Is stage-gay queerbaiting? The politics of performative homoeroticism in emo bands

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Queerbaiting is a fast-expanding topic in media and cultural studies. In 2015, this author attempted to define queerbaiting as a strategy by which writers and networks attempt to gain the patronage of queer viewers via the suggestion of queer relationships, before denying and laughing off the possibility. Joseph Brennan’s 2019 edited volume has greatly developed the concept of queerbaiting to include a range of meanings, from media industries’ pledges of allegiance to LGBT causes that are not delivered upon to courting queer viewers via paratexts that imply queer relationships that don’t exist in text. Applying the concept of queerbaiting to bands complicates these ideas, as the “truth” or “delivery” of queer representation lies not in a fictional text but the public persona of real performers. Through an examination of stage-gay, the notorious practice of queer performativity on stage by straight performers in the emo music subculture, I investigate how a restrictive notion of “truth” in discussions of queerbaiting can actually close off the very possibilities of transformation and open-ended configurations of sexuality that Alexander Doty’s formulation of queerness promised. Emo bands are the natural case study here, as emo is an offshoot of hardcore and punk that sought to complicate the hegemonic masculinities dominating those genres, both in its musical and lyric content, and the public and paratextual performativity of its artists.




Fathallah, J. (2021). Is stage-gay queerbaiting? The politics of performative homoeroticism in emo bands. Journal of Popular Music Studies, 33(1), 121–136.

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