Few things are as satisfying as coming home (or if you’re like me, stepping out of your home office) and chilling on the couch with a Netflix series. Okay, maybe it’s not so satisfying because then you need to figure out if you have anything new to watch and if the new stuff available is worth watching. Most of them are good enough for turning your brain off to and having a few hours of fun, but that’s until you come across a TV series that’s basically the equivalent of queer clickbait.
Think, you’re enjoying this show. It keeps dropping hints that one of the main characters is queer, forcing you to play a one-sided game of Legally Blonde: The Musical‘s “Is He Gay or European?” because there’s just no way all of this isn’t queer-coded. So you squint and ask yourself if they’re really friends or are they friends.
If the show wasn’t giving you so many hints, you wouldn’t even be thinking about this and would just accept that it would default to another heterosexual pairing. But it won’t. A female character tells another female character they’re pretty too many times for there to be a heterosexual explanation for it.
So you stick around and wait — and then the female characters end up with cishet men. Your dreams of a lesbian kissing scene and representation have been dashed on the rocks by the harsh waves of the ocean where TV producers cast their queerbait to make money off of queer viewers without offending their more bigoted fans.
What Is Queerbaiting?
Because nobody does it better than Wikipedia, and really, it’s time we admit they do use citations, let’s use their definition as a jumping point. Wikipedia defines queerbaiting as “a marketing technique for fiction and entertainment in which creators hint at, but then do not actually depict, same-sex romance or other LGBT representation.”
Note the “other LGBT representation” bit because many people think that as long as a show withholds its lesbian kissing scene, it’s already queerbaiting. No. As long as a show “baits” you with queer coded representation, even if it isn’t related to a romantic relationship, that in itself is already queerbaiting.
For people who aren’t queer or aren’t informed about queer issues, it’s easy to dismiss queerbaiting as just a plot point that’s been dropped. After all, bad writing happens on TV all the time and even good shows will sometimes switch tracks and explore a different subplot or drop them altogether. This is is different from queerbaiting.
Queerbaiting involves the show’s creators actively leading queer audiences on with the promise that soon, soon we’ll finally show this obviously queer coded character coming out of the closet or engaged in a lesbian kissing scene sometime around the climax of the story. Except it never happens.
So at the end of the show, queer audiences are left staring at a screen, with Netflix asking them if they’re still watching, wondering what the hell just happened. The show just made a killing off of the support of a queer viewer by promising them representation without delivering on it.
This often happens because the show’s producers are afraid that letting a show be queer outright would alienate the bigoted part of their audience or keep them from profiting off of audiences in countries that actively censor content that admits it’s not very straight. In short, queerbaiting is used so that a show can have its cake and eat it too.
By not committing to its queer-coded aspects, they can still make money off of an anti-queer audience while also making money off of actual queer people who are desperate to see some kind of representation on television.
It’s not just television shows that do it, either. Many real-life people, particularly singers, have been accused of queerbaiting fans with obviously queer-coded lyrics and social media posts but then turn around to say that they “don’t feel the need to” label themselves.
While there’s an argument to be made that accusing real people of queerbaiting forces them to come out before they’re ready, the whole “lead the queers on without really committing to being queer in case we alienate other fans” couldn’t be more queerbait-ey if it tried. Hmm, queerbait-coded? Is that a thing?
Anyway, before we get mired in discourse, let’s just go on to the many disappointing times a show queer baited audiences but didn’t commit to admitting their characters are queer. One of these actually did have a lesbian kissing scene, but still managed to be horribly queerbait-ey.
The Shows That Queerbaited Us and Robbed Us of a Lesbian or Gay Kissing Scene
1. Kara and Lena From Supergirl (2015)
Supergirl was a television series first aired back in October 2021 about the heroic exploits of Kara Danvers a.k.a Supergirl. If you haven’t guessed already, yes, she’s basically Superman except she’s a girl. Supergirl, who is actually Kara Zor-El, is Superman’s cousin who was sent to Earth with her.
The trajectory of their public lives are a little different from each other as Supergirl goes into the nuances of Kara being a female superhero and having to live in the shadow of her much more famous cousin Superman.
Sometime during the show, Kara and Clark Kent team up and dop by Luther Corp where they meet Lena Luthor, Lex Luthor’s paternal half-sister. Unlike Lex, who’s clearly the bad guy in Superman’s story, Lena isn’t evil and has vowed to take back Luthor Corp and make it a force for good. Her moral alignment made her good friends with Kara Danvers or, as fans would say, very good friends.
