Queer baiting is when TV shows and other forms of media use the promise of gay romance to lure members of the LGBQT community to their shows.
These romances never materialize, keeping fans interested for years while never delivering on a promise they hinted at with subtext and innuendo.
I’ll be focusing on the shows that use this skeezy-ass tactic and wanted to breakdown how they use it to entice the queer community without unsettling their larger heteronormative base and facing that backlash.
You can see why this is super cowardly because these shows never really promise anything outright and that means they don’t need to take any unnecessary risks and potentially lose a percentile of their homophobic fan base.
Because prejudice pays. How great would that look on a t-shirt, maybe superimposed over a confederate flag or swastika (he says before taking a week long shower to clean his soul).
Now that we discussed what it is, let’s jump into some shows that actually do it.
If anyone is wondering why queer baiting is problematic, the best example is given here:
To summarize, it’s giving members of the LGBQT hope that they’ll see and a character on-screen that they can relate to. And that kind of huge for us what with under representation and all.
But what this shady marketing gimmick does it to give us that glimmer of hope in order for us to keep adding to their ratings before yanking that hope away.
Here are shows accused of queer bating:
1. Xena: Warrior Princess
Let me start by saying this show did not age well. At all.
It was on one of our free TV networks some time ago and I thought hey, this might be a fun trip to nostalgia town – population: me.
But yeah, I immediately regretted that.
Regardless, while it was one of the pioneers for shows with a female heroine as the lead, this is the OG queer baiting show. The romance between Xena and her sidekick, ex-Amazon Gabrielle was actually canon. Of course that didn’t mean the show runners had to play it out.
The producers had a tough time selling even the concept of an ambiguous relationship between the two to the show’s network. The network also decided that it was preferred for the characters to appear separately in the opening credits.
2. The OC
Oh I fondly remember the OC, the theme song still vivid in my mind. The beach houses, the teen angst, and of course the melodrama.
For obvious reasons I identified strongly with the character Seth Cohan but felt conflicted because I was attracted to his hot adopted brother Ryan.
Judge away, I went through the terribly unoriginal attraction to bad-boys phase.
Where the show went wrong was the ‘relationship’ between Marissa Cooper (played by Marsha Burton) and Alex Kelly (played by Olivia Wilde). While they have all the trappings of dating, it doesn’t seem more than fan service and the show’s version of an extended pillow fight.
What’s ironic is that the two characters met at the Bait shop. That should have been a clue as to where that relationship was going.
Wilson was ever the faithful compass to Gregory’s ambiguous moral compass. Again, while their relationship doesn’t culminate into anything romantic, the will they, won’t they tension is teased by the show.
Sherlock and Holmes, nuff said.
There’s not much to say here, their relationship oozed with subtext.
6. Once Upon a Time
The relationship between Emma Swan and Regina Mills.
Again, the show hints at a homoerotic subtext between Betty and Veronica. These flames were fanned after the two kissed to up the risqué factor.
This one a little personal for me, I’ve been an aspiring hunter since the boys first took up the family legacy of busting ghosts and a slew of other monsters.
Then Destiel happened and I shook my head in disappointment. See the fandom had been longing for the spark between Dean and angelic compadre Castiel to develop into something more.
Then it happened, that dreaded episode in the final season. Cas declares his true feelings for Dean before being unceremoniously dragged off to a nasty place.
The old bait and, well not switch but drag off to hell. I can’t help but wonder how that nugget of pure gold made it into the show’s cannon.
Why show runners, why pull a Game of Thrones season 8 finale, proceed to disrobe and piss in the faces of your LGQT fans. That’s what it felt like.