Let’s Talk About Will on ‘Stranger Things’

Did ‘Stranger Things 2’ Sweep Will’s Sexuality Under the Rug?
Noah Schnapp Will Stranger Things
By  · Published on October 30th, 2017

Did ‘Stranger Things 2’ Sweep Will’s Sexuality Under the Rug?

Stranger Things 2 Spoilers Below

In the first season of Stranger Things, it was insinuated several times that Will was gay. Of course, it was always mentioned negatively — really it was the knee-jerk reaction of unimaginative bullies to a sensitive kid who likes to draw.

But it came up just enough times last year to be noticeable, and to be glaringly missing this time around. Particularly because Stranger Things 2 is so relationship-heavy. Last season had a heavy dose of love to it, but now our kids are a year deeper into adolescence, and the hormones are spreading like a tentacle through a pumpkin patch.

Even the adults are getting in on it — Joyce has Bob. Hopper wishes he had Joyce. Heck, even Mrs. Wheeler has her teenage romance novel fantasy.

And at the center of it all is Will, who is utterly stripped of romantic interest.

Will Byers (Noah Schnapp)

To be fair, he’s got other things on his mind. For half the season he’s slipping in and out of the Upside Down, and for the other half he’s possessed by a Shadow Monster, hiding in a corner of his own body. This leaves minimal time for dating. But the fact that he’s the only one too caught up in the supernatural for love is conspicuous in and of itself.

It’s an old fashioned kind of representation — queer characters exist, but they’re stripped of sexuality.

But that’s still preferable to no representation. In the final Snow Ball scene (which is, for the most part, deeply satisfying and utterly charming), everyone gets together to dance to The Police and show that all’s right with the world. And Will gets snapped up by a female classmate for reasons, it feels, of symmetry. The characters have paired off, and it’s obvious that Will has no one. Enter the placeholder girl.

Granted, Hawkins is a small town in 1984. Monsters and secret government agencies may be real, but even a middle school kid sure of his homosexuality is probably going to dance with a girl or two. The insertion of a random girl in the final look at our beloved characters might be, honestly, the most realistic choice.

But it still smacks of unnecessary straightwashing.

That being said, there’s plenty of room for this all to be fine. If Will does turn out to be gay, the hope is that he’ll get a single moment’s rest in the third season to explore that. Twice now he’s been at the center of the weirdness, the key to the involvement of the people around him. If it happens a third time, it risks drifting into the formulaic.

So maybe next year Will will get the chance to be more of a normal kid, and we can explore what it means to have an arguably central character who is, incidentally, gay.

I think that would be lovely.

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Liz Baessler is a frequent contributor and infrequent columnist at Film School Rejects. She has an MA in English and a lot of time on her hands. (She/Her)