Queerbaiting isn’t new but its implications are as powerful as ever. Queerbaiting was born out of fandom in the early 2010s. When in a narration the dialogue or behaviour between two characters of the same sex suggests a level of intimacy beyond a friendship, viewers understand and expect that the story will conclude in a satisfying scene when the real relationship is finally unveiled but this doesn’t turn out. At the end viewers feel misled and manipulated because these plots are perceived as a calculated strategy. The strategy also aims to involve the LGBTQ audience, making feel them part of the story without a sort of conservative prejudice towards their choice.
When a celebrity or other personality earns a reputation as an advocate for gay rights, her or his veiled references to same-sex relationships are not paired with any explicit confirmation of their meaning. When the sexual identity remains vague and the person continue to exloit his or her uncertain and undefined choice, the result is offensive because someone seems to be playing with it like in a cheap marketing tool. As said, queerbaiting exists for long but today with LGBTQ representations improved compared to the past, people feel this issue much more and are more likely to accuse producers of queerbaiting.
The gay community sees queerbaiting as a tactic to sell records or shows (or movies) and expand viewership among those seeking a wider representation of LGBT people in the media. But it’s a tease to grab attention and has no substance. In the past, the sexuality of David Bowie, Elton John and Madonna was not examined to the same degree, and LGBTQ audiences were hungry for representations like the ones these celebrities were able to perform, and those stars provided them, but now we live in a different moment today. Today you have to distinguish between gay and lesbian representations and pop culture, which is something where this veiled, confused sexual references are accepted to a certain limit. Today LGBT people ask for the disclosure of celeberities’ own sexuality when they play with their sexual orientation.
In the entertainment world, queerbaiting is used to attract that portion of the queer audience that wants to be represented and, at the same time, not upset that traditional audience that does not want to see this type of content. Those who, to be clear, if there is a sexual tension between two characters “we should have put it because now it is fashionable”. The result of this practice, however, is that of disrespecting the LGBTQ community and there are many debates that – since the 1910s – have involved fans of this or that entertainment product by classifying certain dynamics between characters or attitudes of the actors as queerbaiting.
The performances of Italian singer Achille Lauro, who nurtures a solid bond with the fashion house Gucci, led by creative Alessandro Michele, are just the latest case of queerbaiting. Lauro is accused of queerbaiting to exploit homosexuality or bisexuality without openly declaring himself gay or bisexual. It is not enough to be sponsored by Gucci to declare oneself gay. In fact, since 2015, when Michele was appointed director of the maison, the brand’s policy has always been clear: an eccentric, quotationist, unique style with a strong tendency to genderless.