Queer coding occurs when characters or relationships are given traits associated with LGBT people without explicitly stating that they are queer. It does not necessarily imply that the character actually is queer. Queer coding can be either positive or negative, although it is more commonly negative.
For example, the repressive Hays Code forbade depiction or discussion of homosexuality in Hollywood films from 1930-1968. During this period, the only type of LGBT representation allowed was via queer coding - subtle signals that would be recognizable to queer audiences but would fly over the heads of general audiences and, more importantly, the censors. Examples of Code-era classic films often considered to contain queer coding include Tea and Sympathy (1956), Rebel Without a Cause (1955), and Some Like It Hot (1959).
More commonly, however, queer coding is used to reinforce negative and harmful stereotypes. For example, male villains are often depicted as effeminate and flamboyant in contrast to the "manly" hero, reinforcing both damaging stereotypes about masculinity and tropes such as the Depraved Homosexual. Surprisingly, Disney films provide some of the most blatant examples of queer coded villains, including Jafar in Aladdin, Prince John in Robin Hood, Governor Ratcliffe in Pocahontas, Ursula in The Little Mermaid (whose design was actually based on the famous drag queen Divine), and even The Lion King's Scar.
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