In case you've pondered, what is the best queer representation, let me enlighten you: a competently (proficiently) edited trailer of a TV show or a movie that accentuates queer subtext in a way that seduces their queer s/o - a probable queer storyline.
What is queerbaiting?
Queerbaiting is a marketing technique for fiction and entertainment in which creators hint at, but then do not actually depict queer representation.
When people have the potential to depict queer representation but they either misrepresent them based on cis-straight gendered patriarchal stereotypes or fail to satisfy the queer audience's expectations.
Queercoding vs Queerbaiting:
Queercoding: When the creators are unable to show actual queer characters either because of laws or morals of the day or because of studio executives so they create characters that the right audience will obviously view as queer.
Queercoding is to allow queer representation even when everything is against it.
Queerbaiting: When the creator has the ability to add queer representation but the creator refuses to risk losing queerphobic consumers or making an implied promise of queer characters without ever actually intending on fulfilling it.
Why is queerbaiting a marketing strategy for big brands?
To survive big brands have to paint the picture of inclusivity while not wanting to alienate the majority of the homophobic audience. Therefore, they devise a marketing strategy to buy the spending power of the queer and entice the gay/pink dollar.
They overcompensate in the pride month by selling the same products using the "rainbow advertising" and hiring cisgender straight influencers as their ambassadors. They rebrand the same products/services that are heteronormative in nature while making economic decisions that pretend to support pride and ultimately aiming for pink dollars.
For instance, Bella Hadid x Calvin Klein.
Bella Hadid: a cisgender heterosexual woman, featured in a Calvin Klein advertisement where she was cast for a same-sex kiss scene with Lil Miquela.
Why is queerbaiting problematic?
You'd think why would anyone sane be invested in a TV show or a movie because of a fleeting trace of queer representation? The answer is more pre-teens than you can ever imagine. Visualize a 12-year-old watching TV. They've had an emotionally draining day because they were not able to come to terms with their situation, they're confused, they don't have answers to the questions in their head. The heteronormative environment around them makes them feel invalidated, inferior and unloved. They question everything and anything around them. Their friends don't invite them to the playground anymore. They feel unsafe and overwhelmed. When they see queer representation on tv they see themselves. They feel validated. They feel understood. They learn and unlearn.
So how exactly is it dangerous?
Imagine boiling down being queer to being the unconventional gay or using gay characters for an easy comic relief. A 12 year old who once found comfort in a character discovers that he is a homogeneous white cis gender heterosexual man who was casted as a conventional gay man and used as the plot device. The struggles queer people face is further pushed under the rug and the queer audience is forced to endure more heterosexual romance completely aware that that real queer representation was never intended other than to accentuate the subtext.
Individuals who are questioning also rely a lot on pop culture and TV shows/ movie representations in their journey of self discovery. Movies like Dangerous where the creator only fetishized the lesbian women and named it empowerment which is far from realty and is very misleading for these individuals. It gaslights them into believing that their struggles are invalid. They learn that queerness is just about sex while being completely ignorant of the fact that there are asexual romantics in the community.
Hundred of thousands of movies which have used queerbaiting to appeal to the queer audience from Charlie Chaplin to Billie Eilish to River Dale to Firends to Disney so much so that the lack of queer representation and misrepresentation that a healthy representation is now viewed as an exception.
Xena & Gabrielle: Female Homoeroticism. Lesbian Experimentation? Done.
Gossip Girls: The writer decided to cut off the character of Eric Vander Woodsen where he could have given him little more screen time in comparison to his cis - gendered staright counterparts.
Disney: Advertises inclusivity for inconsequential or small scenes where queerness is easily ignored. Blink and you will miss it.
Avenger Endgame (2019): A gay character was paired with captain America.
Toy Story 4 (2019), Zootopia (2016). They're labeled as queer representation to appeal to the queer audeince and not lose the homophobic audience. They're so small that they're even cut out in countries where queer representation is illegal.
Role of Social Media:
Social Media plays a huge role in determining the plot of a queer character in an ongoing show. The marketing team keeps up with the trends, updates or how the queer characters are perceived by the show consumers and gain an insight on what they want and keeps the audience hooked while simultaneously queer baiting them. The actors often perform "PR STUNTS" off screen chemistry to capture the audience's attention.
The Goal is Equality
Queer people only want actual representations where their struggles are addressed and their existence is validated. Where queer empowerment is not a myth. "Queer baiting works on its audience because it offers the suggestion that queer people do have a vital place in their stories, that they might even be the defining figures, the heroes. The suggestion but not the reality." Emmett Scout.
Writer: Charmy Savla
Editor: Hamza Ansari
Illustrations and Graphics - Jhem Picache