I’m thissss close to snapping and making a full on Sarah Z style hour long YouTube video on the fall of superwholock and why doctor who holds up when SPN and Sherlock did not. Spoilers: you could tell from the in universe representation of the fans with SPN and Sherlock adding fangirl insert characters shown to be stupid obsessive queer and crazy whereas the doctor who fan insert -osgood- was a hero who represented what it means to be human. Supernatural made fun of destiel shippers IN THE SHOW Sherlock called fans who speculated about Reichenbach Fall stupid and crazy (both shows making fun of the fans for being queer as well) where as osgood is nerdy, excitable, socially awkward and above all else, kind. Osgood is offered a position as a full time companion and she says she wants to go more than anything but she has to stay here, defend the earth, to which the doctor replies “by the way, I’m a huge fan” THIS SPEAKS VOLUMES ABOUT THE TREATMENT OF FANS BY THE SHOW!! Doctor who the show and the doctor the character love the curious unique individuals who are interested in the adventures of a madman with a box who choses to help people and believes all life is special. Between Johnlock, Reichenbach, Destiel, Charlie, the musical episode, and the destiel confession supernatural and Sherlock have showed time and time again that they actively hate their audience (if you were around for the final episode of Sherlock you remember how bad it was for fans and i don’t need to remind anyone of “all gays go to hell all cars go to heaven” )
Something also has to be said for the fact that doctor who is the only show of the three without a huge decade long queer baiting (ok the whole Clara thing is on thin ice I’ll be honest but they fixed that with bill in season 10) scandal that ends in blatant homophobia (note it’s not homophobic BECAUSE destiel or johnlock didn’t end up together, it’s homophobic because of the years of intentional queer baiting that predates the end of each program) when your fan base is predominantly queer this is not advisable.
And of course this doesnt take into account the massive change that happened after dashcon, doctor who had an established 50 year history by that point and solid writing so while it fell from its godlike position on tumblr it was still relatively popular after that cultural shift. Also- and this may be controversial - the writing in doctor who is better. I’m sorry but it is. Rewatching some of the 2010-2015 episodes I’m reminded that when doctor who is good, it’s GOOD. The oncoming storm speech. The 9th doctor and the dalek prisoner, “I would never” , a good man goes to war, “the laws of time obey me” , the fucking 50th war doctor speeches, the zygon inversion speech, “the one thing you never put in a trap… me”, all of hell bent, and of course the Van Gogh episode. Honestly on writing alone doctor who absolutely bodies Sherlock and supernatural which is shocking because moffat wrote for Sherlock as well but it never felt as powerful it always felt very clever but once you knew the answer to whatever mystery Sherlock was solving the intrigue just faded. Whereas the more you watch episodes like Vincent and the Doctor, the Day of the Doctor, or Hell Bent, the more you fall in love with the writing.
I could go on and on and on for ages about writing, character relatability , overarching themes and morals, the unique mechanic of regeneration, the doctor companion dynamic, and the question of “are humans inherently good or evil” and so many more nuanced reasons as to why doctor who stands the test of time (pun only slightly intended) but I will not that is too long and I am tired but know that I could if I wanted because the evidence is there
Tldr: doctor who isn’t bad you guys are just mean
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"Much of what people claim is baiting is [...] mostly cishet white men who did a poor job [.]" Loss of some context there, but can you elaborate? Isn't this almost exactly what queerbaiting has historically been defined as? When largely non-queer writers make a "joke" about how "gay for each other" two characters seem in passing, with no intention to make it canon, but the knowledge that they have a queer fan base who will latch onto the idea? I agree with everything you've said except this.
Hi!! Omg sorry this took me so long to answer, it’s such a complicated subject and I've been really trying to parse out my feelings and find a way to succinctly describe the difference between what I perceive as queer baiting and what feels simply like homophobic writing. Because I definitely think supernatural has homophobic writers/writing. But it doesn’t feel the same to me as queer baiting, which is a very specific form of homophobia, and the distinction between the two is very tough for me to operationalize. But here’s my attempt!!
