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How do you feel about implied non specific LGBT+ representation in media?

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I was reading a discussion in the aromantic group on reddit about whether Elsa in Frozen is aromantic or not. Apparently the second movie gives some implications on that while also kinda giving hints to those who head-cannon her as lesbian. It got me thinking that lately there seems to be many of these examples of characters who are implied to not be straight but their orientation is so vague that everyone can kinda read what they want into it. Similar with captain Marvel. And a third one is maybe Will from Stranger things?

Do you feel that this is something that has gotten more common or is it just that it's become more popular for people to make their own head-cannons like that? How do you feel about these vaguely portrayed orientations?

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From Will I actually expect the writters to give an answer in next seasons so I won't see him this way. For me the character may have not realizing it yet.

 

About vaguely portrayed orientations, I won't say I like it. I mean, you can be subtle and not go with big lights screaming "he is gay/bi/aro" or something else. But I prefer when it is clear. Because otherwise, I feel like the writters are... some kind of cowards? Like they want to please LGBT community,  but at the same time don't assume their decision, or don't want to create polemic. I really don't think they do it so we can headcanon character as we want. In particular when it comes to "children movie" : just think about what happen with Beauty and the Beast 2017 because Le Fou danced 2 seconds with a guy... I think they just don't want to live that, so instead of saying there is LGBT characters, they prefer to hide them. I think this is what queerbaiting is about, or it is something else?

 

Also, when it comes to orientations that people don't know about, I think it better to clear it. Even if the character don't say the word, makes clear that he has no interest for romance or it won't change. Or only aro will canon him and allo or questioning people will still don't know we exist.

 

I mean, I am not against the non-clarification at all if the idea really is to let people canon as they want, but I don't think it is possible right now, and that it is just a way to make LGBT less visible without saying it. For Frozen for instance, they know LGBT canon her as lesbian so they won't say she is not. But at the same time they don't say she is because it would be polemic. I don't think such a behaviour is great.

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On 12/6/2019 at 8:59 AM, nonmerci said:

 I think this is what queerbaiting is about, or it is something else?

I think you're right. I have thought of queerbaiting mostly in terms of relationships between characters, but I suppose it could just as well be about portraying one character as queer.

 

 

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On 12/6/2019 at 8:59 AM, nonmerci said:

I think this is what queerbaiting is about, or it is something else?

 

 

I think,  queerbaiting is about specifically implying that a character is queer in order to get more LGBTQ+ viewers, whilst at the same time denying that the character is queer. If it is purely to get more viewers it's queerbaiting. If it's because they aren't allowed to show explicit LGBTQ+ content, but they still want to give the LGBTQ+ viewers something, it isn't, then they're just hinting.

 

There are also some gray areas, where fans queer-code, despite it not having been intended, which is then often said to be queerbaiting.

 

I don't know if you know Supernatural, but it's a common fandom for this type of gray area. On the one hand there are the fans claiming that Dean and Castiel should be together, with one of the actors making jokes about it and hinting about it, whilst also dropping some clues in the show that they could be together (e.g. other characters calling them 'boyfriends'). On the other hand, there are several confirmed LGBTQ+ characters in the show, which have been confirmed (e.g. Charlie <girl kissing another girl and saying men are 'not her type'>, Chuck <'Yeah, I had some girlfriends. Had a few boyfriends'>, characters shown as both male and female <e.g. Raphael, Castiel, Hannah>, and various gay couples), which would make queerbaiting in the form of 'Destiel' useless -- they already have queer characters, so they don't need to 'bait' anyone.

 

Clear queerbaiting is seen in Harry Potter, with JK Rowling claiming that Albus Dumbledore is gay, despite there having been no evidence in the books and now just ignoring his and Grindelwald's relationship in the movies. Many people might have gone into the cinemas, hoping to see their relationship at least hinted at... but nothing. In such a case, this revelation was for profit, since they could have easily made Dumbledore gay in the movies as well.

