For those who don’t know, Sherlock began filming season three recently. Tumblr exploded. The Internet rejoiced. The shippers started writing fan fiction again.
I will not be watching.
There are a multitude of reasons for this: I’m already illegally watching one British show (Doctor Who) and I feel bad about downloading another; I recently started watching Elementary, and I like it better; due to the whacko fangirls, I can’t enjoy it anymore; Steven Moffat is still writing for it; and the final, biggest reason: the queer-baiting.
Queer-baiting, for those who do not know, is the practice of television shows and movies putting in a little gay subtext, stirring up interest with queer fans, and then pulling a NO HOMO, MAN on the viewers. If you’ve watched Sherlock, this is a major “subplot” of the first episode, and it continues as a running joke throughout the series. John and Sherlock are mistaken as a gay couple, one of them (usually John) goes, “no way, of course not, we’re not even gay,” and it’s played off as a joke.
The mere speculation that a character could be gay is played for laughs, and if you don’t see something wrong there, then there’s something wrong.
Sherlock isn’t the only show to do this, but it is the most prominent. Usually, for some reason, shows that have two (straight) white men as the leads are worst with queerbaiting: see Supernatural, where the brothers are mistaken for gay lovers multiple times in the first few seasons, and then later, the same thing happens with Dean and Castiel.
Many times, the shows that have the most queerbaiting also have few to no actual queer characters. Sherlock, for example, has one lesbian character (Irene Adler), but she gets “fixed” because she falls for Sherlock. Supernatural has a lesbian character who has shown up in two episodes (out of eight seasons), but her character is actually handled with respect and dignity, unlike poor Irene. I have personally never watched Merlin, so I will not cast judgments upon it, but I can talk about Teen Wolf. Two of the secondary characters, Derek and Stiles, are shipped incessantly (as of this writing, on AO3, a popular fanfiction website, there are 10,268 fanfictions that ship them together), while an actual queer character, Danny, is nearly ignored by the fandom (on AO3, there are 1,676 fics tagged with him as a character).
Many of the problems associated with queerbaiting come from the fandom, and especially from the straight fangirls who want to see a gay couple get together because it would be hot (that’s fetishization, which is a whole different issue). But anything the fandom picks up ultimately comes from the writers. The writers want to attract a queer audience without actually making a character queer, which could offend the homophobes in their audience—and we can’t have bigots getting uncomfortable, can we? This trend tells us queer folks that we’re not important enough to have our own plotlines: we’re important enough for your statistics, but not for your stories.
I conclude with a poem by queer blogger ftmark:
queerbaiting is frustrating
I don’t want a morsel
dangled down in front of me
on the other hand,
I am starving
Rebekah Bailey is an over-caffeinated freshman WLP major from eastern Kentucky. She enjoys Stargate, violently critiquing other people’s work, procrastinating on Tumblr, and being sassy with her roommates. She has had a 5-point plan to take over the world ready since fifth grade, and had it been for math she would have become an evil genius physicist (but since math is hard, she just writes about them).