Amber (not her real name)
A young writer from the UK.
What is queerbaiting and is Billie Eilish a perpetrator of it?
It’s hard to go a day without reading about Billie Eilish. Ever since her rise to fame as a world renowned singer, she has touched many lives with her unique sound and refusal to conform to what the pop industry wants from a young female artist. Her quirky character, baggy clothes, dyed hair and lack of makeup has given us the “I’m just like you” illusion (minus the fact that she is a multi-millionaire of course).
She’s barely an adult and is arguably one of the most famous and relevant celebrities on the planet. You don’t have to look much further than her recent British Vogue cover (which nearly broke the internet) to find proof. Pictured head to toe in beautiful lingerie, sporting neutral tones and loud jewellery, Billie had a message: she’s grown up now. And her body is here to empower, whether the male gaze likes it or not.
But after years of adoration, the new, rebranded Billie has slipped up. And her slip up has caused quite a debate: what is queerbaiting and is she a perpetrator of it?
It all started when her music video to the song Lost Cause was released. Directed by Billie herself, the video featured her and a group of girls dancing in the living room, playing twister, shooting each other with water guns... essentially the epitome of the ‘female sleepover’.
A fair analysis is that this video is oversexualised. It has an air of controversy behind it, almost like there is a hidden message of gentle sensuality between a group of friends. On the other hand, popular culture has always oversexualised women. I’ve seen one too many films and TV shows where girls are fetishised for doing no more than breathing (maybe a bit dramatic but you get what I mean).
For those who don’t know, 'queerbaiting' is a term used for instances when creators hint at, but don’t directly portray LGBTQIA+ representation. Perhaps Billie did genuinely want to portray the cool things she and her friends do when they stay at each other's houses. Or perhaps she wanted to grab the attention of the media by insinuating that she and her friends like to have a little more ‘fun’ than a game of Twister, if you get my meaning. And it’s not just me who has scrutinized this, many other people have pointed it out online.
What made the situation worse was the behind-the-scenes photo she posted on Instagram of her and her friends sticking their tongues out for the camera, with the accompanying caption reading ‘I love girls’. Now it was this photo that really struck a few chords with many people of the LGBTQIA+ community. Plenty expressed dismay that another, otherwise straight influencer with a huge platform, was contributing to the already oversexualised reputation of bisexual and lesbian women. The point I saw one person make was that as far as everyone was aware, Billie is a straight woman. She has never disclosed any other sexual identity (and of course it is no one’s place to demand that she does) – but when the LGBTQIA+ community faces so much abuse for simply existing, no wonder people were angry that she was feeding into the narrative of sexualised girl on girl in the media.
But I do think that a lot of people forget that not too long ago Billie was a teenager. She’s probably still figuring out her life, and who is anyone to accuse her of queerbaiting when she has every right to explore and celebrate who she is?
It’s no secret that queerbaiting in the media is a problem. Many celebrities have been accused of it before, from Ariana Grande to Rita Ora to Liam Payne (don’t even get me started on his song about a bisexual woman). It’s certainly a fair opinion that we should shove Billie under this umbrella of people and leave her to think about what she’s done.
Or perhaps we should just leave her alone. It’s not her fault that women are oversexualised, or that she can’t have friends over without social media implying they’re doing something they’re not. At the end of the day, only she alone knows why she decided to direct that music video in the way it is portrayed.
She isn’t the first celebrity to do this, and she certainly won’t be the last.
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