What is Queerbaiting? Is it homophobic?
In June 2021, pop singer Billie Eilish released the music video for her new single, “Lost Cause”. The video features Eilish at a sleepover with a handful of her friends. As a promotion for the video, she job a series of photos from behind-the-scenes moments with the caption: “I love girls.” Soon after, her comments were inundated with questions about whether or not she was dating.
This series of photos has made her one of the many celebrities in recent years who have been the subject of queerbaiting accusations. In the middle of the speech online, however, a Twitter user posted a tweet that perfectly summed up the current place of this discussion in our cultural landscape. “The conversation around queerbaiting has reached a confusing point – on the one hand, we say don’t worry [about] Labels, ” they wrote. “And on the other hand, if an artist even presents ‘queer’ from a distance, we ask him [about] their sexuality?
What is queerbaiting?
The term queerbaiting is complex and convoluted, but can briefly be defined as when “a celebrity or public figure capitalizes on the suspicion that they may be romantically involved with another person of the same sex for the purpose of publicity,” promotion or capital gain, ”says filmmaker, writer and activist Leo Herrera Rolling stone. He says media creators “play with our lack of representation and our desires to get us into theaters or have us watched.”
When the Pixar movie Luca released earlier this year, social media users drew comparisons to the 2017 film, “Call Me By Your Name” and the New York Times same titled their review “Squid by your name.” The studio was accused of hinting at a strange relationship between the two main characters, but the director later shot down rumors saying it was just a matter of friendship.
While the Oxford English Dictionary recently recognized the term in March 2021, it has been used in the cultural lexicon for decades. According to Julia Himberg, director and associate professor of film and media studies at Arizona State University, the origins can be traced back to the early days of the internet, when LGBTQ portrayal was less explicit in the media on fan blogs and internet forums. .
“What was interesting to trace is that [the term queerbaiting] has grown in popularity as LGBTQ representation has grown and has become an accepted part of the pop cultural landscape, ”Himberg said. “This is because queerbaiting is understood as a tactic where media producers involve queer stories and media texts that are never actualized.”
She says the reason there has been a push for representation in media by the queer community is because “visibility is that form of cultural currency that provides this recognition and validation that LGBTQ + people are valued as doing part of the national landscape “.
Why do people accuse musicians, actors and other artists of queerbaiting?
Eilish is not the first – and indeed not the last – person to be accused of queerbaiting. Over the years, many artists have been charged. More recently, Normani was criticized on Instagram by a user and accused of something similar, which was later shared between Twitter. In her recent video for her song “Wild Side”, featuring Cardi B, the two are shown naked and spinning against each other.
While some charges don’t hold up much, there are some that do. In 2016, Nick Jonas was promoting his upcoming album “Last Year Was Complicated”. During the publicity tour for his album, he frequently visited gay bars, played with the question as to whether or not he had had sexual experiences with men saying, “I can’t say I have or not”, among many others things.
Ariana Grande and Rita Ora faced backlash because of the songs they made. In 2018, similar charges were brought against Ora after releasing his song “Girls” with Cardi B, Bebe Rexha and Charli XCX as Perry finally admitted that his song “I Kissed a Girl” was problematic. Ora sang lyrics about her “open-mindedness” before entering a chorus that is about drinking red wine and kissing girls. It not only upset the fans but also other musicians like Hayley. Kiyoko and Kehlani – who called the words harmful. Ora later apologized and revealed she had relationships with men and women.
Grande’s “Monopoly” – which featured close friend / co-writer Victoria Monet – was a topic of conversation in 2019 after she sang the line: “I love women and men.” Social media users claimed it was queer bait, but she later claimed replied on Twitter saying that she “doesn’t feel the need to” label herself.
Many cultural moments that were seen as pushing the boundaries at the time are now being reexamined as the actual queer portrayal is brought to the screen. Rapper Lil Nas X took the stage at the BET Awards in June 2021 and kissed one of his backup dancers. The stunt immediately drew comparisons to Madonna’s 2003 VMA Kiss with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.
Madonna then posted a collage of Lil Nas X’s kiss and her infamous kiss on her Instagram Story with text that read: “#DidItFirst”. She was immediately called by fashion watchdog account Diet Prada, who said her kiss was “barely as revolutionary as the black gay men who do it.” They continued: “White [cisgender] [heterosexual] people always had the space to do whatever they wanted… including, but not limited to, queerbaiting.
History of homophobia and the “fear of lavender”
If one were to look even further, the term was used to describe “homophobic practices in politics and law,” says Himberg. In the early 1950s there was the “lavender fear” of the Joseph McCarthy era – not to be confused with theRed fear. “The ‘Lavender Fear’ was a policy based on ‘unfounded fear that gays and lesbians “pose a threat to national security because they are vulnerable to blackmail and are seen as having low morals” historian David K. Johnson said Time magazine.
Historian Nadine Hubbs wrote in a 2009 academic study for the University of Nebraska Press that when law enforcement attempted to round up and interview people they suspected of being part of the LGBTQ + community, politicians have used queerbaiting as an “information-gathering tactic”. Himberg says this strategy during the McCarthy era was “On eliminating ‘suspected homosexuals’ using various tactics, including entrapment, blackmail, affiliations with various organizations and artistic traditions.”
Of course, it wasn’t that long ago that ‘gay panic’ was a common legal defense against ‘indecent advances’ – so the fact that younger generations are now wooing the LGBTQ + public through a Explicit queer performativity is seen by many as progress and a positive development. In fact, it has become a growing field of media and cultural studies, as Judith Fathallah explains in an essay recently published in Journal of Popular Music Studies. Fathallah claims that “a restrictive notion of ‘truth’ in discussions of queer baiting” can shut down the “very transformative possibilities and open configurations of sexuality.” She studies emo groups as a “natural case study” as they are an offshoot of hardcore and punk, which “sought to complicate the hegemonic masculinities dominating these genres, both in its musical and lyrical content. and the “performativity of its artists”.
Why False Queerbaiting Claims Can Be Harmful
In the age of social media, however, people sometimes go wrong by projecting false accusations, similar to those Eilish and Normani faced. Jesus G. Smith, professor of ethnic studies at Lawrence University, recounts Rolling stone that false accusations – or premature ones to critical thinking – are detrimental to any online movement. “People also need to decipher the difference between those performing for the heterosexual lens and queerbaiting, which are very different.”
Smith says there are pros and cons to having these kinds of chats online. On the one hand, writing helps people articulate specific points better than speaking, but on the other hand, “it can flounder in different ways,” he said. “These spaces can be really harmful to have these discussions.” He added: “It depends on how people use and manipulate technology. “
Regardless of the discussions, the LGBTQ + community has asked to be seen in roles / scenarios designed for queer people and by queer people. Activist Leo Herrera, for example, connects with his supporters through text messages uploaded to his Instagram account, where he gives his opinions and thoughts on events unfolding in the queer community.
In December 2020, Herrera wrote an article titled “Scraps” and said he was tired of the “scraps” the LGBTQ + community receives for everything from lack of health care to lack of queer representation in the media, while that headlines and media space are given to straight men wearing dresses. He writes: “Tired of decades old leftovers repackaged as ‘visibility’. Scrap is for famines. We are not starving. Homosexuals have parties in our history and banquets in our closets. Save your fucking leftovers.