Jerrod Carmichael
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Bad Bunny Isn't Queerbaiting & Those Claims Are Missing the Point

Bad Bunny at the 2022 VMAs

On a night when Bad Bunny became the first-ever non-English act to win the coveted Artist of the Year award at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards, much of the online discourse about the reggaeton star has been centered around him kissing a male dancer during a performance.

Overall, this online discourse includes many posts declaring that Bunny is now officially “gay” or “at least bi” – an incredibly outdated oversimplification. There are also those who are claiming that Bunny’s career has taken a hit as of late and that he is therefore “queerbaiting” audiences for attention’s sake. And last, but certainly not least, some are even choosing to compare Bunny’s on-stage gay kiss to Harry Styles’ recent statements in interviews.

First, the facts. Bunny’s “Titi Me Preguntó” is a song about having your aunties constantly ask you about your girlfriends during family gatherings. The song talks about the pressures of answering that question, no matter which answers you’re able to give. Though the song does not come from a queer perspective, this dynamic is definitely something that queer people can relate to.

Bunny’s performance of “Titi Me Preguntó” at the 2022 VMAs starts with wedding bells playing in the background and the silhouette of a wedding chapel. Bunny appears on stage carrying what is supposed to be his bride in this performance, and then starts singing the song. It is overtly established that this is a wedding-themed performance. You know, exactly like Madonna’s wedding-themed performance at the 2003 VMAs where she kissed Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Though Bunny probably wasn’t referencing that specific, iconic VMA moment, the parallels are still there.

Bunny’s last major statement about his sexuality came up during an interview with the Los Angeles Times. The reggaeton star noted that sexuality “does not define” him, adding: “At the end of the day, I don’t know if in 20 years I will like a man. One never knows in life. But at the moment I am heterosexual and I like women.” Instead of skirting around the topic and giving non-answers, Bunny very clearly identified as a heterosexual man who doesn’t rule out being with men in the future. In other words, he is open about his sexuality having a certain fluidity.

As far as his career, this has been Bunny’s most successful year so far. As noted by @chartdata on Twitter, Bunny broke “his own all-time record for biggest streaming year for any artist in Spotify history” in 2022. His latest album, Un Verano Sin Ti, had 356.66 million streams in its first week alone. Meanwhile, Bunny’s latest tour, El Último Tour del Mundo, sold 575,000 tickets and grossed as much as $116.8 million. He has also broken several Billboard records this year, not only within the genre of Latin music, but also in major charts from the publication. By literally any standard, Bunny’s career has never been bigger… hence why he won the Artist of the Year award at the VMAs.

But the wildest recurring themes in this discourse have been the “queerbaiting” comparisons between Bunny and Styles. Certain people are literally saying that queer people shouldn’t accuse Styles but excuse Bunny, as if these two artists have the exact same history with the LGBTQ+ community and have taken actions that are basically the same.

Recently, Styles faced queerbaiting accusations for telling Rolling Stone, “Sometimes people say, ‘You’ve only publicly been with women,’ and I don’t think I’ve publicly been with anyone. If someone takes a picture of you with someone, it doesn’t mean you’re choosing to have a public relationship or something.” The criticism that emerged from this statement is that Styles appeared to be baiting people into believing that he might have had a queer relationship in the past, possibly. This is completely different from Bunny’s aforementioned statement affirming that he’s only been with women but isn’t closed off to the possibility of being with men in the future.

Bunny’s entire history with the LGBTQ+ community has been about breaking down the “macho” stereotype that has been set over the course of so many years by male reggaeton stars in Latin America. The speculation or the definitive conclusion of whether Bunny is fluid, bi, gay, or queer has never been the point, and has never been his point, either.

When Bunny gets in full drag for the “Yo Perreo Sola” music video (and then shares a behind-the-scenes clip of him surprising his girlfriend while in full drag and giving her a kiss) or kisses a male dancer at the VMAs, he’s not trying to bait people into thinking that he’s this, that, or the other. He’s trying to show straight Latin men that you can be the biggest star in the world without being misogynistic, homophobic, and/or transphobic. Bunny’s own identity and sexuality are incredibly unimportant within the grand scheme of what he is trying to do and say as an artist, which is why accusing him of “queerbaiting” feels so incredibly wrong and uncalled-for.

Sure, Bunny knew that kissing a man at the VMAs would read as shock value. He probably also knew that some critics would accuse him of queerbaiting. But Bunny’s entire point to shock people and grab their attention has been to show that the “macho” archetype in Latin America is completely outdated and unnecessary, even for artists who want to break into the mainstream.

A male Latin singer can be one of the world’s biggest popstars without relying on the tired old tropes of misogyny and homophobia. Bunny is actively telling and showing men how to loosen up and get comfortable with themselves – or at least how to stop being prejudiced machistas – which feels like a completely different intention and context than queerbaiting.

RELATED | Dear Harry Styles: Let's Talk About Tenderness and Gay Sex Scenes

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