This article contains references to queerbaiting, a homophobic practice done in media. References to a term that may be considered derogatory towards LGBTQIA+ persons will be used, and viewer discretion is heavily advised.

This article also contains spoilers for the television show Sherlock, Riverdale, Beauty and the Beast, Star Wars, Voltron, and Harry Potter.

Sherlock was a good show. There are many faults to it (including but not limited to the horrendous fourth season that rivals Game of Thrones in the sharp decline in quality). Regardless, it created an international fanbase and made Benedict Cumberbatch a household name. The writing was clever, the characters were compelling, and it brought the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to a whole new generation.

Watching the first episode, “A Study in Pink,” one would notice something that initially was played off as a joke. Sherlock Holmes and John Watson sit down at a restaurant table together, and the waiter brings a candle to “make it more romantic.” There’s a quick quip thrown in about how they’re not romantically involved, and the show continues. That quip is not an isolated event. There’s plenty of insinuations made by other characters that they’re more than roommates and business partners.

The fanbase would know: there is enough Johnlock (the fan nickname for the pairing) fanfiction and art to paper the walls of the real-life 221 Baker Street. But the show never confirms that either party is romantically interested in each other. However, that does not stop the insinuations. There is a gay kiss between Sherlock and archvillain Moriarty, but that was done as a “what-if” scenario to explain the faked death of Sherlock Holmes. This isn’t a romantic comedy, there is no “will they or won’t they” in any form beyond fan-created works.

Some would say that this is “queerbaiting.” Queerbaiting is a term used to categorize shows that claim to have LGBTQIA+ representation but, in reality, does not. This can range from anywhere from the quips in Sherlock, to claiming that Dumbledore was gay the whole time in Harry Potter, to having a lesbian kiss in Riverdale done for attention, to introducing and then killing off a gay character in Voltron.

It’s mainly seen with couples like Sherlock and Watson that are directly implied to be more than friends, business partners, rivals. It’s the “will they or won’t they” that bring audiences in to see the next episode, buy merchandise and create works to validate that someday, there will be a genuine romantic relationship between these characters.

And that why it hurts to see this kind of representation as nothing more than a gimmick. There are not many mainstream movies, books, and television shows that have LGBTQIA+ characters in the leading roles. If there are, chances are they are relegated to the background and only appear in marketing geared towards bringing in audiences that seek this form of representation.

You don’t have to look further than the live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast for its censoring of the character LeFou. LeFou was hyped up to be Disney’s first openly gay character, but that “bold” action proved to be a minor detail that was readily censored in countries to ensure it makes money at the box office. The same thing with “The Rise of Skywalker” having a lesbian kiss in its final scenes- to was readily cleaned up with a CGI monster.

Everyone wants to see themselves represented in what they enjoy. Everyone wants to have a hero that looks like them, that is more than just an actor in a costume or a drawing on a screen.

Queerbaiting is not a form of positive representation geared to create positive role models that some people need. It’s not done for any form of validation. It’s a gimmick.

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