Is it Queerbaiting? and Should it Be Explicitly Stated For It to Be Legit?

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Hey guys! So this is going to be my last post before I disappear on you all again. It was basically inspired by Pride Month and just a burning curiosity I’ve had since Yuri on Ice aired (plus, now that I’m obsessed with Sherlock the curiosity levels are off the charts!). As a warning, this post might seem all jumbled up (and has SPOILERS for YOI and Sherlock) because even I’m not sure where I’m going with this

So before I even mention if I think it is or isn’t, let’s find out what Queer baiting means

Definition by Fanlore:

In a fannish context, queer baiting (or queerbaiting) is a term used to describe the perceived attempt by canon creators (typically of television shows) to woo queer fans and/or slash fans, but with no intention of actually showing a gay relationship being consummated on screen. This is done either by introducing a character whose sexuality seems, early on, to be coded as something other than one hundred percent heterosexual, or by indicating — be it ever so slightly — that two same-sex characters might possibly be attracted to each other.

Definition by Urban Dictionary:

When an author/director/etc. gives hints, and clever twists to paint a character as possibly being queer, to satisfy queer audiences, but never outright says they are so they can keep their heterosexual audience.

Definition by TV Tropes:

Queerbaiting is a phenomenon whereby something “queer” is teased in a work and not followed through with.


I’m pretty sure that everyone can list at least one show out there that queer bates (ie. not following through on the gay). In this case I’m thinking about YOI and Sherlock

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While Yuri on Ice was still uber popular (who knows, it might still be but I haven’t heard as much about it since it aired, could be lack of news, could be my MIA) everyone was saying that it wasn’t queer baiting because the creators had done their research and were paying homage to actual LGBTQ+ members. One of them I remember is Johnny Weir and how one of Victor’s outfits was similar to his (plus the flower crown). There was just a lot of defense over the show finally depicting a healthy gay relationship but nothing was ever confirmed

Yes there were rings, yes there was a mention of marriage, and definitely yes there was a lot of overly friendly touching between guys (especially Victor and Yuuri. I mean, remember the supposed kiss and the drunk-Yuuri episode where everyone assumed is when Victor fell in love with our sweet and spicy Katsudon?)

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But Victor and Yuuri never get married because Yuuri didn’t win gold, which was the condition Victor placed. And then I think, were they even actually engaged? I mean, Pitchit saw the rings and just exclaimed to everyone his friends were getting married and Victor just went along with it. There was no proposal of marriage, just Yuuri giving Victor a “good luck charm” but we took it as something else because there were signs that yes, this could be a gay couple

And then Yuuri conveniently didn’t win gold so no wedding

Queerbaiting? I think so

Am I arguing if Yuuri or Victor are gay for each other? No. I seriously think they are. There is no way that a straight guy would buy himself and his coach gold rings and say it’s no homo. There’s no way I will believe that a straight guy will react the way Yuuri does when Victor touches him. No way. No way.

And then there’s Sherlock, be still my heart!

Sherlock is a bit different to YOI in that the fans have most definitely labeled it as queer baiting (as far as I’ve seen), especially with the events in season 4.

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Random: ok in this scene Sherlock and John have been picked up from their respective locations and taken to Buckingham Palace for a case. Sherlock had been home in a blanket, solving cases while he had John do the legwork. When John arrives he gives Sherlock THAT LOOK and asks if he’s wearing any pants. Sherlock says no and then they start giggling. I laughed too but it wasn’t until 3 months later where it hit me that Sherlock was naked under there because pants apparently means underwear to the Englishmen

Now that that’s out of my system…

My god the gay starts from episode 1 like two minutes after meeting each other. And there must be something about them because even the people in the series believe that they’re an item. Like, it’s one thing if I’m just hallucinating all the signs and another when the canon-verse is saying they’re gay

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Look at Sherlock smirking

Mrs. Hudson casually mentions the second bedroom upstairs “if you’ll be needing two bedrooms”. John casually asks Sherlock about his love life, asking if he has a girlfriend or boyfriend, which is OK (he emphasizes). Sherlock doesn’t even seem put out by the implication he might be gay but does end up rejecting John, saying he’s married to The Work (and then John is all like oh god I wasn’t asking because I was interested). Irene Adler mentions they’re a couple. The guys during the Hounds of Baskerville imply that Sherlock is John’s other half, even Moriarty implies John is Sherlock’s heart, Angelo sets up a romantic table for the two of them, and one of John’s girlfriends (quickly turned ex) says that Sherlock is lucky to have such a caring boyfriend like John

