Between text, paratext, and context: Queerbaiting and the contemporary media landscape
Keywords:Fan activism, Intertextuality, Paratext, Queer representation
I discuss the concept of queerbaiting as emergent from viewer readings of both textual and paratextual content at a particular juncture of LGBT media representation. While fan works as paratexts have attracted attention for their queered readings and narratives, there has been little scholarly consideration of how official paratexts that suggest or address queer readings, particularly promotional material and public commentary from producers, inform viewer engagement with media texts, and how they interact with contemporary conditions of media production and LGBT content. Examining F/F pairings from two television shows, Rizzoli & Isles (TNT, 2010–16) and The 100 (CW, 2014–), I propose a model that incorporates text, paratext, and the context of LGBT representation to account for how both noncanonical and canonically queer narratives can exemplify queerbaiting discourses, as well as where queer subtextual readings are positioned in this interpretative space. In addition, I highlight the historical contingency of queerbaiting in terms of shifts in producer/viewer interactions and the character of LGBT narratives in reshaping the contestation of media meaning making.
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