Stranger Things fans feel like the show is dragging its feet with the revelation of Will Byers’ sexuality, but it’s actually very realistic for the character.
With Will Byers’ sexuality evolving into a prominent arc in stranger things season 4, audiences wonder if the show is taking the right approach to telling this story. Considering Will is such a fan favorite, people naturally want to see him happy. This led to some viewers wishing Will had a meaningful, memorable, and public coming out as gay. Despite this well-meaning wish, critics of him still being locked up downplay the intricacies of this situation.
stranger things fans have speculated that Will may have been gay since Season 3. With most of the young characters depicted continuing their early romantic relationships, Will is visibly single. In some ways, this can be explained by the undeniable traumas he experienced during the first and second seasons. After being trapped in the Upside Down and possessed by the Mind Flayer, a romantic relationship could hardly be his main concern. Still, fans wondered if this was more of a hint that Will was actually gay than just an extension of his PTSD. However, when stranger things season 4 effectively confirmed Will’s sexuality, audiences actually felt let down. In the scene that seems to confirm that Will is gay, Will passionately calls Mike the heart of the group, saying that Eleven would always need him because of it. After allaying Mike’s fears, Will turns away and begins to sob softly, indicating that he was actually speaking about his own romantic feelings for Mike, not just El. But fans-in-waiting were left disappointed as this pivotal moment in Will’s life was mostly focused on allaying Mike’s fears, not getting Will out.
It’s easy to see what an unsatisfying way this is to reveal Will’s sexuality. Many viewers, both in the LGBTQ+ community and not, were hoping for a more triumphant scene focused on Will’s exit. With the success of shows like Love, Victor and Heart stroke, audiences have grown accustomed to bolder portrayals of LGBTQ+ teens. So they feel stranger things takes too long to show that Will is dating gay. However, several factors prove that the series takes a realistic approach to this revelation.
The LGBTQ+ community was treated badly in the 80s
One crucial detail to remember about Will is that he’s a small-town boy living in the ’80s — not exactly a time when being part of the LGBTQ+ community was easy and guaranteed to be accepted. stranger things takes place at a time when, beyond just being ostracized, the LGBTQ+ community was dealing with the AIDS crisis, and the endemic homophobia that followed made the 80s a particularly dangerous time to be open about his sexuality. While Hawkins may not care about the Upside Down and may feel oblivious and estranged from the rest of the United States, he’s not immune to the pitfalls of narrow-minded residents. There were subtle hints of prejudice, dysfunction and a general desire to adhere to the status quo. Being an openly gay teenager would have drawn a lot of negative, even violent attention. Considering the difficulties Will has already faced throughout the series, it wouldn’t really be realistic for him to think this was the perfect time to hang out, even with his closest friends.
Coming out is different for everyone
It is important to consider that there is no right way out. It is a deeply personal choice that varies from person to person; it can even have multiple meanings for one person. Taking a blanket or single-minded approach to LGBTQ+ representation in shows and movies would undermine the reality of it. If there is a universal factor in coming out, it is that the person feels confident to announce themselves to the world.
Will’s personal experiences have already demonstrated a particular reason why it would be difficult for him to come out, even to his family. Instranger things season 1, Joyce Byers tells Hopper that Will’s father was homophobic. He had even called their son an insult in the past. While the Byers parents have long been divorced, this kind of emotional trauma leaves a lasting mark. Even though his mother and older brother Jonathan would probably support him – Jonathan actually says so in a touching scene from Season 4 – he can still feel like he’s not in a safe space.
Will and Robin describe two stages of their exit
Another argument of stranger things fans is that Robin’s presence makes Will Byers’ hidden sexuality incongruous as Robin Buckley is open about her own sexuality with Steve. When Robin is introduced in Season 3 as Steve Harington’s co-worker and new friend, it is initially implied that they will form a romantic relationship. However, she has a poignant scene where she reveals to him that she is in fact a lesbian. In stranger things season 4, Steve effectively acts as her wingman, supporting her and her interest in fellow Hawkins resident Vickie. So, it can seem confusing that one character is living their truth while another isn’t.
However, it makes sense that Will and Robin are in different places with their sexuality. Robin is older, so she’s had more time to really figure out who she is. Will is clearly still coming to terms with his sexual orientation. It’s also important to remember that Robin apparently only came out of Steve. In stranger things season 4, Robin and Nancy talk about Steve and Robin’s gaffes by explaining that she and Steve are strictly platonic, stopping short of revealing that she is a lesbian. So even the character who is openly queer to viewers isn’t completely in the show’s universe. Expecting Will to match his understanding of his identity in the face of all of this is a big ask.
stranger things fans are right about one thing: Will needs to get out before the show ends for good. But, to criticize the fact that he’s still not open about his sexuality right now is to push back a timeline that benefits the audience, not the character. Will revealing his sexuality – whether to one person in his friend group or to the whole gang – should feel right to him. Until there, stranger things viewers will have to take comfort in knowing that it almost certainly happens.
Next: How will Stranger Things end? The Biggest Theories of Season 5
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