Coding, Bait, and Representation: Different Forms of Queer Media

Analyze different ways that queerness has been tackled in literature over time, with particular attention paid to the shift in recent years away from queer coded characters to queer characters whose sexuality/queerness is explicitly stated and explored in the text. One of the most direct ways to look at this is through fairy tales. Many fairy tales when read through a queer lens reveal a rich queer subtext, even if they were not written with this intention. On the other side of the token, in modern times it’s common to write explicitly queer retellings of fairy tales, which bring that subtext to the forefront and make it textual, rather than regulating it to a subtextual reading. (This could be applied to storytelling as a whole, but it would be useful to narrow it down to one specific medium like classic vs contemporary literature. It could also have examples from TV & anime/manga).

An article on this topic could also spend time on queerbaiting, which in some ways occupies a unique middle ground: characters that are queer coded enough for queer viewers to find them compelling and therefore a profitable audience, but not so explicitly queer that the writers ever have to commit to that reading (the show Supernatural comes up a lot as an example in these sorts of conversations). With many stories, it is worthwhile to go back and read them through a queer lens due to them containing rich queer subtext that wasn’t able to be made explicit in the time it was written (Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde and the Awakening by Kate Chopin comes to mind). However, when it comes to modern stories where censorship is less of a valid obstacle, this reliance on queer coding without explicit confirmation becomes baiting when done intentionally. (There is plenty of grey area when it comes to unintentional queer coding and where that line is drawn.)

Additionally, this could also explore which types of queer characters are most needed in media today. While queer coding in classic literature is very important to look back on, now that explicit queer narratives ARE more normalized, it feels reductive to go back to storytelling that keeps all of its queerness beneath the surface. Nevertheless, a counterpoint to this push for explicit queer narratives would be that, at times, this type of storytelling can become heavy handed. It may be an issue where everyone’s ideal form of queer representation is subjective.

  • I think it's also worth noting that queerbaiting is often referred to as a marketing tactic - some media will sell the story as being queer, but not actually show this during the piece itself (eg a social media account posting a pride month post featuring a character or two, but these character's queerness doesn't actually get mentioned in the piece of media at all). It's a term that gets a lot of use, and some people seem to use it in very different ways with different meanings. Regardless, I do like this topic idea. – AnnieEM 1 year ago

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