 

Not queerbaiting would be Oscar Isaac saying that he would have loved for his character in StarWars (Poe Dameron) to be with Finn. That wasn't allowed because Disney feared that they would loose profit that way, instead adding a scene of a second with two girls kissing, which could easily be edited out of the movie in countries like Singapore. This was just Oscar Isaac voicing his opinion, never once hinting at the relationship coming up in the movie.

 

Also not queerbaiting would be the show 'Good Omens', where you can interpret the main characters (Aziraphale and Crowley) as being in a relationship, since it's been clearly stated that neither are male (in fact, both have no gender, whilst usually presenting male, with some exceptions for Crowley, who had been shown in typical women's clothes), along with the author saying that you can interpret them however you want -- male and gay or non-binary and asexual and aromantic. Since it is made clear that they will not be confirmed in a relationship, whilst having the opportunity to imagine whatever you want, this is just the author giving you the freedom to decide, not wanting to label the characters, instead of queerbaiting.

 

Well, this is how I see queerbaiting. Hope this cleared everything up. Feel free to disagree!

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I kind of get annoyed by it, mainly because I'm like "Finally we'll have some representation that is actually confirmed!" And then they just go with the classic "They don't like labels." It feels like they're too scared to actually confirm that a character is LGBTQ+ on screen . 

 

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Posted (edited)

I think some orientations need to basically be spelled out/stated because implied isn't enough.

 

Of course you can get into issues depending on the setting but still representation matters!

Edited by Cgirl294
Left out part of my last sentence on accident
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Posted (edited)

The authors should do what they believe is right, independent of what fans make into fanfic. But they should stand by what they want to make and not try to bait people into believing something that is just not right. The fear of losing ratings and viewers is a poor excuse, because if you lose some you can gain others, it is not complete lose. What I want is to tell me straight up: hey this character is X. That should not be so hard. A label helps people feel identified, it gives them validity in a society that actively tries to dictate and choose for us. I did not like labels until I saw the importance of them, so authors should be able to understand something that basic.

Edited by Blake
Left all the text :3
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Until it's mainstream, normal and half expected, you need to be explicit. Otherwise you're just hiding your queers in the shadows.

For me it feels the same as, for instance, a forced quota of women on a board of directors. I dislike positive discrimination because you should select on capabilities, not gender or whatever. But it's a well-researched fact that on average, white men will choose other white men before all others. So you need positive discrimination to get more women on the board. And once you reach a critical mass or the corporate culture has changed enough, you can stop with choosing women over equally capable men.

Thank you for coming to my TEDtalk 😁

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I'm actually not as bothered by ambiguous representation as a lot of other people seem to be. I absolutely do think it can be done poorly, awkwardly, or for less than fantastic reasons; but I also think ambiguous writing can be powerful and, to me at least, a lot more appealing sometimes than a boxed in story. (Unpopular opinion, but I personally had no issue with how Good Omens wrote the main relationship; it was everything I wanted to see on screen and I don't see how having some characters/relationships be open to interpretation/head canon is so terrible, it allows viewers to more easily project/relate to something) We definitely need more stories - mainstream ones especially - where orientations/identities are spelled out and explored, and the writers of the Big Companies like Disney certainly are avoiding any overt rep because they're Like That.  But just as a viewing experience I didn't have any issue with how Elsa was written either - the second film was about her learning about the origin of her powers, her relationships (outside of familial ones) weren't really the focus. (A third film, if made, I do think would have to shed more light on that though, not that I trust Disney to do so particularly well) So while I fully understand why some people might be bothered by ambiguous rep, and certainly encourage more explicit rep, I also just... like ambiguous relationships, and stories getting to focus on other things. I also don't equate ambiguous rep with queerbaiting, since that pretty specifically requires the marketers/writers to promise explicit rep for sales and then not come through. I just take it case by case, some ambiguous rep is sloppy and avoidant, other times it's well handled and I like it plenty. (Ambiguous rep in shows that already deal with Relationship Drama as a focus I raise my brow at a lot more than in stories where that's not really included to begin with)

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Just to nuance, I want to say that I am only bother when it is meant to be ambiguous to avoid telling things and then still claiming for representation.