Short version: While the writers of SPN are guilty of homophobic writing, I don’t think they ever intended to draw a queer audience in or to hook destiel shippers, and I also don’t think the queer subtext and moments are limited to Dean and Cas, or Dean/Dean’s sexuality at all, as they’re quite pervasive. If one wanted to make the argument the show baited, one could just as easily use moments between Lucifer and Crowley, Crowley and Cas, and a variety of other characters because Supernatural is RIFE with gay jokes and queer coded villains and a bunch of other common homophobic writing pitfalls. The fixation and emphasis on Destiel to me, highlights a conformation bias in the fans who ship it, and not an actual analysis on the overall writing the show. BUT HERE!! Is the very long essay version backing this claim and picking it all apart:
I feel like in order for a piece of media to fall into the category of queer baiting, there has to be bait. You don’t go fishing for a queer fanbase without putting something on the hook first, and I just don’t believe that was the original intention with Dean and Cas. I really don’t. When Cas was introduced in season four, I don’t think Kripke or the writers had ANY IDEA of how wildly popular he would be, OR how the fanbase would latch onto him as someone to ship Dean with. I DON’T think he was written to draw that sort of audience, and I don’t think he and Dean’s interactions had that singular, cruel, wink wink nudge nudge are they or aren’t they (but if you say they are we’re gonna tell you you’re wrong!!!) element that, say, BBC’s Sherlock’s writers clearly intended to laminate over that particular pairing. They weren’t even presented as a dynamic duo, or a buddy-cop pairing, or brothers in arms, or best friends. Their relationship was introduced initially as a Deus ex machina to get Dean back topside and also as a way to introduce the biblical themes in Supernatural’s apocalypse storyline. I personally think the fandom reaction to Cas, and the influx of Dean/Cas content (which steadily amassed over the next several years, reaching a climactic boom around 2011-12 with the rise of Superwholock) came as a surprise to the writers at first, and was unforeseen, and definitely not an intentional manipulation or attempt to hook queer fans. The show already had queer fans and it already had shippers.
I actually think its important to acknowledge the relationship the writers (and actors) already had with these existing shippers who watched the show who, up until this point, were predominantly wincest shippers. There was acknowledgement, both behind the scenes, at cons, and of course, TEXTUALLY, within the show, that we existed and that it wasn’t really a problem. When the show aired in 2005, this was pretty unusual and actually felt good, after an era where shippers were treated so disparagingly and aggressively. Like I know that’s not the case anymore but in 05/06, to have the showrunner of a show be like “yeah there’s homoerotic subtext between the brothers and you guys are picking up on that” felt HUGE, even if it would be viewed as baiting or manipulation by today's standards. Of course, this was coupled with lazy and homophobic (but also very of the time) writing. There were instances of Sam and Dean getting mistaken as a gay couple, lots of gay jokes, etc. But if I remember correctly, within the context of 2005-07 this was regarded in pretty good faith by the fans. We KNEW the pairing would never be canon (they were brothers and it was on the CW) and it was far before phrases like queer baiting were introduced or widely discussed within the fandom lexicon. It was just SUCH a different time, with different fandom rules and different ways of going about interacting with writers and actors. And THAT was the established precedent when Cas was introduced: shippers being perfectly fine with the writers throwing us bones, and no expectation what so ever of that going anywhere.
Of course, that drastically changed. Firstly, Cas and Dean were not an incest pairing so it COULD technically happen (even if at the time there was no precedent for it and very little subtext to suggest it), and secondly, fandom began to change. Both as a result of Destiel’s massive and unexpected spike in popularity and also because of the social shift from single fandom or even single pairing archives and message boards to massive multi-fandom websites like twitter and tumblr with an endless scroll model. Suddenly you could @ a writer of SPN, or Jensen Ackles. Suddenly you had a ton of BBC Sherlock fans on your tumblr dash discussing queer baiting. Suddenly, you’re being surrounded by queer discourse and the language of social justice is EVERYWHERE, permeating fandom discussion, which you can consume infinitely with strangers if you just keep scrolling. I REALLY think it’s important all these things were happening alongside each other, because they absolutely contributed to the ways in which the Supernatural fandom was shaped, and how destiel became a juggernaut pairing even with very little subtext present in the show!!
Ultimately, all of these changes led to a series of hugboxes and hotbeds where fandom discussion began to cross pollinate (or pollute tbh) with queer discourse, and also where fans validated each other in echo chambers of this could really happen, guys! And many of the fans who actively shipped destiel at the time (particularly those who DID NOT ALSO SHIP WINCEST and who were very violently anti-wincest and used this to position themselves on a moral high ground) became very invested with the possibility Destiel happening in the show. And now, newly “educated” on the language of social justice, armed with the same arguments BBC Sherlock fans had been using in their own fandom circles, and now with the means to actually interact with the writers, they began to bring destiel up at conventions and online, with an air of entitlement and a mask of superiority. They convinced themselves this wasn't a matter of ship wars or a ship preferences…it was a crusade, a fight against homophobia.
