Representation matters, especially the gay kind
By, Sophie Dalton
In 2018 the political climate is as intense as ever. It seems more and more issues regarding minority groups, pop up on different news outlets everyday. We as Americans are beginning to realize that representation matters. From movies like Black Panther, staring an all black cast, or Love, Simon, that follows the coming out story of a young gay man, we are in a new era of representation. That being said, there aren’t enough queer stories being told by queer people in mainstream media.
It wasn’t till shows like The L word or Queer as Folk, that there was any mainstream queer representation on TV. When those series end, nothing really came after them. Nowadays, queer characters are either non existent, or just there to add “diversity’”. This shows that these executives are using queer characters as a marketing ploy, in order to relate to actual queer identifying people. Vary scarcely, will you find queer female characters, on a couple of episodes of a mainstream television show. When they are apart of the main plot, their character arc is either about coming out, or falling in love. Statistically, it has shown that most queer characters, especially queer women, are killed off on shows. Key examples of this phenomenon are Kelly from the show Black Mirror and Poussey Washington from Orange is the New Black. When queer women die on television the internet explodes with why or why not their character should have been killed off at the arc of her character development. The killing of queer characters in mainstream media is detrimental in multiple ways to LGBTQIA+ people, and their fight to be represented.
Another problem within queer representation is queerbaiting. Queerbaiting is the practice to hint at, but then to not actually depict, a potential same-sex romantic relationship between fictional characters. The potential romance may be ignored, explicitly rejected, or made fun of. Queerbaiting is a marketing ploy that allows the LGBTQIA+ community to know that inherently the character is queer identifying, but not make it so explicit that it pisses off people who are homophobic. There are many clear examples of queerbaiting throughout national television including, Styles from the show Teen Wolf, and many of the male leads on the popular CW show Supernatural. The writers of these shows use ambiguous dialogue and setting to hint at a character being queer, but don’t make it openly explicit that a character, is in fact is apart of the LGBTQIA+ community. . People have taken to Twitter and Instagram to show their anger at the less than acceptable amount of queer people in our popular media, , or lack of actual tangible queer representation. Most writers and or creators of these shows that do queerbait, when asked in interviews, about these queer characters, say that the character is whatever the people who watch the show make them out to be. They don’t deny that their characters are queer but they don’t explicitly say that they are. In itself queerbaiting is a huge marketing ploy, a marketing ploy that is detrimental to queer representation. Most people who think certain characters are queer are thought to be crazy, or just making everything gay. When in reality the LGBTQIA+ community is just taking the things they see that are inherently queer and saying for a fact that they
Queer representation and representation is important, for it allows people to see themselves on televsion and see that they actually exist. We need to keep pointing out where our media, (whether that be magazines, movies, tv shows, etc), does people wrong. Overall regardless of minority or ethnic group representation in media changes the way people see minorities. The minorities who are being representation begin to feel a sense of belonging. As a young queer Jewish women, I have seen my own examples of this type of activity. The mintorities that our government, and our media, try so hard to push away, when represented, feel a sense of belonging. There is much work to do, with representation, and it is important we keep expressing what creators or writers missed when talking about representation.. We need people in Hollywood telling queer stories and not making the queer character the sidekick, but the superhero.
For more resources of queerbaiting and queer representation here is some cool links to check out:
Sophie is fellow in Kol Isha, NFTY-NAR’s NY Teen Feminist Fellowship.