It’s a complicated topic, especially in reference to the LGBT community. Throughout the 20th century, scripted television presented a caricature of homosexuality. Gay men were presented as the comedy relief and Lesbians were often ex-lovers of straight males. American sitcoms, like Friends or Will & Grace, made sexuality into a personality trait and LGBT characters were nothing more than background support. Bisexuality was rarely even mentioned. When coming into an age of acceptance, we hoped for radical change. Entertainment giants, like NETFLIX or BBC, were moving away from characters like Carol Willick or Jack McFarland. We were finally exploring real people “out of the closet”, combating against homophobia and heteronormative stereotypes. However, while shows like Shadowhunters and Queer Eye presented signs of improvement, there was a dark cloud above them all.
A discriminatory practice, that uses homoerotic subtext to hint at sexual attraction and homosexual representation. It’s often used by writers and showrunners, in order to attract at LGBT audience. However, it never results in an on-screen relationship, in order to not alienate conservative viewers of Television giants; like MTV and the BBC. Teen Wolf, Supernatural and Sherlock, are the most prominent examples of Queerbaiting. Their continuous use of romantic tropes to romanticize “bromance” gained radical attraction online but resulted in homosexuality being used for comedy once more. Furthermore, when complaining about this expanding practice, many liberal viewers were cut off from the fandom and ignore by cast or crew.
Supernatural’s most famous “ship” Destiel reach a 95 peak in popularity through Google, at the same time the ratings increased to 2.81 million views in 2014. This was most likely due to the show’s continuous homoerotic cues, prolonged glances and touching, being applied to the characters of Dean Winchester and Castiel. However, during the instances of Dean referencing Purgatory, a gay bar in Miami, or when he joked about opening a “charming B&B in” the first state to legalize same sex marriage, this desire was never fufilled. The show continued to use this ship as a recurring joke, using queer jokes and references; representing homosexuality as something to laugh about. Teen Wolf’s most notable example is “Sterek” – a love/hate dynamic between the comic relief Stiles Stilinkski and mysterious Derek Hale. Here, Queerbaiting was to allude to physical and emotional chemistry through similar means to Supernatural.
However, with cast and crew refusing to change this practice, there has been an increased popularity of clear homosexual characters. Unfortunately, this has lead to the limited 4.8 percent of fictional gay representation changing for the worse. This is because this derogatory practice has led to the popular use of a convention dubbed “Bury your gays”. In the wake of LGBT popularity and avocation, shows like Eastenders and The Walking Dead are increasingly killing off their main LGBT characters for “shock value”. The most recent examples are Paul Coker from Eastenders and Walking Dead favourites Tara and Jesus. Paul was beaten to death, at the hands of the homophobic gang, soon after just confessing his love to his fictional partner Ben Mitchell. Tara was beheaded and Jesus was stabbed to death. With these violent deaths, it’s easy to see Queerbaiting is not affecting future representation but current ones as well.
For the sake of entertainment, many gay characters are having limited time on screen; thus limited storylines. Queerbaiting is causing lesbian or gay characters to be seen as nothing more than victims, one-dimensional punching bags for heterosexual characters to save. Homosexuality representation is misrepresenting the LGBT community, and posing the risk of violence increasing through self-fulling prophecy.
It’s happening before your very eyes, but we are doing nothing to solve it.