” they are. Joe Jonas performs at LGBT+ clubs and strips in front of his audiences at those clubs. He talks about his friends giving him drugs and accidently getting a boner. But guys, Joe Jonas has affirmed his heterosexuality time and time again.

Other examples are the CW show "Supernatural" and the MTV show "Teen Wolf." "Supernatural"queerbaits by providing subtext between the characters Dean and Castiel, even though their sexualities have not been proven to be anything besides heterosexual. "Teen Wolf" introduced a good handful of LGBT+ characters and killed them off (Ethan) or never gave them screen time so the actors had to move on (Keahu Kahuanui).

Believe it or not, but a lot of shows do queerbait just to get audiences. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" used queerbait tactics with the friendship of Buffy and Faith teetering on the line between lovers and friends. "Rizzoli and Isles," the detective show on TNT, uses queerbait tactics to show the love that Rizzoli has for Isles while the creators are adamant that the women are heterosexual. The BBC’s "Sherlock" is another heavy example of queerbaiting because it shows two heterosexual men in a domestic relationship usual associated with a heterosexual couple.

For movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) uses queerbaiting with the relationship between Bucky Barnes and Steve Rogers. While Marvel has many LGBT+ characters in the comics, they seem to be lacking in the MCU and that’s a real shame since there is a petition to give Captain America a boyfriend.

Shows that have LGBT+ characters, depending on the production company, tend to not last as long as shows that do. The rare few that do last past a few seasons are diamonds in the rough. As with female characters and characters of color, LGBT+ characters are generally written by straight and cisgender writers.

I could go on and on for a while about what shows queerbait and why it’s detrimental but for now, I’ll leave with this. If a TV show has queer subtext, it’s queerbaiting. If a show has an LGBT+ character with little to no screen time, it’s queerbaiting.

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