For instance I am not bother by Elsa because her story is not about that at all (haven't seen the second movie though but I think it is the same). Honestly, there would not be the "give Elsa a girlfriend" thing, I would not expect any response from Disney because I dob't care at all. Her story is not about that.

 

Contrary to Will from Stranger Things for instance, where they are talking about it with other characters assuming things about him, but without Will saying anything about it. I expect him to discover his identity in the future and be upset if he doesn't. Because I would feel like the authors would like points for talking about queer but without actually having an official queer character (EDIT : ok they have a queer character, I forgot Robin, oops; but that doesn't change my point).

Edited by nonmerci
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Mixed feelings.

Queer baiting is annoying, and we could use some rep. Saying clearly that a character is, idk , aro, ace, gay, trans, etc etc has an impact. 

(That said, some peoples will scream "queerbaiting" because this is not queer enough by *their* standard sometime. )

But on another hand, not all peoples define themself with neat cut out labels. Don't mean we can't identify with them (without a fandom war if possible). What truly bother me in those cases are peoples who think that they own the character. Aros or Lesbians who think that Elsa belong to them respectively (as if it was mutually exclusive) is not great i think. 

But again, a character who is officialy aro has clearly another impact that some sort of implied or left to headcanon one .  I like clear rep. But i will not flip a table if it's not the case. I, myself, can be vague about my own identity. Purely personal.

 

Now, intentional erasure is another thing :) :) :) 

Deleted scene, erased identity, identity reveal outside the media.... Not the same as an ambiguous character.

 

Edited by Leton.
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I think it kind of depends on the intent of the creators. If they intended to keep it ambiguous from the beginning for the purpose of the story (for example, the character is meant to be mysterious, or its a fantasy world where relationships aren't the focus), then I have no problem with it.

If a story deliberately keeps it ambiguous to avoid negative press, and garner interest, then I have a problem with it.

As for Good Omens, the show was very closely based on the book(it even featured most of Terry Pratchett's footnotes), where it very much does not seem like there is a romantic relationship between Crowley and Aziraphale, so I don't mind the lack of one in the show, where it does seem to fit.

And Frozen made a choice not to focus on Elsa being in a relationship, and instead her journey to discover more about herself. Sure, they could give an indication, but I don't think its a massive deal that they don't. However, if Disney were to say explicitly that Elsa is LGBTQ+, then leave it open, then there would be a problem.

 

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Usually I hate it. Anything not confirmed just seems to be waiting for a sequel where any representation I hoped for dies.

I suppose sometimes I can be happy projecting myself onto an ambiguous character but I would almost always prefer the writers to be open about what their character is.

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On 9/12/2020 at 1:26 AM, roboticanary said:

Usually I hate it. Anything not confirmed just seems to be waiting for a sequel where any representation I hoped for dies.

Yeah this is always my fear too. It's especially dangerous with aro headcannons imo because it's like their lack of love interest becomes one giant build up for them finding "the one". You can never really prove the negative without getting explicit about it.

Edited by Holmbo
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I struggle with this a lot. Part of the problem for me was that much of the media I consumed (books, shows, but movies in particular) was  made by very large and established businesses. And a side-effect of that is that the creative team was probably stunted in what, exactly, they were allowed to explicitly show, because of a whole host of complicated legal/political/monetary reasons, etc etc. And of course it's not right, and of course it's ridiculous that it's 2020 and Disney/etc is just now putting one (1) gay character into their kid's show, etc etc-- and at the same time, that's the reality, that's how it just is. It's tough to accept it. Things are changing. They're also not changing fast enough. A lot of mainstream stuff might appeal to me in genre or tone or general story, but the lack of queer content honestly makes it less interesting to me. 

So I've been shying away from more big name franchises, because they just don't cater to what I'm looking for in my entertainment. I've been turning more to genre fiction that is explicitly queer for my reading. I find shows that I know have queer characters in them, and I research them first to see what kind of characters they are and what kind of rep they get-- and then I watch from there. Same with films. It's a lot more satisfying to watch something and know that I'm going to see what I want to see. 

