Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fangirl 101: Queer Baiting vs. Ship Teasing

I wrote a basic and very vague definition of queer baiting a couple of months ago, and while it’s a fair description of the problem it seems that people are more and more throwing the term queerbaiting around when in actual fact what they mean is ship teasing. There is some cross over between the terms of course, but it’s important to remember that ship teasing is not automatically queer baiting when it involves same sex couplings.

Right so ship teasing – is an unfortunate and annoying part of being a shipper because there is just no way that every single one of our ships can become canon and if they do become canon they can’t all be ‘endgame’. It’s just not possible, and we know that but that doesn’t stop us shippers from hoping that even the craziest pairing just might be the one that make it. That’s fine but sometimes the powers-that-be catch on to a non canon ship (it can be either het or slash) and decide to have a little fun with it.

NOTE – this also happens with established love triangles when there is a clear endgame set up.

It’s all very well and good for the writers because they have at least some idea of what’s going to happen (well we hope they have a plan anyway). Which means they are pretty sure whether or not a ship is likely to ‘happen’ or not. So they find out about a popular non-canon pairing and they know that this couple is never going to get together (for various different reasons that may or may not be obvious) but because of the ships popularity they decide to tease the fans a little.

They advertise a kiss between the couple – but it was for a dare or some other ridiculous non-romantic reason. They hint at a powerful emotional conversation between the pair but the conversation turns out to be about one or both of their official pairings. They place those two actors together in interviews so that they can flirt up a storm and wink about how much fun they have working together. Each and every one of these things throws the fandom into an uproar because they are sure it means that their fav couple is about to become canon.

It’s not going to happen of course and chances are that ship is going to be sunk for good pretty soon. You can’t really fault the powers-that-be for this; I mean they are using the resources available to them to get people excited about the TV show (or movie or book)… but it does suck for the shippers.

Ship teasing can hurt and it’s certainly annoying but it is definitely NOT exclusive to same-sex pairings. They are just as likely to tease a het ship (in fact probably more likely) as they are to tease a slash or femslash pairing. This means that every time the powers-that-be hint at or wink about a slash or femslash couple they are not necessarily queer baiting so you can’t just going around shouting homophobia at them.

Queer baiting happens when they start to tease the ships sexuality more than their romantic potential. When a TV show, movie or book is lauded as being progressive because there is a potential slash pairing and they aren’t afraid to talk about it. You shouldn’t give anyone a medal just because they are willing to discuss the possible homoerotic subtext – people aren’t lauded for equality when they talk about non-canon heterosexual pairings… they are just expected to discuss it and they should react to same sex pairings in the same way. That said – talking about queer subtext is not the same as having queer characters.

What I hate the most is when actors or writers or producers use they phrase “they could always go gay” (or some derivative) because it’s clear from the way they say it and the way they present the character that this is not a possibility… and that’s not even going to go into the binary heteronormative assumptions this statement suggests – why do they have to be either gay or straight? Saying ‘they could always go gay’ when in reality they couldn’t IS queer baiting.

A similar thing happens when the powers-that-be or the actors say in interviews of commentary or supporting material that the character is actually bisexual or had a bisexual experience or heck they are gay but they just didn’t mention it in the show. Coming out after the fact or being unwilling to acknowledge a character’s sexuality within the text is queer baiting.

So the powers-that-be use these hints of possibility (that are not really all that possible) to show just how wonderfully progressive they are… I mean not everyone is willing to be so open the homoerotic subtext, right?

Teasing the possibility of a potential queer pairing and then riding on the coat tails of the people hoping for representation without any intention of following through is queer baiting.

This happens a fair bit – especially now that slash has become a thing that people are talking about – but that doesn’t mean that every time someone teases a slash or femslash pairing they are queer baiting. If people keep throwing the term around every time something doesn’t go exactly the way they want it to then these is no way people will take the problem seriously. Soon enough it will go the way of ‘fanservice’ which was a legitimate thing but is now used to mean the writers didn’t get my couple together therefore the must be pandering to another fanbase.

Come on guys – we shouldn’t applaud people for acknowledging homoerotic subtext and talking about potential same sex couples (because that’s their job) but we also don’t want to be known as the fandom that cried queer baiting (pun may or mat not be intended). Representation is important and I will spend my life arguing against rigid binary assumptions about sexuality but sometimes two people just aren’t meant to get together… even if you really really want them to.

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