Season 2 of the hit Netflix series, Stranger Things, is available today, October 27, 2017.
The series received a lot of attention on social media speculating if one of the show's characters, Will, is gay. The young actor, Noah Schnapp, who plays the character, wrote in a Tweet,
“For me, Will being gay or not is besides the point. Stranger Things is a show about a bunch of kids who are outsiders and find each other because they have been bullied in some way or are different. Does being sensitive, or a loner, or a teenager who likes photography, or a girl with red hair and big glasses, make you gay? I’m only 12 but I do know we all relate to being different. And that’s why I think [the show creators] the Duffers wrote the show the way they did. So you can ask all these questions. I hope the real answer never comes out!”After the first season of the show debuted last year, Daniel Reynolds wrote an essay for The Advocate about what is really scary about Stranger Things.
The child protagonists of Stranger Things — a Netflix series about supernatural happenings in suburban Indiana in the 1980s — have many foes to fight, among them a sinister government entity and a bloodthirsty creature from another dimension.
But for the everyday humans in the suburban town, the monster they encounter most frequently is homophobia. In fact, nearly every episode of the eight-part series contains an antigay slur or an act of bullying aimed at characters who step outside the borders of heteronormativity.
There are no obviously LGBT characters in Stranger Things, which was created by Ross and Matt Duffer (Wayward Pines). But one doesn’t need a Hays decoder to ascertain that every character the audience roots for is queer in some fashion. Their status as outsiders resonates for LGBT viewers, and the slurs used to describe them — “perverts,” “fairies,” “queer,” “weirdo” — sound all too familiar.
“You can tell that he knows it was wrong,” one character, Steve (Joe Keery), says slyly in front of one of these outsiders, Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton), in one chilling scene. Steve circles around Jonathan like prey, before smashing the young man's camera. “But that’s the thing about perverts. It’s hardwired into them. They just can’t help themselves.”
Byers is branded queer due to his quietness and his class — he and his divorced mother (Winona Ryder) live in far less suburban opulence than his tormenters, who later spray-paint “Byers is a perv” on a wall. But the young boys at the center of Stranger Things are the most frequent targets of persecution. Bullies in their middle school call them “freaks” and harass them for being attracted to science and fantasy role-playing games.
Their physical otherness is also mocked. Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) lisps due to a condition known as cleidocranial dysplasia — he’s missing his adult teeth. Another member of their group, Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), is African-American — one of the few observable black people in this town. The tormenters are uniformly white.
The bullying becomes especially ugly when a member of this group, Will Byers (Jonathan’s brother), disappears — the inciting incident in Stranger Things. “He was probably killed by some other queer,” one bully tells his friends. The bully was repeating what his father had told him, tapping into an enduring myth of LGBT people as monsters and pedophiles who seek to abduct and murder children.
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