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It's really hard for me to figure out what I think of this---partially because I usually don't think of characters in terms of their sexual/romantic identities unless the plot is connected to that. If a plot has nothing to do with the character finding a mate/romantic partner/whatever, then it generally doesn't register with me who they're attracted to because I'm interested in what they're doing in the story. I'm not the sort of person who ships things, either, so unless a romance/relationship is explicitly stated or somehow alluded to, I don't really pick up on subtext aside from "gee, they have a healthy friendship and I can relate to them on that level!". (My brain doesn't default to "everyone is straight until proven otherwise", though, it seems to default to either "everyone is too busy in this story to have time for romance" or I guess... "the character's orientations only exist once they act in a way that indicates sex/romance is part of their story"? because I won't notice or think about it until one of those things happens.)

If there's an implied nonspecific representation going on in a story where the character's orientations aren't crucial to the plot, to some extent I like that I can identify with a character one way and other people can identify with them in different ways. (Granted, I generally find myself resonating with the "other" or "strange" or "alien" character in the story regardless of their orientation?) 

I like the idea of specific representation, and I think there should be more of it! And I think that creators of mainstream media should be able to explicitly say or show those aspects of their characters without being forced to "vague represent" to avoid uproar. (There will be uproar regardless. People like yelling about things.)

... and at the same time I genuinely have a hard time understanding or relating to why people seem to be obsessed with knowing what a character's orientations are, because that doesn't register with me as being a high importance to know unless the character is doing something with/about their orientations.

Now, gender identities? Ethnicities? I know I want to see more variety and representation and to have it be part of who the characters are. Those things are a much bigger aspect of a character to my eyes, and it's something that needs to be openly shown as a normal part of who they are.

What I know bothers me is when the "representation" in a story boils down to "this character is x!" and that is their entire existence and personality and the only thing that's ever talked about in connection with them. It's kind of the equivalent to me of the thing in a lot of the kids media I grew up with where there was "the girl" in the group whose job was to be "a girl" and was either the "pink-loving-boy-crazy" stereotype or the "not-like-other-girls" one. I like characters that are fully developed characters; I want their orientation to be one aspect of their existence, not the whole thing.

(granted, all of this is just my opinion? And I'm the sort of aroace who just... doesn't really notice or seek out information about other people's orientations in real life unless it's something that's a big part of how they present themselves to the world or it's somehow directed at me? It took me forever to figure out my own identity because I didn't know there were words for it and don't relate to the world in a sexual/romantic way at all...)

I hope some of that made sense and it wasn't just me rambling...

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Generally I much prefer more explicit representation over implied/non-specific (assuming neither is necessarily queerbaiting), except in the case of Good Omens, where the ambiguity looks to me like a great representation of a queerplatonic relationship.

I’ve realized very recently that there’s also degrees of explicitness that can affect how much I enjoy it. For example, The Last of Us 2 and Tell Me Why are both games that feature a trans male character, but the former is less gratifying to me having now seen the latter, even though they are both done respectfully and without making transness their only character trait/plot. In the Last of Us 2, Lev’s identity doesn’t come up very much, especially early on, whereas with Tyler in Tell Me Why, it’s talked about more openly and more in-depth, giving the player a much clearer picture of a trans person’s day to day life. He even gets to have a conversation with another queer person about found family. I just felt so much more at home with that portrayal. 

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On 11/24/2019 at 11:34 AM, Holmbo said:

Do you feel that this is something that has gotten more common

Absolutely.

On 11/24/2019 at 11:34 AM, Holmbo said:

Elsa in Frozen

The thing with Elsa is, not only is she an unusual example of a main without romantic focus, Disney heavily hinted at her having a girlfriend/being gay in promoting the sequel. Disney is does this so much, what with their numerous cancelled/platform-changing shows, and they’ve made it pretty clear that their stance on LGBT+ is subject to change, depending on whether or not it financially benefits them. They will announce a queer show on Disney+, then move it to a less associated with Disney platform, cancel representation, use targeted ads to promote queer rep for it only to be implied/extras, and they control almost the entire entertainment industry now.

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