Queer baiting is (in very simple terms) ship teasing a same sex pairing that is never intended to become canon. Never EVER and is only done to boost ratings, or appeal to a more liberal audience without offending non-shippy viewers.
JD and Turk from Scrubs might be considered an example of this, because Turk is married. And both identify as ‘heterosexual’ although they certainly act like ‘life partners’.
So when does ship teasing become queer baiting?
Queer baiting can be—
-No intention to make the relationship canon
-The relationship actually can’t become canon because one of the members is married/unavailable
-Treats gayness as a joke “are you guys a couple?” hahahaha
-‘No homo’ comments made by either the characters or the actors or the writers/creators “We’re not gay!” ”They’re not gay!” ”It’s not written gay!”
-Any existing gay ‘moments’ immediately refuted in some straight fashion
-For example: Ho yay moments followed by a hook up with the opposite sex
Homo-eroticism is what is written into the canon that hints at a relationship (example, Cas, I need you, sounds like deliberate homo-eroticism).
Ho yay is what fans can interpret as homoerotic with a lick and a prayer (example: I’m not gonna lie, me and him, we got a pretty messed-up situation going on, but…”The End”)
Is Supernatural queer baiting Dean and Cas? At this point, a quarter through the eighth season, with (apparently) two and a half more seasons planned, I have to say…I’m not sure.
There have certainly been instances that could have been seen as queer baiting in the past.
Random people talking about Dean and Sam being a couple—which is played for laughs. The ‘Cas, get out of my ass’ line, again arguably played for laughs.
Dean, maybe having bisexual or homosexual ‘moments’ which he denied, or then was later shown having intercourse with or talking about having intercourse with women. For ex, Castiel’s introduction followed by Dean’s one night stand with a waitress in “Monster Movie”. Or Dean propositioning Jo after “Changing Channels” and “The Real Ghostbusters”.
Or Dean/Lisa –sorta came out of nowhere, after a season long arc in which Dean spent all his time with his brother and Castiel and seems pretty upset when Castiel leaves after Sam/Lucifer is imprisoned in the Cage—sounds a bit like queer baiting (No, Dean totally isn’t queer for Cas, look at him in this nice family with a hot woman!)
Or Cas/Meg—again came out of nowhere, Meg just shows up at a random convenience store and then devotes herself to caring for Castiel, this after a season long arc in which Castiel certainly appeared to have stronger than friendship/romantic feelings for Dean—-again, seems a bit like queer baiting (No, Castiel isn’t in love with Dean, he….just hasn’t been exposed to enough chicks yet!)
But—Cas/Daphne? –if Daphne is seen as merely a plot device (which is how the show treats her, since she completely disappears and is never seen again) and we note that there is (unlike Meg) no further discussion or attempt to develop the relationship—-less like queer baiting, more deus ex machina
Balthazar’s line about “the angel who’s in love with you” seems less like queer baiting, because not only did Dean not laugh, and I also as a viewer, didn’t find that line particularly funny. But I see that a case could be made that it was snarky and so intended to be funny.
But all those examples are from seasons previous to this season. And in this season, I don’t see any comments about Dean and Cas that have been played for laughs (as opposed to comments about Dean and Sam). There is nothing standing in the way of a potential relationship between Dean and Cas.
Dean is not even attempting to flirt with women, much less having hook ups. If comments are made by other characters—Dean is not refuting them. (He doesn’t argue when Meg says “He was your boyfriend first”. Nor does he comment on Benny’s “You and that whole ’friend’ thing, man”).
The actors (unlike the Sherlock actors or writers) are not going around giving interviews stating that, duh, of course, their characters are straight. The show’s creators and writers are also not stating that the characters are straight and that they have no intention of establishing a relationship.
The writers are explicitly writing homoerotic DIALOGUE into the scripts, and there is no denial of this fact. And even more interesting, the moments that fans see as ‘ho yay’ ….are followed not by a knee-jerk denial, not by a scene of the character acting in a ‘traditionally straight’ way….. No, those scenes are followed with…MORE HO YAY. It’s ho yay on top of ho yay!
Sam’s “I’m sorry, Dean,” (consoling about Cas) is followed by “We’re not leaving without the angel!”
THE Hug followed by “Cas, I need you.”
Benny’s “that ‘friend’ thing’ followed by “Cas, we’re shoving you thru if it kills all three of us!”
So while you can certainly argue that Supernatural has engaged in a fair amount of queer baiting in the past, I don’t see queer baiting so far in this season. I see ship teasing…and a lot of indicators that make me think that the creators are leading us up to a “Will they or won’t they?” scenario. Which is demonstrably proof that the creators DO see Cas and Dean as a romantic couple and a potentially canon one.
We all know hetero ships that never become canon for one reason or another, so the fact that they are moving toward “Will they or won’t they?” doesn’t mean that they will become canon. But it does not mean that they are queer baiting either.
Unless they start cranking up the jokes and start showing either Dean or Cas romantically with women in later episodes, then I’d say that so far, this season is by far the least queer baitiest of them all.
So please don’t write off Dean and Cas as having no potential to become canon *yet*, dear Destiel shippers. It’s too soon. Ship it hard, ship it loudly and they might make it so.