And poor little John feels the need to constantly tell everyone he’s not gay

The setup here is sort of similiar to YOI in that there’s a lot of subtext for Johnlock, except for the physical stuff. And like YOI, nothing is ever followed through or explicitly stated

I mean, John was never able to keep a girlfriend while Sherlock was around because he was more invested in Sherlock and what they had together (whatever that might be, partnership in cases, friendship, or more). Then we get Sherlock disappearing for two years and John being devastated, which is legit to me for friends. But when Sherlock comes back and pretty much tells John the mustache must go and John doesn’t even think twice about shaving it off…well, that’s only the first of a couple things that happen

And then season 4 happens. God that season had some nice stuff happening but overall was so different to everything prior. For one, the “no homo” comes up strongly with Mary’s death. Our two mains are forcibly separated by something that wasn’t Sherlock’s fault. Then John insisting Sherlock get with Irene when that ship wasn’t even shippy, like ok guys slow down

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While Victuuri reminded me of young passionate love, Johnlock makes me think of an old married couple. But alas, neither commit

Which makes me wonder other things

  • Do labels matter? Yuri on Ice isn’t labeled as a BL title but it supposedly has a gay couple. If the show had been marketed as a BL title then there would be no mistake as to the signs we saw, but because it was marketed as a sports anime there’s that confusion. Some people say it’s definitely gay, others don’t want to label it that way and they can do that because it’s not labeled as BL and the creators didn’t commit to the signs. I think they do. For one, it helps me figure out if there is hope. While watching both shows, I knew nothing would come of it because neither was BL or whatever term real people shows use to signify a gay couple. And second, it clears misunderstandings and doubts about certain scenes, actions, and feelings
  • Can the characters actions make up for the fact that their sexuality wasn’t explicitly stated? Lots of fans (including myself) see the signs of Victuuri and Johnlock, can’t see any straight way to interpret certain scenes, and notice that a lot of the characters’ actions can be described as love. Love beyond that of a friend, love similar to a significant other. Personally, I think actions speak stronger than words except in entertainment. In TV, anime, books, whatever, if their sexuality isn’t explicitly stated somehow (be it them saying I’m gay/bi/asexual/etc or mentioning a past same-sex relationship) then actions don’t make up for it because the creators can easily say it was just the fans or a bromance
  • Is it unfair that gay couples need to have their sexuality explicitly stated for the audience to finally get it? There’s always that argument of “well if it were a guy and a girl there wouldn’t be any doubt”, which I agree with. There wouldn’t be any doubt about Victuuri if one of them had been a girl. And they might have even been able to legit get engaged and/or married. I mean JJ gets engaged and there’s no doubt about that happening. Personally I do think it’s unfair because a straight couple never needs to say they’re straight but we’re not at that stage yet in our society. We need things explicitly stated and if we’re not going to explicitly state someones sexuality, I think there needs to be something that explicitly tells us that they are gay (for each other preferably)
  • Both YOI and Sherlock were huge hits because of the relationship between the main characters, which a lot of LGBTQ+ members connected with, so why not commit? Why leave it at queerbaiting if the reception is so good? What are people afraid of? In anime, the yaoi genre is far from healthy and then a show like YOI comes around, shows us that we can have something beautiful and healthy between two guys but then doesn’t commit. Sherlock is the same, depicting what could possibly be a good representation of a gay couple but then adds things like “I’m not gay”, Mary, and Irene Adler to the mix to show us there’s “no homo”. I don’t understand why people would make us hope for something, not deliver, and then expect good reception once the “no homo” line has been raised

Welp! That’s all I have to say about this queerbaiting issue for the moment. I’m not well versed in anything LGBTQ+ related but I know I love BL and wish there were more healthy depictions of gay couples. Let me know what you all think about the questions I posed, your thoughts on anything else related to queerbaiting (be it specific to these two shows I mentioned or in general), etc

Also, when I say gay I mean it in a general sense, not just m/m but g/g too (but I don’t know of any yuri shows and haven’t watched anything recently that could fall under this category)

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