Diversity has always been the ugly sore on the face Hollywood. In fact, for all of the accusations about how “liberal” the film industry is, it’s really only been in these past few years POC (people of color) and the LGBTQA community have seen inclusion.
And it’s only because of 2 reasons in my opinion:
1. Social media backlash and shaming and…
2. Movies featuring a more diverse cast are proving to be profitable.
But just like most things in America these days, we take one step forward… and ten giant steps back! Specifically when it comes to how studios address queer characters in sci-fi/fantasy movies.
Now maybe since I’m what you would call a “Cishet male,” I’m not the right guy to address this. But speaking as a Black male (well into his 40s) who’s had to live with issues of inclusion for as long as I can remember, and also have many gay friends who have voiced anger over this, I’m going to use this platform I’m lucky enough to have, and give it a shot.
“…a same-sex romantic relationship…may be ignored, explicitly rejected or made fun of.”
For those of you who don’t know what “queerbaiting” is, it’s defined as:
“The practice to hint at, but then not actually depict, a same-sex romantic relationship between characters in a work of fiction, mainly in film or television. The potential romance may be ignored, explicitly rejected or made fun of.”
It’s been a lot more noticeable recently, especially within the Disney/Marvel/Star Wars marketing of their movies. The first time this registered on my radar was a few years ago when Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling came out of left field and announced that “Dumbledore,” one of the main characters in the series, was in fact gay.
The first thing that came to mind was, “Why is this being announced a full year after the film (and book) series ended?”
Soon after I started to see more of this with movies like Thor: Ragnarok, when Tessa Thompson’s character, Valkyrie, was billed as a lesbian. Then right after, it was rumored that a “major female” character in Black Panther was also gay (although it was never confirmed who it was). Then, once again, there’s announcement put out by Disney that Lando Calrissian in the Solo movie is pansexual.
“…more transparency with how these characters are being pitched…”
The problem isn’t having LGBTQA characters in these type of movies. The problem is that there’s either nothing or very little to show that they are. In fact, if the studio never said a word about the character’s sexuality or gender, you would never know by the end of the film.
I’m not saying we needed to have some elaborate gay sex scene in Thor (though, I’m sure some would not object) to prove that characters actually are queer. But there needs to be more transparency with how these characters are being pitched to the movie-going audience.
Obviously being queer isn’t as visually noticeable as being a POC (not without getting into embarrassing stereotypes), but since that’s the case, studios have to decide if they are going to include these characters, they need to do a better job of making it believable. Especially when there are shows like Netflix’s, Sense8, that get this subject matter so right!
“…the characters they’re billing as queer, are also people of color.”
Staying on the topic of race, it seems a lot of the characters they’re billing as queer, are also people of color. Which confuses the living hell out of me and makes me question if they are just “doubling up” so that they don’t have to have more than one character who isn’t straight and White? Because we all know more than one minority in a film or series is too many carrots in the stew right? (I’m joking obviously, but you get the point!)
There’s a part of me that wonders, who is this really benefiting? “Doesn’t it actually guarantee more asses in seats?” “Does it help the studios reputation for being all inclusive?” Or worst of all, “Does the studio actually think they are doing the right thing here?”
As it stands, fandom has become a pretty toxic place for minorities and queer people alike. And this type of marketing is insulting to everyone. It’s dishonest, and is something I’m honestly surprised has taken off as much as it has! The LGBTQA community deserves more than a “gay shoutout” or honorary labels. If Hollywood continues down this road, my only hope is that we (the movie-going audience) speak with our dollars, and send the message that queerbaiting is not going to be accepted anymore!