Op-Ed: Netflix markets off the LGBT+ community through queerbaiting


Original Images: Netflix / Edit: Judith Carrizales

Lesbian leads of the following shows that were cancelled by Netflix before a second season: Everything Sucks. Away. The Vagrant Queen. Teenage Bounty Hunters. I Am Not Okay With This. Resident Evil.

As the core constituent of our identity, the media has inundated our society with influence so prominent that it has become a root or factor in nearly every modern life. Our lives revolve around media, the content it generates typically becoming a reflection of our own opinions, thoughts and actions. 

This development has led to a constant dependence on media for representations to base such opinions on. Alternatively, people rely on movies, shows and more to reflect themselves and what communities construct their being.

Wednesday drag show hosted by Netflix to advertise their new show. (Netflix)

As the community has taken a larger, albeit still miniscule, position within media, a new problem has arrived in response to LGBTQ+ youths’ desire for representation—queerbaiting.

Queerbaiting is a marketing and advertising technique used by the entertainment industry where the creator heavily implies at the possibility of a queer relationship and/or queer representation but never follows through on these allusions.

On November 23, “Wednesday” aired for the first time on Netflix. In order to promote it, Netflix hosted a drag show and posted a billboard that suggested the possibility of Wednesday being part of the queer community.

Queer viewers were excited to finally see the suggested sapphic relationship on-screen after the previous months of promotion. On social media platforms, fans were convinced that ‘WENCLAIR’, the ship name for Wednesday and Enid, was going to be an endgame or a prominent aspect of the overarching plot. However, when the show aired, it was revealed that Wednesday had two male love interests and Enid had one herself. Fans were quick to call Netflix out on queerbaiting and hiding tweets to cover up their queerbaiting.

Queerbaiting is not representation—it is disgusting and upsetting. LGBTQ+ people only want to find characters which they can relate to, but Netflix only seems interested in profiting off of their exploitation. 

Netflix is notorious for canceling shows that have an explicitly open lesbian character as a lead or when there is an explicit lesbian relationship. Show after show, they never live to see a second season—”First Kill.” “Everything Sucks.” “Away.” “The Vagrant Queen.” “Teenage Bounty Hunters.” “I Am Not Okay with This.” “Resident Evil.”

Gay and man-loving man (MLM) shows have a higher change of being renewed for a second season because streaming services are able to market a show toward straight women that fetishize gay men. But it is more difficult to market sapphic shows towards straight men that fetishize lesbian women or the ‘male gaze’ because of the backlash they can receive.

The best example of this is “Heartstopper” being renewed for two additional seasons and “First Kill” being canceled after one. “Heartstopper” had 23,940,000 hours of viewership when they released the series while “First Kill” received 48,770,000 hours of viewership. However, it should be taken into consideration that “Heartstopper” is a total of four hours long, and “First Kill” is a total of eight hours long. Even when taking this into consideration, “First Kill” still did as good and arguably better than “Heartstopper.”

Other people may argue that Netflix isn’t being ‘lesbophobic’ by canceling sapphic shows, saying that they cancel shows all the time. While this is very true, it doesn’t explain why they don’t cancel shows like “Emily in Paris” that received backlash for the romanization of racism.

Netflix, along with other streaming companies, needs to allow sapphic shows to run beyond the first season. Instead of spending money on queerbaiting, they need to focus on properly advertising their sapphic shows and to give a sapphic show another chance in another season if it succeeds. If you are going to market shows like “Wednesday” as queer, at least don’t give her two male love interests.