Are we being queerbaited by television showrunners?
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For as long as there has been entertainment, there has been ‘shipping’: the desire of fans wanting certain characters to be together romantically, who may or may not be a couple in the canon plot. Especially on websites like Tumblr, terms like ‘I ship them’ and ‘this ship has sailed’ are common, and of course this extends to the LGBT+ community. There really isn’t a lot of media with LGBT+ representation, and the shows that have it are specifically aimed at LGBT+ people. It’s incredibly rare to see a show where there just happens to be a gay relationship that everyone accepts as normal, a bisexual girl who isn’t portrayed as promiscuous or a transgender person just living their life normally without the focus being on their transition. Often if a character is LGBT+ then it’s added in later by the creators, almost as an afterthought, like when J.K. Rowling revealed that Albus Dumbledore was gay. If that was the case, it would have been mentioned at least once in the books and films rather than being brought up later. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) researched television from 2012-13 and found that 4.4% of shows had regular LGBT+ characters in them, slightly higher than 2.9% in 2011 and 1.1% in 2007. Media always fails to fully represent the LGBT+ community and often if there is an attempt by showrunners, it’s widely viewed as queerbaiting, which is when there’s romantic tension between two characters in order to appeal to queer viewers, without the intention of ever putting those characters together. It means creators can hint at queer people being the heroes, the main characters, but in reality the potential relationship is played out as a joke and the assumptions are quashed (via interviews etc.) while the characters still seem to be involved with each other, or one of the characters is suddenly in a heterosexual relationship. LGBT+ are a minority group (estimates in the US range from 4-6%), so it can be assumed that the majority of viewers will not be queer. Queerbaiting means creators can appeal to queer viewers while avoiding angering those who don’t support LGBT+ people. However, this also means pandering to discriminatory behaviour and not making any progress with regards to how LGBT+ people are seen in society.
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