| SARA ERNEST
I LOVE A GOOD STORY. Disappearing into the universe created by an author, screenwriter, playwright, choreographer or graphic novelist can be entertaining and fulfilling. A well-crafted story can be an escape and a place of belonging.
I read books and watch TV shows and movies because I want to see someone else’s interpretation of life. If I can find an interpretation that mirrors my own I can relate, and if I’m feeling particularly out of place I can be reminded that there are other people out there like me. Over the past few years I have come to realize how important these stories are and how much some people depend on the community that develops among a given fandom surrounding a story. Simply put, fandom, is a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of empathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest (according to Wikipedia). For the sake of this piece I will focus on TV fandoms.
Let’s recall the days when we only saw same sex couples kiss during sweeps, shall we? Even when they did, more often than not the couples we saw kissing were women. Whether it was strictly for the titillation factor, or viewers’ refusal to acknowledge that couples were also made up of two men it’s hard to say, but it seems to me that this is indicative of our willingness to accept less than we deserve when it comes to our representation in our favorite stories.
Queer baiting moves past this phenomena into storylines and arcs that are no longer just reserved for ratings, but taunt us throughout the show runner’s entire storytelling process. Many times we find characters that we identify as queer, who sometimes even self-identify as queer, who constantly fall short of receiving the satisfaction of the acknowledgment of their story.
Some people argue that the creative team is just telling a story and they see the characters a little differently than a segment of their fandom. This may be the case. Who is to say? It seems to me, based on the under-representation of LGBTQ characters on TV, that those fans are probably not far off. What other explanation could there be for the number of near misses we see or the amount of relationships that exist only in the subtext of a show?
I understand and agree that it is up to the creators, writers and directors of any given show to present their stories as they see fit and, as my partner reminded me while we were discussing this piece, they can’t please everyone all of the time. I don’t however, think it’s too much to ask that every once in a while, rather than taunting their queer audiences, they might provide us with more realistic and representative storylines.