There sure is a lot of queerbaiting in anime. Well there sure are a lot of accusations of queerbaiting in anime. I’m a little slow on the uptake when in comes to implied romance but I swear at least some of it is all in the viewers heads. I mean Kuroko no Basuke fans went crazy with the shipping and the doujin, seeing gay couples everywhere in the story and it almost made the author quit. I’m pretty sure *if* anything was actually there,it was not intentional.
This said, I am not so naive as to think that’s always the case. Anime creators do often throw in suggestive same sex scenes as a form of fanservice. It’s a very common trope. But is it actually queerbaiting?
Before we get into it, let me tell you what I’m not going to touch on in this post. I’m not going to make any morality calls. I’m not going to discuss whether queerbaiting or queer fetishizing or using queer implications for fanservice are either *good* or *bad*. I’m also not going to discuss the potential impact on society or the LGBTQ+ community. Those are all great topics that deserve serious consideration and their own posts. I really just wanted to examine whether all these are in fact the same thing in the context of Anime.
Queerbaiting is a fairly new term. In broad it can be defined as a marketing strategy for media where a piece of entertainment hints at a queer relationship, either in publicity or even in the piece itself, but the relationship is never actually portrayed as such. The point is to entice an LGBTQ audience into watching by dangling the prospect of representation while not alienating viewers that may not be as comfortable with it.
At first glance you can see why that accusation gets lobbed at anime a lot. I use to follow a number of Yuri sites and it seemed like every single cute girl or more show that came out had fans anticipating Yuri content when actual explicit romances are in fact very rare. If you just go about it from the point of view of implied but never realized romances, there’s definitely an argument to be made that it’s particularly prevalent in anime.
The last part may also apply. The not wanting to alienate a certain part of the audience. Although that may have as much to do with cultural biases as it has to do with marketing strategy. It’s not necessarily a queer relationship that is likely to alienate the audience (well maybe in the case of BL it is) but any explicit physical relationship has a chance to change the character archetype in anime. In fact if a physical relationship *has* to be present, I think a Yuri one might go over better with a lot of people….
But to me there can’t really be any queerbaiting without the “baiting” part. The western shows that get accused of queerbaiting very openly target the demographic. They publicly associate with movements like Pride, they use rainbow patterns or choose advertising channels that reach those audiences when using queerbaiting as a marketing tool and might even play down the aspect when advertising through other less queer friendly channels. It’s a targeted approach which makes it feel more personal and potentially more insulting.
Admittedly, I don’t know how anime is being advertised in Japan. It may genuinely be a concern there but based on the embarrassingly little I know if the culture, I somehow have a tough time imagining that. As far as international promotion of anime goes though, I wouldn’t say anime purposefully gives a false impression of representation. You know right from the start what you’re getting with CGDCT or moe (apparently there’s a difference between the two) or pretty boy shows. And there are in fact more and more mainstream actually Yuri and Yaoi shows available if that’s what you’re looking for.
From first hand anecdotal experience, I have never known any queer viewer feel like they were tricked into watching an anime because they thought it would feature a queer relationship that turned out not to be there. In the interest of disclosure, my data gathering technique involved asking 10 gay people I know (4 guys and 6 girls) that occasionally watched anime if they ever felt it took part in queerbaiting. So it’s not exactly the most impressive sample size. Nevertheless, the views correlated well with general impressions on the subject I’ve gathered from various sources throughout the years.
So I propose today that anime in fact engages in far less queerbaiting then it gets accused of, and even less than popular western media. In my opinion. I would love to hear your views on it though. My sample size really could use some bulking up.
This said I do think anime does do a lot of queer fetishizing, sometimes in very blunt and uncomfortable ways but that’s another post.