And that’s when things really started to get messy and devolve, imo. Because these shippers were backing the writers and actors into a super weird corner, where these mostly straight cis guys who did not intend to write or portray Dean and Castiel that way were forced to acknowledge the ship lest they be accused of being homophobic on twitter. But it was a catch22. If they didn’t say what the fans wanted them to say, they would be accused of being homophobic. If they DID play into it, they’d get accused of queer baiting. Both speaking to and ignoring the issue would galvanize this very vocal subset of destiel shippers into feeling disenfranchised that their ship (which again, at this point, did not have very many textual or subtextual moments and was not presented as a romantic ship and was not anticipated to amass so much content) wasn’t canon, as it COULD and SHOULD become canon. And anyone who disagreed or any other path in the storytelling was homophobic, by default.
Now, flash back to the climate the writers were used to: wincest shippers who were grateful for the tossed bones and jokes and who had no expectation of a canon pairing. I think that after the writers were faced with the unanticipated phenomenon of Destiel, they went about interacting with these fans in very much the same way they did with their existing shippers: playfully. But the climate had changed. The fans had changed. Fandom changed. And Supernatural did not keep up. They changed show runners right around this time and Gamble took over after Kripke, and in my opinion SHE, more than any of the other show runners, did not bait. She actively, observably tried to push destiel shippers away by introducing the Meg/Cas text, writing Cas as broken/crazy in S6, and partnering him Crowley in S7. And if I remember, DESTIEL SHIPPERS HATED IT! They lauded her as the worst showrunner, accused her characters of being OOC, and of sidelining Cas’s importance. There was soooo much intense anti Gamble-era wank at the time and I distinctly remember it because I LOVED seasons 6 and 7 and is was surprised they were so seemingly universally hated. The reputation remains, too, so many people still refer to these as the worst seasons and there was a lasting ripple effect in the later seasons of the show, where writers attempted to deviate away from the feeling of the Gamble era because of how loathed it was.
So, the future writers and showrunners saw what happened if you DIDN’t include Dean/Cas moments. They saw the consequences of trying to write compelling relationships for Cas elsewhere, and of focusing on the brothers. And so I suppose you can make an argument that after this point on, the writing of Dean and Cas’s relationship BECAME baiting in that the writers shifted the writing style to accommodate these fans without actually giving them what they want. But, I feel like because it was shaped so MUCH by environment and circumstance and things that were out of the writers control (like destiel shippers writing loads of OOC meta and episode analysis that literally relied zero percent on the actual text of the show to back their ship which was, at this point, actively being railed AGAINST in the writers room) it doesn't constitute as my understanding of baiting, which requires some INTENT on the writers part to hook fans in with a popular pairing. Not a awkward and poorly dealt with reaction to an unanticipated interpretation that was born in FANDOM, not in the story you set out to tell.
I just don’t feel like that intent was there initially. And I feel like the subsequent poor dealing with it was homophobic but IN RESPONSE to these fans initial inappropriate behavior, which was not prompted and invited by the show, but by fandom climate. Which is not to say that its good or ok! It’s not! Just that the order in which things happened and the manner in which destiel’s popularity rose was not an affect of the show itself initially tossing bait. I would understand it so much more if i felt like the writers presented Destiel as a ship or a central character dynamic the way Sherlock BBC did with that pairing but they didn't. It’s popularity was circumstantial, not baited or hooked and reeled in.
Like If you look at the things the Hellers refer to as “bait” or important moments in those early seasons, they don’t happen exclusively between Dean and Cas, they happen between nearly every character because the writers are homophobic (ie, gay jokes, Dean feeling uncomfortable with physical contact from men, etc. ) In fact, many of the moments they refer to as “evidence” Dean is bisexual or has feelings for Cas is actually just as easily suited to demonstrating Dean is homophobic or repressed! It makes me super uncomfortable that so many people felt baited by a character being depicted, onscreen, as homophobic or disgusted by another man’s affections.