The Supergirl calls the Kara x Lena ship “Supercorp,” referring to both of their backgrounds. It’s one of the oldest ships in the fandom, leading to people getting heavily invested in their budding relationship with its frequent instances of, ahem, chemistry.
In one scene, Kara tells Lena that, and I quote, “And, I convinced myself that I was protecting you and then one day you were so angry with me, with Supergirl, but you still loved Kara. And I just kept thinking, if I could be Kara, just Kara, then I could keep you as a friend. I was selfish and scared and I didn’t want to lose you.”
There is no heterosexual explanation for that and for the fact that Lena sent Kara enough flowers to fill her office so no wonder fans were pissed when the show ended without ever addressing the romantic undertones of their interactions.
2. Betty and Veronica From Riverdale (2017)
Now, I know what you’re thinking of, “But they actually did share a lesbian kissing scene!” and they did but that’s the thing — Riverdale baited fans in reverse. If you haven’t seen a single episode of Riverdale — and honestly, good for you — the show is an ongoing series that started in 2017 and makes a, shall we say, attempt at loosely adapting the Archie comics.
Like the Betty and Veronica of the comics, Riverdale‘s Betty and Veronica are cheerleaders who have more than a few not so straight scenes with each other. Unlike Supergirl, Riverdale didn’t shy away from depicting its lead female characters kissing each other.
Though the scene led to fans of the show later shipping the two together, because let’s be real, they have more chemistry with each other than their boyfriends, nothing really happened after that. It just made the queers stay in the hope that Beronica would become a thing.
Like Cheryl Blossom said, “Check your sell-by date, ladies. Faux lesbian kissing hasn’t been taboo since 1994.” But it was still a thing in the 2000s when t.A.t.u came out with “All the Things She Said.” Insert virtual side-eye.
3. Castiel and Dean From Supernatural (2005)
With fifteen seasons of setting viewers up with Destiel — that is, Castiel and Dean’s ship — content, fans had a reasonable expectation that Supernatural would finally make Dean and Castiel’s heavily queer-coded interactions less coded and more canon. Like, watch this and tell me there’s a heterosexual explanation for it. I’d like to see you try.
“Ever since I pulled you out of hell, knowing you has changed me. Because you cared, I cared. I cared about you, I cared about Sam, I cared about Jack. But I cared about the whole world because of you. You changed me, Dean. I love you.” Uhm? Hello?
Of course, after telling Dean that he loves him, Castiel literally dies and leaves Dean a sobbing mess so instead of making fans happy, it ended up upsetting them because Supernatural murdered its gay character right after the “confession scene.”
As one fan describes it, the Destiel scene was “so homophobic.” To make matters worse, Dean doesn’t even react to this confession and the show never lets the fans have their gay kissing scene.
Look, I know an “I love you” like that should be evidence enough, but you still get homophobes who will say they were just good friends. Haven’t you people read a history book? Every. Time.
4. Caitlyn and Violet From Arcane (2021)
For those who are new here, Violet and Caitlyn Kiramman are League of Legends characters who also feature in the series Arcane which is about, well, League of Legends. Point is, Vi was a punk, Caitlyn did ballet. Can I make it more obvious?
The two of them couldn’t be more different and the show alludes to this many times by paralleling them with oil and water. Caitlyn is the daughter of a rich upper-class family who basically grew up with all the privilege.
Meanwhile, Vi was a poor slum dweller who had to steal as a child so that she could eat. Vi is understandably resentful of the naivety that Caitlyn displays but is touched by how strongly she believes she can change the system.
To Caitlyn, Vi has a heart of gold underneath her rough personality. Sociopolitical tensions strain their relationship but each time they are together on screen, sparks fly. There’s nothing “friends only” about the way these two interact.
But. There’s always a but.
In the “Oil and Water” scene where the two of them go their separate ways, Arcane builds up to a scene that with any heterosexual pairing would have ended in an angsty kiss or an admission of love. Instead, the show lets them split without anything explicitly gay happening between them.
And sure, it’s one of those “they couldn’t be queerer” moments, but you still get homophobes in the fandom who refuse to acknowledge that they’re very very good friends and that’s the problem with queerbaiting.
Even if your code is so violently queer they may as well have the lesbian flag tattooed on their face, some homophobe is still going to pretend they didn’t see it unless you get them to the point that they’re mad enough to say you’re shoving your gay agenda down their throat. So, Riot, if you’re reading this, please support the gay agenda in Arcane season 2 by releasing the lesbian kissing scene we know is locked in your basement.