the point of pouring a shit ton of ice water over yourself is because when one suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) one of the affects the disease has is a numbness throughout the body, as well as struggling to breathe, and both these are meant to temporarily happen when doused in freezing water. It’s to raise awareness of what ALS feels like and encourage donations towards research and cures.
"Everybody loves Rainbow": a new sitcom starring One Direction
Louis started it.
But in the last week, there’s been a huge increase in both the visibility and controversy of fans connecting rainbows to One Direction. And there’s also been a sudden increase in rainbows from people directly connected to (and in!) 1D. Of course, some of the rainbows from family and friends could be coincidental. But there’s certainly a trend.
Okay, I’ve got like 7 asks about whether or not a scenario is queer baiting, so here is a post on queer baiting.
What is Queer Baiting?
Queer Baiting is a term used to describe a situation in fiction in which the writers try to draw in lgbt+ viewers without alienating the homophobic audience. Here are the traits of Queer Baiting (not all traits have to be met to be Queer Baiting):
Characters of the same gender (often two males) are subject to (obvious) homoerotic subtext, homoerotic situations, and jokes that suggest they are not heterosexual as a way to draw in the gay community.
This does not apply to works written in a time when or a place where having openly gay characters was not safe or accepted. Subtext was the most people could do to see themselves in fiction. This is still true in some places or among some writers.
Sexual tension between two characters of the same gender is not Queer Baiting. It has to exist with other traits. Two characters flirting or a part of sexual tension is called ship teasing. This is when the writers imply or foreshadow that something sexual or romantic might come up between two characters, but it doesn’t have to happen. It’s not Queer Baiting if one or both characters involved are confirmed as lgbt+ or will be confirmed as lgbt+.
If they do not use sexual tension between characters (as described in the first point), the writers intentionally create a character that the lgbt+ community will relate to.
Our representation is tiny. Luckily it’s growing, but writers know that when the lgbt+ community finds someone they can relate to, they are automatically hooked. It’s not so easy anymore now that characters like us are showing up more, especially if you actively look for these characters. We’re not so easy to impress anymore and most of us will no longer settle for low standards.
Writers know that subtext and small hints of a character being lgbt+ is enough to draw in a large crowd. This takes advantage of us.
The writers have no intention to make these characters lgbt+ within canon.
This is one of the big traits that makes something Queer Baiting. The writers do not want their characters to be canonically lgbt+. They do not want to alienate the homophobic audience. They will neither confirm nor deny lgbt+ characters.
The writers have no intention to make these characters get together.
This is not always Queer Baiting. If one (or more) of the characters ends up being canonically lgbt+, they do not have to end up together. The “will they or won’t they” plot or subplot is perfectly okay to use.
If the characters are never confirmed as being lgbt+, it can fall into Queer Baiting if this trait coexists with others listed.
"No homo" jokes, gay jokes, and reaffirmations of the characters’ heterosexuality are also present. These often come up to avoid alienating homophobic viewers.
The writers love to reaffirm the characters’ heterosexuality. Sometimes the character is frustrated that others see them as gay or sometimes they go off and do something to prove their heterosexuality. This keeps the homophobic audience.
Other characters often see the Queer Baiting characters as being gay, being in a relationship, or having feelings toward one another. They might try to tell these characters that they are gay. The Queer Baiting characters might respond with a laugh or a strong denial. They might run off and have a quickie with someone else to reinstate their heterosexuality.
How to Avoid Queer Baiting
- Confirm your character within the canon as lgbt+. Word of God does not count. Doing this also cancels out some traits listed above, so you don’t have to worry about those ones (like the third one and the last one to an extent, depending on what you write).
- Make them a well-made character.
That’s pretty much it.
Again, there is an exception for those who might be in danger if their characters are lgbt+, in which subtext is all they have. However, subtext is not automatically Queer Baiting. It’s not representation either though (with the exception of the exception I just listed).
A Goodbye Letter from a Disillusioned Bisexual Fan
Television Representation Matters
Television has been a connecting cultural force since the earliest black and white screens broadcast Douglas Edwards’ greeting on the CBS Evening News: “Good evening everyone, coast to coast.” What we saw on tv was a common currency, something we could discuss at the water cooler or bus stop or dinner table, crossing all demographic divides.
