Queerbaiting In Television & How It Hurts the Community

Queerbaiting: television or movie writers including queer subtext and/or sexual tension between two characters to 1) attract viewers from the LGBTQ+ community and 2) claim that their movie or show is “progressive” and “inclusive.

Queerbaiting is a topic that’s been brought up a lot over the past couple of years (although it’s been going on for much longer). Multiple shows have recently come under fire over this: teasing tension between characters in Supernatural, and mockery from the cast of Supergirl over the shipping of two main female characters; and people in the queer community are less than amused by the trend. As a lesbian, I look for representation in most of the media I consume, and have been caught in the queerbait

trap myself countless times.

I’ve even stopped/refused to start watching some shows because of this.

Still, there are shows that I choose to watch, knowing full well that it’s nothing but another queerbait. So why do we in the LGBTQ+ community subject ourselves to this? Because, when it comes down to it, we seek representation wherever we can find it, even if it’s just the idea of representation. And because while media is seeing more queer representation than ever before, the fact is that heterosexual relationships are still the priority, which leads me to one of the more harmful truths about queerbaiting.

Queerbaiting is dangerous in a lot of ways, with the top reason being that it is a trick. It has become a marketing tactic for producers to gain viewers, promising representation and then denying these viewers any real substance. Often times this queerbaiting comes in the form of two same-sex characters teasing each other or demonstrating attraction without the show ever confirming a relationship. These instances usually exist as exploitation of the queer community’s desire for representation, and the tendency to search for it in as many places as possible. Imagine constantly seeking validation for some part of your identity, and having it ripped away Charlie Brown-style at every turn. That’s how being queerbaited feels.

Keep in mind, though, that there is a difference between queerbaiting and actual representation in media. There’s nothing inherently wrong with including a queer character in a show just to have the representation. The ultimate goal of the LGBTQ+ community is to have producers and writers not have to justify their queer characters at all. But if done for the wrong reason, or if a character isn’t portrayed correctly, this representation can become harmful. Writing characters that are essentially stereotypes, for instance. Not only does this show potentially offensive stereotypes, it also perpetuates the fetishization of LGBTQ+ individuals. If you have a gay character whose only purpose is to serve as an accessory to a cishet woman, the millions of people watching learn that this is an acceptable way to treat real life gay people.

Television is quickly becoming one of the most-consumed forms of media. In order to succeed as such, producers and writers must accept that the LGBTQ+ community will no longer stay silent about our identities, and it’s about time that we see accurate representation in the media. Not every show has to have an entirely queer cast, but it would be nice to see more than one queer couple at a time.

Originally published at TravelPRIDE.