“Why, when it comes to Demi, is the idea of ‘queer-baiting’ for the sake of selling records suddenly a big deal?”
Usually, my Facebook is littered with ‘targeted’ ads about weight loss, learning to code and finding a man (always pictured as cis, white, straight. YAWN).
However, a couple months ago I stumbled across an article that caused me to actually stop, blink a couple of times and click.
There was a certain edge to the article headline wasn’t there? And it surprised me with its righteous aggression. At the time I only knew who Demi Lovato was because “Confident” was my favourite track in my POUNDÔ class playlist.
As I fell down the rabbit hole of Google search, I discovered that public interest in where Demi places her genitals had been ramping up for some time.
Despite her award-winning vocal advocacy of queer rights, it was really the release of her sexually ambiguous “Cool For The Summer” in 2015 that seemed to tip the internet’s speculation towards fever pitch; which, I imagine, did the world of good for Demi’s record sales.
Two years later, the tone seems to have turned sour. I quote the Huff:
“I am respectfully going to call bulls**t on Lovato… ‘Cool For The Summer’ preys on, plays out and benefits from the fetishization of the closet and of alternative sexualities being read as deviant.”
– Noah Michelson, Huffpost, 20/09/17
Why, when it comes to Demi, is the idea of ‘queer-baiting’ for the sake of selling records suddenly a big deal?
Pop music exists in the realm of fantasy. I mean, there is a whole catalogue of stars who have cashed in on public attention by dabbling in queer or at least gender-bending appearance and/or lyrics over the years.
Robbie Williams, Madonna, Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Elton John, David Bowie…the list could go on and, frankly, shouldn’t it go on?
Nevertheless, the article does highlight something significant: that cultural icons matter – especially to the queer community.
Throughout the history of popular culture, artists have always beaten politicians in terms of spotting paradigm shifts and pointing out social injustices.
Artists are usually the queer advocates who have the best exposure and the most susceptible audience. And right now, thanks to the terrifying policies of Donald Trump and his cronies, the queer community in the U.S. finds itself in dangerously shifting sands – and in need of ALL advocates to make as much noise on their behalf as possible.
Perchance you have been living under a rock, type ‘LGBT policies in the U.S.’ into Google, hit the News option and then proceed to start screaming into a pillow.
Yet, does this give the queer community anywhere the right to demand the outing of a young, popular entertainer? Do we have the right to demand the outing of anybody? And, if they choose not to come out, do we have the right to demand a good reason why not?
Despite the frightening times we are facing, Demi Lovato – or any other 25-year-old in the public eye – should not become a scapegoat for the deep frustrations and insecurities of any group of people anywhere. It’s terrifically unfair.
We can’t celebrate her for using her publicity to advocate for queer folks, then in the next breath start shaking our heads and shouting about how she’s not quite doing it the way we’d like.
There are much better and more beneficial places for us to put our energy in order to keep affecting positive change, even in small ways.
So, rather than getting Huffy about Demi, let’s all make a cup of tea and consider doing those things instead.