“Queerbaiting” for ratings needs to stop

Written By: Isabella Zimmermann

A myriad of television shows and films, such as Supernatural, Riverdale, Voltron, and Fantastic Beasts: 2, have come under fire in recent years for accusations of queerbaiting. While some of these are not exact examples of queerbaiting, some exploit the LGBTQ+ community for monetary gains.

So what even is “queerbaiting”? Queerbaiting is the act of alluding to a same-sex relationship between two characters in a television show or film, whether it be through the use of subtle hints or jokes, only to have the relationship never actually become official. The controversy arises through the belief that queerbaiting does not represent the LGBTQ+ community, nor will it ever.

The motive behind queerbaiting is that companies want to appeal to a wider audience, more specifically, people of different sexualities, in order to earn more viewers and profit. People tune in hoping to see a glimpse of representation in the mainstream, only to be left disappointed. The relationship is never fulfilled, and the companies end up with no repercussions.

However, these actions are exploitative of the community and their desire for more diversity in film and television. Queerbaiting is simply a cheap tactic to give the illusion of adequate representation, when in fact, there is none. Companies do not care about being inclusive; they only care about earning more viewers.

One may argue that queerbaiting is just audience members looking too deep into subtext and subtle hints, and that there never was any tension between the two characters at all. Though I have watched an abundance of shows where the utilization of queerbaiting is apparent.

For example, in Riverdale’s pilot episode, the promotional video for the episode includes a clip of the two female leads kissing. In the episode itself, the two disregard the kiss immediately after. To insert that one clip, especially in the first episode of the series, only to dismiss the kiss as “pretend,” demonstrates that that same-sex interaction was implemented only to attract the attention of the LGBTQ+ audience.

“My whole thing about LGBTQ+ representation, especially with gay men and trans men, is that they are seen as clowns or comedic relief. Gay women are represented, but it is mainly for the male gaze,” language arts teacher Lindsey Peters said, “We heteronormalize things to make the majority comfortable.”

I believe queerbaiting takes up space that could be used instead for the addition of real, same-sex relationship representation in films. To remove that space, clogging it with non-official same-sex relationships, is not only destructive to the industry, but harmful to those who might not feel accepted by the mainstream and only find comfort in the arts and entertainment.

Persons of diverse sexuality status do not want to be seen as inferior to straight people. To capitalize off their desire to be seen as normal in mainstream television and film is outright impertinent and a step backwards in the fight for more inclusivity. A fight that has already been a struggle for numerous years.

The fact that there is still an ongoing struggle to depict healthy, day-to-day same-sex relationships is still a shock to me. A change for more inclusivity in television and film must be set into motion to prevent the exploitation of the community even more, and it must be done now.

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