COMMENT:

Picture this: A new movie is out that everyone is hailing as the next Star Wars and you are totally jazzed. You've got your tickets, your popcorn and your fellow fan-mates, you take your seat in the cinema and the movie starts.

There's some weird, boring introductory scene which you guess is necessary before you get into the good stuff.

Only… the good stuff never comes. You watch the whole movie and every now and again a spaceship zooms past the window, or there's talk of an impending war, so you wait on tenterhooks for a lightsabre to come sawing through the wall of this boring scene.

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And then the movie ends. No stars. No wars. Certainly nothing close to Star Wars. You don't understand. All the trailers and images you've seen so far really made it look like there was going to be some Star Wars-type action. Did they lie to trick you into going?
You've never felt more duped in your life.

This is how queer people are feeling more and more often as we sit down to watch TV shows or movies that we thought we were going to represent us - and they didn't.

For years, content creators have been duping us into thinking we might see an actual queer love story. They'll tease it in their promotional content, talk about it in interviews, announce it in a press release, and then we'll go, and we'll wait, and that lightsabre just never comes slicing through the drywall.

Or worse, they won't promise it, they'll just allude to it and play on it for years and years, stringing us along with their "will they, won't they?" character interactions (spoiler alert: they won't).

This is queer-baiting. If you're not aware of it already, you'll likely have seen it in headlines recently - probably due to Ariana Grande queer-baiting fans with purposefully ambiguous lyrics and imagery.

I don't know where it started but for me at least, it was with Supernatural, a series about two brothers who hunt demons (don't judge me) which I started watching in uni and which has just announced its next - and 15th! - season, will be it's last.

Supernatural has spent the better part of 15 years alluding to sexual tension between main character Dean Winchester and his buddy Castiel. It probably started off innocently enough, but once they realised fans were really into the concept, you better believed they ramped up the homo-erotic tension to cash in.

We knew it, but we went in for it anyway because at that time it was the closest thing we had to a queer love epic.

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JK Rowling has also recently come under fire for insisting her Harry Potter character Albus Dumbledore is gay, but never actually writing that into a single storyline despite seven books, eight movies, three Fantastic Beasts films and a two-part broadway play.

I'll tell you what was written into that play - more queer-baiting. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child features best friends Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy, between whom the romantic tension is so overt even the straight people in the audience were surprised when they didn't kiss.

Then you've got the Avengers franchise which is wrapping up later this month, and has taken a huge amount of pleasure in queer-baiting with the homoerotic tension between Captain America and either Bucky Barnes or Tony Stark. Marvel also has the Professor X and Magneto relationship in First Class to answer for, and the fact that at least two of its female characters - Mystique and Valkyrie - are either widely known to be or have been publicly announced to be bisexual, but this has never been addressed or shown on screen.

The list goes on; Rizzoli and Isles, Sherlock and Watson, Finn and Poe (Star Wars), Frodo and Sam, Xena and Gabrielle, even KJ Apa got caught up in the debate when his seemingly straight Riverdale character Archie kissed gay character Joaquin (Rob Raco).

I can't even tell you the number of press releases we get pitching content to us by playing on the fact that there happens to be a queer character involved and is "great for diversity and representation".

The common argument against queer-baiting is, where do we draw the line between inclusion and queer-baiting? The answer is simple: In the follow-through.

If you're going to tease something and use it as either a promotional tool, a ticking of diversity checkboxes, or a way to keep a loyal following, but you're not actually delivering on that in any meaningful way, you're queer-baiting.

The problem isn't that we're tired of being disappointed. It's that we're tired of being used.

Queer-baiting is an easy way for creators to appear liberal and inclusive while not alienating those with traditional viewpoints.

But here's the thing: Queerness - whether it's explicit or merely suggested - is not an accessory for you to make your content or characters more relevant, edgy, or interesting. So just cut it out, will you?