Since I’m a huge fan of horror, I thought it would be criminal if I didn’t share my personal list of the best LGBT characters in the genre. I do have a controversial opinion to open with, however.
The Babadook is not a gay icon. It never was. It never will be.
I need all of you baby gays to stop this nonsense, because that movie was trash.
Not to say the movies that I’m listing are Oscar worthy, but they’re at least fun and the children in them aren’t making me reconsider adoption.
7.) Jesse Walsh (Nightmare on Elm Street II: Freddy’s Revenge)
Sure he’s on everyone’s list, but how could he not be? The second installment of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise was loaded with gay subtext (although there was really nothing subtle about it). He had a board game called Probe and a sign on his door reading “No Chicks Allowed” at the age of Not 12. We won’t even talk about his relationship with Grady, or the scene where he finds his coach in a gay bar.
He had a female love interest, but he spent very little time being interested in her (as he was “supposed to”), and more time struggling with the burned monster within himself. Freddy was seen as a metaphor for the self-hatred that unfortunately still runs rampant among queer youth. The screenwriter confessed to the film having gay subtext, as the movie was made post-AIDS crisis, and he realized how terrifying the reality was for a large portion of LGBT people.
I have to have Jesse on my list, because he was not only the first Final Boy I’d ever seen in horror, but also because he wasn’t the villain. Being gay never made him the villain, as it did for a handful of much, much older horror films. He was afraid (as I myself was for several reasons), but he was also kind, and human. He was a regular person, and it was a breath of fresh air to see a potentially gay man portrayed as such.
6.) Richie Tozier & Eddie Kaspbrak (It)
The only thing harder than finding a picture from Andy Muschietti’s film that has good lighting, is the heart boner this pair has for each other.
These two are probably the most popular subject among fans of the It movies and book. Across each version, their characters seem to naturally gravitate towards one another. In the source material, Eddie is heavily gay coded – he fixates a lot on the AIDS crisis, and is written as desperate to cure and cleanse a disease he believes is inside him. Growing up gay, and with an equally as tense of a relationship with my mother, I connected to Eddie more than I had any other character in all the media I’ve consumed.
The monster known as It manifests as a leper, riddled with diseases, that offers Eddie a blowjob whenever they meet. It’s referred to with either gender neutral or masculine pronouns, leading us to assume the leper is a homeless man. Eddie’s fear could easily be looked at as disease, but it definitely goes deeper – especially when It turns his mother into the leper that’s trying to eat him.
He marries a woman that reminds him of his mother, and continues to hide himself in this uncomfortably suffocating comfort he’s been conditioned to “need.” He marries her, not out of love, but because she can keep him from becoming who he really is. There’s a point in the novel where he tries to talk himself out of it, but ultimately gives in to the familiarity.
As a child, he and Richie speak little in the way of religion, but Eddie most vividly remembers stories he’s been told where the protagonist is banished to Hell for “misdeeds.” He has every possible external factor working against his queerness, which is why he’s unable to know peace until he’s dying and the “window is washed clean.”
As for Richie, his fear is the werewolf from the 1950’s I Was a Teenage Werewolf. He fears the monster being within himself, as the theme of that film was in fact, man versus himself. In the source material, he has a moment with Bill where they hug each other and cry together (coincidentally after being chased by It as the werewolf), and he thinks about what people passing them will think. He’s conscious of what others perceive him as, until he’s with his very best friends. Only then is he openly flirty with everyone.
Yes, including Beverly, but he’s more bisexual than gay (perhaps leaning more towards men). He mentions that she’s pretty, and it’s a strange thought to have about a guy – but he doesn’t once deny having thoughts about his male friends. He does mental gymnastics to avoid his own truth, and sadly, his character doesn’t show his cards as much as the others.
He and Eddie suffer from an unfortunate disconnect, which in the novel, is due to the time period it’s set in. The actors in the miniseries have spoken about how they played the roles in a specific way to make it clear Richie and Eddie were closer than the others (or at least close in a different way, much how Ben and Beverly were). Then, following the 90s miniseries, Bill Hader has talked about Richie’s queerness and how he would’ve been relieved had Eddie said anything first.
I’m hoping that – maybe 20 years from now – we’ll finally get the version where they can tell their truth to each other.
5.) Charley Brewster (Fright Night)
If Charley was a character today, he’d translate to a regular Hollywood twink. He’s obsessed with vampires, and even more obsessed with his neighbor who he suspects is one. This neighbor – named Jerry – also happens to be an attractive man with a strangely close “roommate.”
Jerry and Billy are the closest to bickering husbands that we could get in American theaters in the 80’s. Their mannerisms and the ease with which they embraced each other was written off as something strange vampires just do – but we knew better.
On top of that, Charley is given a girlfriend character who is mostly forgettable (think back to Jesse Walsh, but somehow less important). By normal standards, she was the “hot” girl that he should’ve been happy to have. Unfortunately for her, he was far more interested in his hunky neighbor.
