By Alessandra Kelly
Billie Eilish, Harry Styles, Ariana Grande—all these talented artists and more remain guilty of the same treacherous behavior: queerbaiting. While some instances remain more problematic than others, queerbaiting has existed for years; moreover, stores use a similar technique, most commonly during pride month. Once June hits all stores sell pride apparel, whether the companies and organizations outwardly support the LGBTQ+ community or not.
Ultimately, queerbaiting serves as a marketing technique for entertainment or individuals to hint at, but not actually depict, same-sex romance or other LGBTQ+ representation. The technique draws queer audiences into a specific piece of media for the sake of publicity, promotion or capitalistic gain, with no real intention to meaningfully explore queerness; however, queerbaiting should not be confused with queer coding, which exists in a neutral space to be utilised either positively or negatively. Leo Herrera, filmmaker, writer and activist, states media makers “play with our lack of representation and desires to get us in the theaters or get us to watch.”
In June 2021, Billie Eilish released a music video for her single, “Lost Cause.” The video features a group sleepover, and as promotion for the video, she posted photos of behind-the-scenes moments with the caption: “I love girls.” Unfortunately, these photos caused her to be the subject of criticism as she joined the many celebrities accused of queerbaiting.
Similarly, Ariana Grande’s “Monopoly” became a topic for debate with the line: “I like women and men.” Many social media users claimed the song was queerbaiting, but she later responded saying she doesn’t label herself.
While celebrities do owe the right to their own privacy, and should feel no need to disclose their sexuality and other personal matters; on the other hand, headlines and media space continue to be given to straight men wearing dresses and later defined as “transformative.” Specific representation attempts to illustrate a normalcy in society, no scraps are needed by heterosexual, cis-gendered men and women to ensure ‘visibility.’