In the past, it was not acceptable to have queer characters on books, movies, or songs. Creators were left giving hints that their characters were LGBTQ, many times they were coded using language only LGBTQ people would understand. This created a way for LGBTQ people to associate with a book or show, they felt their stories were being told. It created a sense of relating to the character and their experiences.
LGBTQ in media
As times have changed, those references became less vague. Creators statrted realizing the untapped potential of having a queer viewership tied to their various media. This gave rise to queer baiting, where they could make small characters LGBTQ to get more readers. Many times, those same characters fell victim to the act of “burying your gays.” This was a process where they were able to kill off those characters without it being a plot point or any effect to the story line. This led to many viewers/readers stop following those creators.
Now, creators are looking for other ways of catching our dollars. Enter queer catching. This simple act is to allow the creator to tell their fans, in an interview setting, that they have queer characters in their works without every having to express it openly in them. In many ways, this allows LGBTQ consumers to draw more parallels to those characters. It allows them to live in a “closet” the same way we do, growing up, without having to specifically state it or fully admit it.
Queer Baiting vs Catching
From the outside, queer baiting and queer catching seem very similar. However, there are some noticeable differences. Let’s take a look at some examples of how both are used.
You just started watching this amazing television show. Two of the main characters are really close to one another. As you watch the series, it really seems that those two characters are destined to become a couple. The season finale comes and it is revealed that one of them are straight and the other did not know. Or, even worse, its a queer couple that has been together the whole season and are really good together, as the season wraps up their relationship ends for no apparent reason. These methods were used to keep and grow a queer audience, this is called “Queer Baiting.”
You start reading a collection of books about a young boy who finds out he is a wizard. He finds out that this magic world exists alongside the world he has always known. Now he is off to school to partake in adventures. While there, a wizened older wizard seems to have a special interest in the boy, the boy looks to him as a grandfatherly type. As the story nears completion, the wizened old wizard dies.
During an interview about the popularity of the series, the author is discussing they story. The interview makes a mention about how so many people are drawn to it due to the nature of the stories. Out of no where, the author states that the wizened old wizard character is, in fact, gay. As such, the queer audience latches on to the store more because they NOW see more parallels to their own trials.
The odd thing is that there is no mention to or any hint in the books that this character was actually queer and had a life that incorporated those facts. This is “Queer Catching.”
Where queer bating and catching tend to follow along the lines of media, these processes also have been tied to our socioeconomic realms, as well. Starting in the mid-1960s, the United States has seen a shift in how marketing practices have changed. Initially, the processes showed that to make money you need to target the mainstream or masses to purchase or interact with your services. As shift began to increase those margins by targeting specialized niche groups, this gave rise to searching for “alternative” customers to target.
This shift tied into the social movements of that era, social justice movements for blacks and lgbtq people. America wasn’t the only stage that was seeing this rise, it started happening around the world. This game more awareness and visibility to non-cis gendered, non-white, and non-heterosexual communities.
This gave rise to “Pink Capitalism.” Pink Capitalism is a socioeconomic term that describes the market phenomenon of including gays/lesbians and/or people with other non-mainstream sexual orientations into the market economy. A prime example of this is how Coors became a beer of choice for gays due to gay bars reaching out for suppliers at a time when it was ilegal for gays to drink in bars.
Types of Pink Capitalism
Advertising and businesses use, what is called “pink capitalism” as a means of targeting the LGBTQ community to interact with or purchase from their brands. To do this, they employ various types of marketing campaigns to entice LGBTQ people to interact with them. Those types are:
- Directing campaigns to advertise to gay/lesbian friendly media. These ads include categories like travel, alcoholic beverages, entertainment, hair and skin care, luxury goods, and fashion. Typically things that people associate with being priorities for LGBTQ people
- Modifying marketing with LGBTQ related elements. This includes adding symbols or rainbows to advertisements. It is a way for a brand to show support for and they they are LGBTQ friendly mindsets.
- Making LGBTQ specific products and campaigns. This one is more targeted, a prime example is when Absolut Vodka made their rainbow bottles that were sold during Pride season. It is done to specifically target the LGBTQ community for spending their dollars with their brand.
Growth of Pink Capitalism
These methods of interactions have led businesses, such as bars, nightclubs, and the hospitality industry to create focus targets to attract those LGBTQ dollars. In cities with high tourism, you can seen these establishments running theme nights that target the LGBTQ community. Gay Days at Disney theme parks is a prime example. This gives the impression that a business is supportive of us, as a group, and wants our interactions as much as they do others. All hail the almighty dollar.
This has grown to include the digital revolutions. We now see apps that are created that target LGBTQ people, as well. Apps like Grindr offering dating services to gay clientele. It also translates down to apps like Instagram or Facebook changing colors to show support for LGBTQ people during Pride season.
Other app examples:
Jack’D – Many state that this is an app more geared towards people of color finding other people of color, in the gay community. A place where people may be more in the closet and not quire ready or want to come out
Growlr – gay male dating app that tends to focus on those in the “bear” or bear adjacent community
HER (formerly Dattch) – dating app focused primarily on Lesbians. Their tag is made for queers, by queers
Wapa – (also has Wapo for gay men) A way for safe dating in countries like Spain, Brazil, Turkey, and more where meeting and dating others can be dangerous
Teadate -A place where transgender and transgender attracted hearts can connect.
Gotta Catch Them All
Whether it being through methods like queer catching/baiting or tailoring an app for a specific segment of the population, we are seeing a rise in how companies will attract the smaller segements of the population. It is up to us to decide if this is an acceptable means for companies to get us to spend our money with them or do we require more from them. A more permanent means to work with our communities. The question comes down to whether or not we want ethics to be involved with the movement of money and goods in our lives.