Between text, paratext, and context: Queerbaiting and the contemporary media landscape

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Academic Commentary
Title: Between text, paratext, and context: Queerbaiting and the contemporary media landscape
Commentator: Eve Ng
Date(s): June 15, 2017
Medium: online
Fandom: Rizzoli & Isles, The 100
External Links: on transformativeworks
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Between text, paratext, and context: Queerbaiting and the contemporary media landscape is a 2017 article by Eve Ng published in Transformative Works and Cultures No. 24: Queer Female Fandom, edited by Julie Levin Russo and Eve Ng.
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.- Abstract for "Between text, paratext, and context: Queerbaiting and the contemporary media landscape"[1]

Some Topics Discussed

Excerpts

Queerbaiting is the outcome of increased paratextual discourse about LGBT content at a specific moment of queer contextuality. We might be tempted to reserve the term, in the sense that I use it, for media texts that fail to have canonically queer characters despite textual and paratextual content that suggests the possibility. However, doing so would not explain why The 100, with a canonical F/F couple, has also been widely cited as an example of queerbaiting. The crucial element is not a lack of canonicity, but how satisfactorily queerness plays out in the canonical text relative to viewer expectations that emerge from the reading of multiple texts and paratexts and that take account of queer contextuality. That is, queerbaiting's referents expand because the text–paratext–queer contextuality matrix changes over time, although its structure remains the same.[2]
Viewer demands for particular kinds of canonical narratives reflect a shift away from satisfaction with solely subtextual readings, long a creative mainstay for queer fandoms. However, alternative readings are not simply supplanted by canon, particularly since the scope of fan works always exceeds the quantity and variety of stories and possibilities that a canonical text can depict.[3]

References

  1. Ng, Eve. 2017. "Between Text, Paratext, and Context: Queerbaiting and the Contemporary Media Landscape." In "Queer Female Fandom," edited by Julie Levin Russo and Eve Ng, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 24. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2017.917.
  2. Ng, Eve. 2017. "Between Text, Paratext, and Context: Queerbaiting and the Contemporary Media Landscape." In "Queer Female Fandom," edited by Julie Levin Russo and Eve Ng, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 24. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2017.917.
  3. Ng, Eve. 2017. "Between Text, Paratext, and Context: Queerbaiting and the Contemporary Media Landscape." In "Queer Female Fandom," edited by Julie Levin Russo and Eve Ng, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 24. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2017.917.