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Did The Bachelorette Queerbait Us?

Why would you do a casting call for men AND women to come on the Bachelorette?

The first Bachelorette 2020 promo is out, and boy oh boy is it disappointing.

Not just because of the casting (yes, that was disappointing too), but because of the straightness of The Bachelorette leads Elly and Becky.

You see, when the casting was initially announced, people were pretty upset about the fact the bachelorettes are so white.

The feeling of disappointment was especially keen given the recent push for The Bachelorette to have a WOC as the lead – the movement had heaps of traction online, and so it felt almost insulting to be then given not one, but TWO white women.

Pair this with the recent treatment of Areeba and Niranga on the Bachie series, and the fact that Elly and Becky were marketed in white dresses instead of the trademark red – it feels like this was a bit of a “fuck you” to the push for on-screen diversity.

All of this also happened around the same time America announced that they will have Black bachelor for their next season, so you can see how Australia feels woefully behind in terms of diverse TV casting.

The sentiment from fans keen on diversity shifted slightly, however, once someone pointed out that the ad for contestant casting for this season of The Bachelorette was looking for both male and female auditions.

The ad led people to think that perhaps one of the sisters was gay or bisexual – and while this isn’t what we were asking for, it’s still diversity.

People who were initially not interested at all in the whiteness of The Bachelorette were pulled in yet again at the prospect of having a potential LGBT cast member – except, now with the promos, we know this was just some bullshit.

Elly explicitly states in the first trailer for The Bachelorette that her and Becky are after one man each, pretty much crushing the rumour swirling around about Becky’s non-hetero sexuality.

The thing is, it begs the question of why the casting call advertised to women as well as men, and it’s left us wondering if we were being queerbaited.

For those of you that don’t know, queerbaiting is defined by Wikipedia as “a marketing technique for fiction and entertainment in which creators hint at, but then do not actually depict, same-sex romance or other LGBTQ representation.”

It’s an issue particularly prevalent in pop-culture and came to the rise in the good ol’ Tumblr days of the early 2010s, when people were obsessed over Sherlock and Supernatural – two shows that heavily queerbaited their audience to keep them invested in characters that were confirmed to be straight.

Essentially, it’s when TV shows, movies, books, etc have characters that are written as being sexually ambiguous, which allows LGBTQ people and allies to be able to assume non-hetero/cis identities of a character.

The audience is purposefully led on to believe that a character is of an LGBTQ identity to keep them consuming content, and then eventually the character is confirmed straight and any implied LGBTQ status is swiftly rebuked. By the time this happens, the franchise has usually already profited off the supposed diversity of their characters, and so it’s a cop out to pull in liberal audiences without doing any work.

Basically, it’s dishonest and manipulative as fuck. More recent examples are in the latest Star Wars trilogy where male leads Poe and Finn were heavily implied to have a romantic interest in each other, only for this to be quickly shut down in the next movie.

There were similar conversations around queerbaiting in Stranger Things, where the character Will is also heavily implied as being gay, with fans immediately accepting this as truth.

After the internet ran with the idea that Will was gay, edits were made, speculative articles were written, and all kinds of other fan promotion was profited off by Netflix. It wasn’t until after this hype that Will’s gayness was denied.

The fact that The Bachelorette casting call asked for men and women to apply, and the series didn’t address questions around Becky’s sexuality, only to confirm in the promos that she’s looking for a man specifically, really makes me question the release of that casting call in the first place.

Why did it ask for women to apply? Was it just a way for marketing to solicit fan speculation in order to build some hype for the franchise? Is this just another attempt at queerbaiting? It’s the only explanation I can think of at the moment.

And at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Image Sources: Twitter, GIPHY, The Bachelorette Australia Facebook. 

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