Is it "queerbaiting" if queer people are doing the baiting?
I’ve seen a lot of talk on my dash about this in the last few days, but I’d genuinely like to get your opinions on it.
Obviously, the catalyst is the most recent episode of “Sherlock,” where quite a few lines and actions could be considered by some as queerbaiting, which is where media makes you think something romantic or sexual might happen between two same-gendered characters (usually attractive white males), but then in the next instant, it is solidified that nothing would ever happen. In other words, the show or movie gives you a big “no homo lol” and moves on.
Now, I strongly dislike that tendency, since I really really want ACTUAL representation in media. But with that said, this problem isn’t as black and white as I think a lot of us would hope. That episode of Sherlock was written by Mark Gatiss, who is openly gay. One of the biggest scenes features Andrew Scott, an openly gay actor. These things may be irrelevant to some, but I, as a queer person, find it difficult to accuse queer people of queerbaiting. If I was in Gatiss’ position, I would inject queerness into my work, too, as much as I could. What if Gatiss was simply taking it as far as he could without getting in trouble with Moffat or the producers or whoever?
I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s worth considering.
Another example would be Bryan Fuller, the creator of the TV version of “Hannibal.” Fuller is also gay, and while the show does not go nearly as far as Sherlock does, there is a clear and obvious attempt at cultivating sexual tension between Hannibal and Will, which Fuller has confirmed, along with Mads Mikkelsen, a straight actor who plays Hannibal Lecter. Is it queerbaiting to dangle this unresolved sexual tension in front of us, knowing that the person behind it is gay?
And moreover, if we, as queer people, buy into it or allow ourselves to like it, are we subject to the accusations of “queer fetishism” that I see flying around? Of course not, right? We can’t fetishize ourselves, can we? But isn’t it the exact same content and a very similar reaction to it? (The intended reaction, I might add, of excitement at the possibility.)
I ask these questions genuinely, without defending what we’ve seen and what’s been produced. Queerbaiting has largely been perpetrated by straight writers and creators. But as opportunities open up for queer voices, I wonder if we shouldn’t think a little deeper about this issue. Is it still queerbaiting–a sort of internalized torch-carrying for the straight forefathers of the medium–or is it a subtle way to bring in queer voices in a time where plotlines featuring queer characters still almost unilaterally focus on their sexual orientations and not on good storytelling?
“I walked out of that courtroom, and I could hear my blood, a hollow drumming of wings. And I had the absurd feeling that whoever this killer is…he walked out of that courtroom with me. He’s gonna reach out to me.” “What does he want?” “He wants to know me.”
“The only obsession everyone wants: ‘love.’ People think that in falling in love they make themselves whole? The Platonic union of souls? I think otherwise. I think you’re whole before you begin. And the love fractures you. You’re whole, and then you’re cracked open. ” ― Philip Roth, The Dying Animal