As we learned last week, J.K. Rowling’s release of the Cursed Child was met with an unprecedented 2 million copies within the first two days. Sounds promising, but not every buyer has been a happy camper. Fans are angered by the market-bait claim that the book is exactly that, a traditional book, when in reality what readers got was essentially a manuscript. Buyers felt slighted and salty, as could be expected. Less expected was the vocal upset from the LGBTQ community.
The criticism is fuelled over what they see as queerbaiting, or the portrayal of seemingly homoerotic relationships without the fulfillment of actually being a gay romance. In the case of the Cursed Child, the possibility of queerbaiting comes from the portrayal of Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy’s relationship, which I’ll get into later in the article. Queerbaiting is a strategy to appeal specifically to the queer community, in a way that’s digestible for the mass of viewers who might find the content less appealing. It attends to both audiences at once, but nonetheless is an exploitative strategy that can mock queer culture and undermine progress in de-stigmatizing non-hetero relationships.
Image courtesy of Guardian
From House to Sherlock Holmes to Of Mice and Men, numerous entertainment mediums have had to duke it out with the claim of queerbaiting. In terms of Albus and Scorpius in The Cursed Child, fans cite their co-dependence on each other, frequent physical intimacy (hugging), and the manuscript’s comparison of the boys’ connection to that of Snape and Lilly Potter. Readers have flocked to Twitter and discussion pages in a frenzy of upset – but also some affectionate dubbing of the ‘couple’ as “Scorbus”.
As baseline argument for their claim, many readers hold Albus and Scorpius against Harry and Ron: as Tor writes “I’m all for depictions of strong friendships that define people, but Albus and Scorpius don’t read like Harry and Ron.”
The claims aren’t outrageous, especially considering Rowling has admitted there’s truth in fan theories and musings, such as Dumbledore being gay. Beyond the claim, some fans are also wary of a long lived plot being scrapped for the manuscript:
LGBTQ campaigner James Ortiz told the Guardian:
The writers of the Cursed Child intentionally included this fan theory to draw us in but decided to change it just enough so that they wouldn’t have to admit that they made two 11-year-olds gay […] It’s queerbaiting because they knew exactly who they were reeling in and why, but still decided to leave out the main attraction for all the fans they hooked, choosing instead, like so many others, to set up the gay romance, hint at it constantly, make it believable and deep and perfect, and then force it out of the story.
Whether the subtext is there or LGBTQ readers are looking for deeper connection in the final HP instalment, attention is due nonetheless to the portrayal of male intimacy in and of itself. Friendly or romantic, hetero or queer, the great emotional and physical bond between two male characters should be acknowledged as a relatively untouched connection in literature. It’s a significant look at masculinity and vulnerability in harmony, and a representation that veers away from traditional trope of the superficial ‘bromace’.
Knowing Rowling and her tendency to engage with fans, we’re hoping to hear back form her and settle the debacle once and for all. What’s your take on the queerbaiting claim? Share with us in the comments!
Featured image courtesy of the NerdyBird.