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Fans of a particular media source often write fan fiction to build on, deviate from, and transform original source material. The BBC’s Sherlock is not exempt from this common practice; in fact, the homoerotic subtext which persistently endures within the show lends itself to the production of slash fan fiction. Many perceive this subtext as a method of queer-baiting, or an ultimately harmful tactic used by writers and producers to lure in queer viewers. In this paper, dialogue and scenes from the show itself are compared to excerpts from works of fan fiction in order to explore reactions to queer-baiting within fan communities. Commentary from creators of the show, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, is also examined to show how queer possibility has been denied on Sherlock. It will become apparent that quality television representation of queer individuals is necessary for healthy queer identity development; it will also be seen how young queer fans create communities on the internet—such as those for reading, writing, and critiquing fan fiction—as safe havens for exploring their identities free from typical stigmatization. These internet fan communities become spaces for queer discourse and activism, especially in drawing attention to and subverting heterosexual norms, such as those which exist on Sherlock and in our society. By challenging these heteronormative standards, queer fans are addressing the invalidation of their lived experiences, as well as other issues they face every day, and may have a hand in inducing larger cultural change.

Publication Date



Sherlock, Queer Studies, Queer-baiting, Fan fiction, Online communities, Slash fiction


Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Other Film and Media Studies

Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Professor Mary Boyes


© The Author(s)

Queer-baiting on the BBC’s Sherlock: Addressing the Invalidation of Queer Experience through Online Fan Fiction Communities