4.) Glen/Glenda (Seed of Chucky)
While I’m not the biggest fan of this installment in the long line of Chucky movies, I was definitely interested by the conflict presented with Glen/Glenda. I definitely don’t agree with the handling of it, nor the outcome, but for the time period, I have to admit I’m still impressed. The writers kept it real – for serial killer parents, sure they wanted a son/daughter to relate to, but ultimately they didn’t care.
Chucky and Tiffany are both confirmed to have genitals, but Glen/Glenda is revealed to have nothing. He chooses to be a boy, but that was the beauty of it for me: he was able to choose. Yes, he did go on to have a strange “split-personality,” where the female side of him was murderous, while his male side was docile – but up until that moment, I was on board with his character. Finally! A nonbinary character in the killer role!
In one of the following films, the main character (played by Brad Douriff’s daughter) is sent to a psychiatric ward, where she meets a man called Multiple Malcolm. All insensitivity aside, I genuinely thought he would be revealed as Glen/Glenda. There’s allegedly still hope, so let’s cross our fingers his identity is validated and handled better than it was sixteen years ago.
Seed of Chucky came out in 2004; I was about ten-years-old when I saw it. Glen/Glenda was the closest I’d seen to a transgender character in my entire life, and I was never able to forget. There was so little on the subject, and even less that I could have realistic access to, so I’m always grateful for the (although problematic) exposure.
3.) Angela Baker (Sleepaway Camp)
Another example of my limited exposure to transgender characters as a kid! This time, Angela (born Peter Baker), is the killer – and very decidedly so. I was so excited to see someone who I could connect with in a role like this; I fully understood Octavia Spencer when she spoke about her role in Ma, because that was how I felt with Angela. She wasn’t the one being mercilessly killed off in the first ten minutes because SHE was the whole film.
In later films, she continues to use she/her pronouns, and present as Angela, but I didn’t bother with those particular sequels (so excuse me if my knowledge isn’t as extensive). Now, we have to consider the time period, which is definitely an excuse I’m over – Hollywood still has almost no idea that nonbinary exists. It was definitely problematic in the way Angela becomes herself, as the identity is forced upon her by her aunt, and you have to wonder if she would have snapped had she not been forced into gender roles.
I related a lot to that discomfort; my mother was extremely insistent that I fall into a specific category and follow all the rules of it. No growing facial hair and wearing a dress at the same time! Unheard of! Jail for a thousand years!
Honestly? I enjoyed the twist, and I enjoyed that the film let Angela be who she was without any question. Even after the reveal, she was still Angela, but her genitals hardly mattered for the majority of the movie – as they would (or wouldn’t, rather) for any cis killer in these slasher flicks.
Disclaimer: GOD, HER AUNT WAS F*CKING CRAZY AND THAT ISN’T HOW BEING TRANSGENDER WORKS.
2.) Mitch Downe (ParaNorman)
This marked the first time I was shown a kid-friendly movie that featured a gay character. Again, we’re not told until the end that he’s gay, but it was a pleasant surprise! Through the duration of the film, Courtney is trying to win his affections. His reveal isn’t played for laughs at his expense, nor is he shamed. He simply is, and that’s a huge breath of fresh air for closeted kids (much like I was at the time).
Also, I grew up in South Texas. Of COURSE I wanted the buff jock to be gay. This was the first time I saw a gay jock that wasn’t suffering from violent internalized homophobia (a la Brad, from Perks of Being a Wallflower).
The messages of the movie are simple: don’t judge a book by its’ cover, and accept people for who they are. Norman and his friend – and ultimately the “villain” they face – are all outcasts, perceived as strange for some reason or another. We see them as the protagonists, so we’re automatically on their side. However, we still (to some degree) judge them. We note that Norman is an “I see dead people” freak, and his friend is overweight. We see Courtney and assume she’s a cheerleader type, perfect for the jock-looking Mitch.
There’s no hyper-masculinity from Mitch to make up for his queerness, because he’s unapologetic about it. His sportiness goes hand in hand with his queerness because all of it makes up who he is. He’s gay and that’s all there is to it! He also has a boyfriend, and he’s happy to talk about him.
1.) Billy Loomis/Stu Macher (Scream)
In a deliberate decision from the actors (Skeet Ulrich and Matthew Lillard), their time on set was spent mostly together to achieve a closeness that came across in the film. They were successful with their goal, and the subtext is hard to miss outside of that. Billy and Stu were giant bisexuals, leaning more towards men.
Not only does Stu completely go along with a murder plot for his beloved “friend,” but their weapon of choice is metaphorically phallic. We’ve all seen Criminal Minds – stabbing is a way to penetrate, used mostly by sexual sadists.
While both of them have girlfriends, both of them are quite dramatic in their efforts to kill the ladies. Only us gays are capable of that flair – a whole ghost costume moment as well as voice changers to carry out killings? It takes drama.
Allegedly, Stu was supposed to make a comeback in the third film – presumably to avenge his Billy. However, due to real life events, the producers decided their script would’ve been in poor taste. It’s truly a shame, since the third movie sucked.