By Mikayla Silcox
Elm Staff Writer
The Dorian Award-winning show “Heartstopper” told an LGBTQ+ love story focused on identity and the struggle of accepting one’s sexuality.
Despite the message of the show, fans forced one of the lead actors, Kit Connor, to come out on Twitter.
Connor felt harassed by fans on Twitter after the paparazzi caught him holding hands with Maia Reficco, his co-star in the upcoming film “A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow.”
Because Connor played Nick Nelson, a bisexual character in “Heartstopper,” fans were pushing a LGBTQ+ identity for the young actor. Fans assumed that Connor was queerbaiting after his public appearance with Reficco, to which fans exaggerated and made assumptions about his sexuality.
Some fans may have worried about Connor’s sexuality because they wanted to see a LGBTQ+ actor playing a LGBTQ+ character. The photos seemed to confirm that Connor identifies as straight, concerning many about the casting.
However, one photo of Connor holding hands with Reficco does not confirm his sexuality, nor does it mean he was queerbaiting by playing Nick in the show.
According to Them, queerbaiting is “the practice of implying non-heterosexual relationships or attraction…to engage or attract an LGBTQ+ audience or otherwise generate interest without ever actually depicting such relationships or sexual interactions.”
“Heartstopper” as a show does not queerbait, as it focuses on the relationship between Nick and Charlie Spring, played by Joe Locke. However, many online have started applying the term to celebrities, accusing them of queerbaiting either through their actions or their content.
For example, pop star Billie Eilish was accused of queerbaiting when she released a music video for her song “Lost Cause.” In an Instagram caption, Eilish wrote, “I love girls,” but did not address her sexuality. Many fans criticized both her actions and the music video’s content, which depicts Eilish at a sleepover with a group of girls.
Content itself can be accused of queerbaiting, since many popular television shows have teased potentially LGBTQ+ relationships to interest LGBTQ+ viewers – see Supernatural, The 100, and even Riverdale, according to Them. But to imply that celebrities themselves are queerbaiting introduces assumptions about their sexualities, which may make the celebrity in question uncomfortable.
Straight or not, all Connor did was play the role he was cast as, and the fans’ dramatization of the actor’s sexuality highlights the lack of privacy and obsession celebrities have over this private aspect of their lives.
Fans questioned Connor about his sexuality, leading him to come out when he was not ready.
“Back for a minute. I’m bi. Congrats for forcing an 18-year-old to out himself. I think some of you missed the point of the show. Bye,” Connor tweeted.
The harassment towards Connor shows that fans have no boundaries when it comes to fulfilling their beliefs about certain celebrities.
As of late, with the progressive influx of media that recognizes LGTBQ+ people and relationships, viewers have been accusing celebrities of queerbaiting. When fans notice details, whether it be a role or a haircut, that may indicate a celebrity is LGBTQ+, they over-speculate and intrude the privacy of celebrities and their sexualities.
Fans accuse celebrities of queerbaiting based on careers and stereotypes. These fan speculations pose issues in both the sense that LGBTQ+ characters in television are alienated from straight characters and that celebrities are forced to be transparent about their sexualities.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Harry Styles responded to accusations of queerbaiting in “My Policeman,” after playing an LGTBQ+ role.
“It’s not like ‘This is a gay story about these guys being gay.’ It’s about love, and about wasted time, to me,” Styles said.
The assumption that LGBTQ+ characters are distinctively designed to be portrayed by LGBTQ+ actors would insinuate that LGBTQ+ characters are defined by their sexuality.
While television may benefit from LGBTQ+ screenwriters speaking on the queer experience, alienating LGBTQ+ plotlines in this way can also make LGBTQ+ characters or relationships become ‘abnormal’ and separated from straight relationships.
Regardless of the roles actors undertake, there are issues with fans and interviewers harassing celebrities on their sexualities.
Kristen Stewart continues to fall victim to media critique because of her sexuality. Because Stewart has dated different actors, including Robert Pattinson and Stella Maxwell, fans constantly tread on Stewart’s personal dating life.
While Stewart prefers to not label her sexuality, the actress has received backlash from the media on her inability to ‘pick a side.’
“I was informed by an old school mentality, which is – you want to preserve your career and your success and your productivity, and there are people in the world who don’t like you, and they don’t like that you date girls, and they don’t like that you don’t identify as a ‘lesbian,’ but you also don’t identify as a ‘heterosexual,’” Stewart said in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar.
Stewart said in the interview that someone told her to hide her girlfriend in order to get a role in a Marvel film. Stewart is proof that celebrities’ sexualities are left for judgment by the public and the media.
Celebrities are aware of the pressure they have from fans to disclose their sexualities and intimate lives, and after repeated harassment, they are usually forced to expose themselves.
The harassment of Kit Connor represents the wide-scale problem with queerbaiting accusations and the lack of respect for celebrities who do not wish to disclose their sexual orientation. Ironically, this is an issue shows like “Heartstopper” are trying to shed light on.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo Caption: Actor Kit Connor, known for his leading role in Netflix’s teen drama “Heartstopper,” was forced to come out as bisexual on Twitter after many fans accused him of queerbaiting.