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Pushed out of the closet

By Tammy Newman Dec. 15, 2022

“Heartstopper,” one of the current most popular romance television shows on Netflix, spurred a tremendous amount of controversy around its casting of actor Kit Connor, who played as a bisexual character on the show. Adapted from a graphic novel series, the show was released on April 22 and immediately became one of the most popular shows on Netflix. According to The Daily Pennsylvanian, fans spent over 53 million hours watching the series within the first three weeks of its release, making it apart of the Top 10 TV shows category on Netflix in 54 countries. In the series, Connor plays Nick Nelson, a young boy navigating through life while realizing and exploring his sexuality after falling in love with another boy. Shortly after the show was released, however, Connor was accused of queerbaiting.


Ellie Kim Art

The outrage began when Connor was caught on video holding hands with Argentine-American actress Maia Reficco while on a date in Paris. In response, many fans expressed distress on several social media platforms including TikTok. Some viewers had assumed that Connor was part of the LGBTQ+ community due to his role on the show. Fans’ anger stemmed from the feeling that Connor was a poor and unfit representation of a gay character. The Health magazine explains that queerbaiting draws viewers in with the hope of gay representation. Such shows frequently create chemistry between two same-sex characters while also maintaining ambiguity about their sexuality, keeping audiences on edge by eluding that something may happen between them, but then ending the show with no real queer relationship.


“Accusing Kit Connor of queerbaiting is not only unfair but also just false. The true definition of queerbaiting is companies teasing possible gay relationships between characters as a marketing tactic. Kit Connor portraying an actual bisexual character in no way matches this,” Senior Niharika Sharma said.

On Oct. 31, as reported by USA Today, Connor publicly tweeted, “I’m bi. Congrats for forcing an 18-year-old to out himself”. Criticism that fans levied towards Connor was proven false—he simply chose to keep his sexuality private.


Ellie Kim Art

There are other celebrities who have also been wrongfully accused of queerbaiting in the past, per The Grazia Daily. For example, Billie Eilish was attacked online for posting music videos with sexually suggestive dance movements toward other women, and Harry Styles was accused of queerbaiting by refusing to identify sexuality. The Grazia Daily writes that such accusations are unfair to celebrities because fans do not know their personal lives and thus should not criticize their private life matters. Furthermore, according to Mashable, it is important to note that due to the fluid nature of sexuality, individuals can recognize changes in their sexuality later in life—something that is uncontrollable and not queerbaiting.


“While queerbaiting sets back progress made towards LGBTQ+ representation, fans must remember that celebrities have a right to their privacy and do not owe them explanations regarding their personal life,” Junior Vijay Tirumalai said.

Diverse representation has become increasingly important to many fans. New America delves into how gay representation is necessary for equality and inclusion in the media, but the Kit Connor incident demonstrates how hostile fans can become when they misunderstand actors. Sharma and others believe that quickly accusing others of queerbaiting can end up doing more harm than good for LGBTQ+ representation.

 

About the Contributors

Tammy Newman

Staff writer


Tammy Newman is a senior at Leland who writes for the school newspaper. During her free time, she loves spending time with her friends and sleeping.










Ellie Kim

Artist


Ellie Kim is a senior at Leland High School and one of the Art Directors for The Charger Account. When she’s not doing schoolwork, she enjoys scrolling through Pinterest, making Spotify playlists, and sleeping.

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