Why Getting Queerbaited by a Marvel Movie is Like Losing Chess to a Dog.
Queerbaiting; we fall for it every time, yet we still have the expectation that the LGBTQ+ community is gonna finally get that much-needed representation. It happens in movies, books, shows, and more, and it invalidates the Queer experience. But first, what is queerbaiting, and why does it happen?
According to Adiba Jaigirdar from Book Riot, queerbaiting is when “a piece of media hints at queerness being present in it, but doesn't actually include any Queer representation.” Usually, this is done to attract an audience, typically a Queer audience. Queerbaiting is done for fanservice, which is to satisfy a particular audience enough that they will continue to follow that piece of media.
Queerbaiting is harmful due to the stereotype it reinforces in the media. Most of the time queerbaiting can apply to when directors or authors kill only the gay characters, fetishize non-heterosexual couples, and imply that a character is going through a phase. All these aspects paint the Queer community in a negative light, especially the last aspect. When done wrong, Queer representation can leave a bad impression on audiences that create their own impressions about the community and think it is “just a phase.”
Marvel’s newest movie “Thor: Love and Thunder” was advertised to finally have that Queer representation Marvel fans were dying to have. When asked about the movie, Natalie Portman and Taika Waititi said it was “super gay” and were hyping up Thor and his sexuality. But unfortunately and to no one's surprise, it was not. Every movie is seemingly the same; fans get their hopes up that they will finally get that much-needed representation, and then they lose.
Valkyrie, a confirmed Queer character, got absolutely no representation or screen time exploring her sexuality. The only mention of her identity was a diss about her dead ex-girlfriend. The trailer also advertised a tender look between Thor and Peter Quill to bait fans into thinking the Guardians would have a main role with Thor. Unfortunately, the only tender look was between Thor and a ship. Lastly, there was a short mention of a gay relationship at the end of the movie between Korg and a mystery partner. All these aspects largely let down the Queer community as Taika Waititi failed to appeal to an inclusive audience. The main love story is purely heterosexual as it focuses on Natalie Portman’s character, Jane Foster, and Chris Hemsworth’s character, Thor.
This isn’t Marvel’s first time queerbaiting its audience, and it definitely won’t be the last. In “Doctor Strange: In the Multiverse of Madness,” the character Ms. Marvel was branded as the perfect Queer representation in the film. However, her character became a product of queerbaiting as she only received a pride pin on her jacket, and there was no further discussion of her sexuality. The same thing happened in “Captain Marvel,” where a Queer relationship between the two main characters was hinted at, but there was no action towards making that a reality.
Despite these past mistakes, we can only hope that by increasing the conversation surrounding Queer identities and relationships, we can improve the way queer characters are treated in the media. Instead, support shows that do support and portray well-thought-out, authentic representations like Heartstopper, Sex Education, and Schitt's Creek.
Gabriella Garcia-Urbay is an online writer for Rowdy Magazine who spends her time reading, writing poetry and playing the guitar when she’s not listening to her hundreds of playlists.