By Bradley Donalson
There has been quite a bit of talk recently in the gay community about Nick Jonas. With the debut of Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens, Jonas has played two gay roles, appeared on the cover of Flaunt mostly naked, and has been spotted in multiple gay clubs—stripping. This has led to many people accusing the former-boy-bander-turned-hottie of queerbaiting his audience.
Queerbaiting has been defined as the subtle hinting by entertainment creators that a media personality is queer, only to follow up with some banal or sinister “no homo” denunciation that implies being gay is something shameful or imagined.
Jonas isn’t doing that. At no point has the chiseled singer/actor ever claimed to be anything other than completely hetero. He’s playing gay characters, but so have others. Jack Falahee plays a gay man on Peter Nowalk’s How to Get Away with Murder. He’s even appeared naked on the show, yet people don’t accuse him of queerbaiting in the same way they’ve accused Jonas. This may have to do with the level of stardom, but it might also have to do with Jonas being openly straight while Falahee refuses to discuss his sexuality—which is his right, no matter how curious some of us are. There’s nothing sinister or manipulative about Jonas’ gay characters. They’re gay, full stop. He isn’t playing them straight while hinting at the possibility that they might have an attraction to another man in the show. This isn’t Supernatural with Dean and Castiel. So the question becomes: why do we want to accuse Jonas?
I think the answer might be something that is both good and bad. We want to accuse him of queerbaiting because he isn’t gay, yet he’s obviously making money off the fact that gay fans find him attractive. While this might bring up a broader discussion about the lack of openly gay actors, it doesn’t explain why people indict Jonas. He’s never opposed LGBT equality, and he’s been supportive of the queer community. Is he playing up his looks in order to sell more records and get people to watch his shows? Of course he is! And quite honestly, he’d be a fool to do anything else.
According to Witeck Communications, the buying power of the LGBT adult population in 2014 was $884 billion. Even when you factor in that the LGBT community’s tastes are as varied as any other, that’s still not a number to scoff at. Jonas is trading on his sex appeal now because he’s in prime condition. The 23-year-old has successfully shed the innocence that clings to Disney’s child stars, and he’s stepping into a role as a sexual adult. He’s done so with more grace than former Disney star Britney Spears, and more thoroughly than former Disney star Selena Gomez. And now he seems to be exploiting the old adage in marketing: Sex Sells! Should we condemn him because he understands that? Should we accuse him of queerbaiting, even though he has never given us the slightest hint that he might be gay? Don’t we want him and other straight people (famous or not) to see the gay community as a welcoming place for its allies?
In short, why are people so upset that a straight celebrity is treating the gay community like any other group of fans? Isn’t that what we want? Just let the boy take his clothes off, and enjoy the show.
Bradley Donalson is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.