And so many of the other “moments” are decontextualized or invented! This is a show that’s LITTERED with gay jokes and homophobic moments at the same time it also contains a multitude of episodes regarding intimacy between men and love between men, not to mention gay characters (both treated well and treated poorly depending again on the writer and moment in history it happened). The issue of homophobia in the writing of supernatural is SO much bigger than baiting, and EVEN BIGGER than specifically baiting Destiel shippers, but that seems to be the only element these fans choose to focus on and that’s such a red flag for me. A failure to demonstrate any understanding or even interest in the other types of homophobia present in the writing, OR in the fandom history surrounding and shaping the show to me just indicates that this STILL ship wars disguised as something bigger.
long story short: I think these fans gaslit themselves into thinking they saw something that wasn’t there because of the changing fandom landscape at the time, and then began behaving inappropriately to everyone involved on the show, and eventually reaped the seeds they sowed as the clueless, homophobic writers scrambled to react and accommodate.
Semi unrelated but I think Misha Collins might be the only person I consider ACTUALLY baiting in an intentional way? which is wild because I feel like they actually enjoy the way he interacts with the destiel shippers? He seems largely responsible for drumming up hope/entitlement in their camp Imo!
ANYWAY!! I hope this al makes sense omg I realize its a fucking essay.
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i dont feel like sk8 queerbaited.
i honeslty love reki and langa’s relationship, it feels very organic, like i actually got to watch a person go through all the stages of falling in love with their best friend and we even got a quite explicit confirmation when langa spoke to his mum and told her he liked someone.
it is very obvious how langa is heavily queer coded (i don’t think that’s up for debate) but i don’t feel like at any point they tried and use that to trick us, we never got “teasingly queer” scenes between them followed by langa flirting with girls so it’s like “look, hes straight, ha ha”, he actually always has his eyes on reki, and i love that. there’s a lot of scenes of them looking at each other and into each other’s eyes tbh but none feel like baiting but rather like observing two people and seeing one of them slowly realise how in love they are with the other. i feel like they managed to develop this beautiful relationship between them that although it is presented as a super strong friendship it can very easily be read as queer, but that is never used to manipulate the audience.
would i have loved for them to end up together? yes, obviously, but everything they went through and the pace of their relationship just feel so natural to who they are that i don’t feel like i got cheated, at all. the ending feels open to me, like there’s the possibility that as their relationship progresses and continues to grow like it has since they met, they will reach a point eventually where langa feels ready to say what he feels outloud and reki realises his own feelings. we can’t forget they are teenagers in the end, and they are just now starting to deal with all these new emotions inside of them, so i liked how they went about it, regardless of wether the queer coding was intentional or not.
all in all, i really loved the show, and i feel like it was amazingly written and it deserves so much attention for the beautiful work it is.
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I was afraid the first time I saw the Van Scene
So, I know we’ve already been hella meta about this scene, talking about finally getting real representation. But I have to be honest, as soon as I saw those soldiers pull Joe and Nicky apart I had to pause the movie and cry. All I could think about was...I can’t watch us die again.
As a queer woman of color I thought, “I know how this ends, they’re not going to let them live.” Especially feeling what I have been about our police state here in America. So many times I’ve had to see Queer characters on screen die. And so many times in real life I’ve seen Black and Brown men die simply for existing. I knew in my heart that this Brown man and his love were in terrible danger.
So I paused the movie and cried. Big ugly gross tears. Then I turned the movie back on and ugly cried some more because OMG?!? We killed the homophobes?!?!? But it was this scene that helped me understand that this movie was directed though a rhetorically queer lens.
The narrative and framing devices are queer, the lack of central sexualization of ANY of the characters - hella Queer!!! The fact that we made space for the male characters to be emotional and didn’t belittle them for it, in fact they were all still Fucking Badasses! THE FACT THAT NONE OF THE FIGHT SCENES FEATURING WOMEN WERE SHOT LIKE PORNOS!
Very often we see and hear narratives about women, Queer communities, and communities of Color as being resilient. But those narratives are usually framed as going through pain, suffering, death and hardship while still remaining emotionally available for the straight/white protagonist to lean on or gain wisdom from.
Instead this movie framed resiliency as a way to live. Not just a means of survival. Nile wasn’t immediately ready to put aside her life for the greater good, a huge reversal of the “Strong Black Woman” trope. Andy wasn’t everybody's emotional support female, (also Andy and Quynh!) BOOKER CRIES, Copley talks about staying with his wife through her ALS, (which is something many straight men leave their partners for). And our Immortal Husbands!?!?
They said - Bury your gays is OUT- Immortal Gays is IN!
TL;DR - The Old Guard owns my whole being and I will no longer accept queerbait couples in media. plz write “He’s not my boyfriend...” on my tombstone.
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