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Although genuine LGBTQ+ representation in media has steadily increased overtime, queerbaiting—the process of drawing in queer audiences with empty promises of representation to increase viewship—still runs rampant (McInroy & Craig, 2016; Witchwatch, 2016). Previous scholars have discussed the role of subtext in perpetuating queerbaiting, as well as the effect of queerbaiting on LGBTQ+ fans, but queerbaiting as a whole has yet to be operationally defined (Ng, 2017; Scott, 2017; Boisvert, 2020). This study seeks to fill a gap in the literature, codifying the elusive concept of queerbaiting through a set of fifteen novel criteria. This criteria—ranging from homophobic humor to unprecedented intimacy between same-gender characters—was used to observe queerbaiting in action through the CW’s Supernatural, a long-running television show infamous for its gay subtext. 267 episodes of the prime-time series were analyzed, and instances of queerbaiting were tallied for each episode. This data collection was carried out in hopes of addressing the following questions: has queerbaiting increased alongside overall LGBTQ+ representation between 2008 and 2020? If so, what underlying social connotations might this media proliferation have? Findings revealed a steady incline in the average rates of queerbaiting, starting in Season 4 and peaking in Season 11 (avg. 45.26 instances of queerbaiting per episode) with a relatively fast decline in Seasons 12–15. The air date of Season 11 closely aligns with Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, suggesting that queerbaiting has not only evolved overtime, but has evolved intentionally at the behest of writers to fit within prevailing American ideals.



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What Do the Bits Become, Eric? Queering Queerbaiting in the CW's Supernatural