They won't : analyzing queerbaiting and compulsory heterosexuality in popular television.


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Queerbaiting has become an increasingly common practice in entertainment media. Television shows contain romantic and sexual subtext between two characters of the same gender without these two characters ever becoming involved in the narrative. This baits queer audiences into believe that such a show will offer them proper representation without ever delivering more than substandard representation. Scholars in the field of rhetoric, and in general, have left this phenomenon woefully underexamined. Using close reading and tropological analysis, I analyze Rizzoli and Isles, Supernatural, and Stranger Things as three instances of queerbaiting that assist in operationally defining queerbaiting, illustrating the impact of the practice, and finally modify popular understandings of queerbaiting to be more inclusive of gender identity. Adrienne Rich’s theory of compulsory heterosexuality provides the best explanation for why queerbaiting happens and can offer new ways to analyze these texts to uncover queerbaiting when it occurs.



Rhetoric. Queer theory. Queerbaiting. Compulsory heterosexuality. Close reading. Devil terms.