Producers of the CW's prime=time drama Supernatural found themselves backtracking Wednesday after a hashtag that was meant to create buzz around the show backfired, with frustrated fans voicing their allegations of "queer baiting" a yet-to-materialize romantic relationship between main character Dean Winchester, played by Jensen Ackles, and angel Castiel, portrayed by Misha Collins.
The phrase "queer baiting" generally refers to when TV shows or movies hint at possible same-sex relationships, generally to appease their LGBT fans, without ever actually developing that relationship on-screen. It's not a new allegation for Supernatural, as the Urban Dictionary definition of the term "queer baiting," published last year, specifically references the show.
Apparently unaware of the potential for hashtags to be "hijacked" by those with less than promotional intentions, the show promoted the hashtag #AskSupernatural through the show's Twitter account Wednesday, looking to drum up conversation about the show in the week leading up to San Diego Comic-Con. After fans primarily used the hashtag to critique the show's unconfirmed subtext, the Supernatural Twitter account deleted its post promoting #AskSupernatural.
The show's viewers and followers on Twitter kept the questions coming, though:
#AskSupernatural has unleashed the rage of the fan base they've kept locked in the closet for years. Sort of like Dean Winchester.
— Peripatic Cat (@fluffyfluff55) July 17, 2014
Why is it necessary to establish someone's Hetero but if they are Bi or Gay "it doesn't serve the story" to acknowledge it? #AskSupernatural
— Jean Summers (@MarvelGirl1963) July 17, 2014
#AskSupernatural how do you feel about the fact that your show is the first result on google when you google queerbaiting?
— Jess C (@jessintheimpala) July 15, 2014
#asksupernatural hey how about don't put subtext in the show if you're gonna pretend it's not there and shame the fans that see it
— jodie (@destielfart) July 15, 2014
For a few seasons, the sexual tension between Dean and Castiel has been building, prompting fans to speculate about a possible romantic relationship between the two, even creating a couple name for the two: Destiel. Some fans have argued that the character of Dean is sexually fluid, with some even labeling him bisexual. Creators and actors involved with the show have hinted at a romantic relationship on social media and in interviews, adding fuel to the firey rumors.
In an interview with The Huffington Post in 2012, Collins, who plays Castiel, said the relationship between Dean and Cas was going to grow.
“The scripts that I've seen so far have been dealing very much with that relationship between Dean and Castiel," Collins said. "Whether that's going to be the most significant or a very significant thread throughout the season, I'm not sure, but my speculation is that yes, it will be fairly [important]."
Then in two different interviews in 2013, one with The Huffington Post and another with TV Fantatic, Collins offered more overt hints about the relationship, saying he had received a note from showrunner Jeremy Carver to play his character as a "jilted lover" when Castiel and Dean are reuinted.
Groups of fans have urged and even demanded that the producers make good on the same-sex subtext, with some announcing they have quit watching the show, frustrated and feeling they'd been led on.
Indeed, it's tough to label the relationship between the two characters, but there have been several scenes that would seem out of place to occur between two heterosexual men who were "just friends." Last season, Dean tells Castiel that he "needs" him — though Daily Dot later revealed that the script originally called for Dean to tell Castiel "I love you."