I highly recommend this incredibly well-written and truly heartbreaking analysis of what has been happening in the Supernatural fandom for the last two years. It primarily adresses the issue of queerbaiting and emotional manipulation coming from the cast and crew of the show, which for a long time have been misinterpreted by the lgbtq+ fans as a genuine concern in the possibilities of queer representation on the television.
I took the liberty of highlighting some of the most striking statements, but if you are interested in the topic please be sure to read the whole essay!
* * *
"While there had always been subtle hints at Dean’s bisexuality, season 8 amped it up. We saw his fluster as he was hit on by Aaron, and his amazed reaction as his stereotypes were challenged when the cupid set up two flannel clad macho men for heaven blessed romantic love in the season finale. It all seemed to be heading somewhere."
“Developments between Dean and Cas did not go unnoticed. Countless non-shippers came to notice the romantic tension between Dean and Cas. Jaded fans who had been sure Supernatural would never be progressive enough to out Dean as bisexual reconsidered their cynicism. Lgbtq fans excitedly told their friends about the wonderful thing that was happening in the show, and encouraged them to tune in.”
"At no point did anyone representing the show step in and say, hey guys, don’t get your hopes up for canon. We love Dean and Cas but we never are going to show them the way you’re asking us to. There were plenty of opportunities for such a disavowal, from convention season to interviews to twitter conversations with writers and producers. After the topic flared up several times in late season 8 and early season 9, it would have been appropriate to address the vocalized concerns of fans that we were being lead on for no ultimate payoff. But instead we were pacified with vague implorations to “wait and see” what they still had in store for us.”
“The worst part of queerbaiting is that it works. Lgbtq fans are so starved for representation in our favorite shows that many of us will make excuses for missteps, try to see the best side of anything, and just keep pushing on. All it takes from those who make the show is a nod here and wink there to keep leading fans on. But even with all these factors working in the show’s favor, they’ve shed fans at several points over the past year.”
“We didn’t have to wait long to find out what kind of a season 9 would be. In the third episode, Cas had sex with a woman in what was considered by many to be a disturbing scene of dubious consent. Was it the show pulling a giant “no homo”, or was it just an unfortunate story choice meant to show Cas experiencing what it feels like to be human?”
“Then the last two episodes of the season changed everything. […] After the finale aired, many fans declared that romantic Dean/Cas was halfway canon. Personally, I was wary, but excited. It seemed that canon Dean/Cas was on track again for season 10.”
“But our joy was short lived. A popular Supernatural convention in Italy took place the weekend after the finale. Ackles shocked everyone by announcing (facetiously? sincerely?) that he enjoyed that Dean and Cas had been separated for most of season 9 since “the whole Dean Cas thing has gotten a little out of proportion.” He denounced the idea that there was more to the relationship between Dean and Cas than what was apparent on the surface, describing them later as like “war buddies”. He joked to Collins that he’d just spent the last fifteen minutes squashing the entire Dean/Cas situation. Padalecki joined in later, remarking that they cut the version of Cas’s heaven that was filled with Deans because they didn’t want it to make it seem like they were “hinting something” since that “would have ruined the show to make it about something it wasn’t about.”
"This led to the Chernobyl of fandom meltdowns. Many fans were heartbroken to hear their idols denigrating their interpretation of the relationship between Dean and Cas. To me, the worst part of it all was the sinking feeling that no show that intended to make a same sex relationship canon would allow its actors to talk about it in that way. My hopes for representation had been dashed again, this time for good.”
“Television shows have the power to lift us up or to hurt us deeply. When a viewer strongly identifies with a character and emotionally invests in them, it’s painful to witness a sudden change in characterization or to be told by the actor portraying him that their interpretation is wrong.”
"No one can take away what Dean and Cas mean to me personally. I’m not giving that up. What I am giving up is being disrespected and mistreated by a show that took advantage of my hope to see representation of my minority sexuality. I won’t stand for that. If there’s anything I’m grateful for from the JIBCon catastrophe, it’s that it finally clarified where we stand. I just wish someone had had the decency to warn us years ago, and in a much more sensitive manner.”
Queerbaiting hurts because it’s just authors fucking mocking you for daring to hope that queer subtext might lead to explicit canon queer characters but “nope no representation for you you silly queers it might make cishet people uncomfortable and we value them more”