Stranger Things season 4 was received well by the audience but some people are criticising a particular plot of Stranger Things which has sparked a debate.
The latest season confirmed that Will Byers is actually gay. Though it was not said by any character but was heavily implied throughout the four seasons. Will's sexuality has been a topic of debate among fans since season 1 when Will’s mom, Joyce, tells Jim Hopper that Will’s dad “used to say [Will] was queer” and call him slurs. As the show went on, all of Will’s close friends went on to have girlfriends but he remained single. In Season 3 Mike even said to him: “It’s not my fault that you don’t like girls.”
This led to a popular fan theory that Will is secretly in love with his best friend, and will come out in the new season. In fact, viewers believed that Will was actually confessing his own feelings under the guise of speaking about Eleven in an emotional Season 4 scene.
Finally last week, Noah finally confirmed Will’s sexuality in an interview with Variety.
“It was always kind of there, but you never really knew, is it just him growing up slower than his friends?” he told the publication. “Now that he’s gotten older, they made it a very real, obvious thing. Now it’s 100% clear that he is gay and he does love Mike. But before, it was a slow arc. I think it is done so beautifully, because it’s so easy to make a character just like all of a sudden be gay.”
But the fact that show creators did not explicitly address Will’s sexuality in the series has led some people to accuse the show of “queerbaiting.” For those who don't know Queerbaiting is when LGBTQ characters are hinted at in TV shows and films, without any actual representation of their romances.
Last week, journalist Eleanor Noyce wrote an article for the Independent with the headline: “I Love Stranger Things, but I Feel Queerbaited by Will’s Storyline."
She added, “Implicit hints regarding a character’s identity aren’t just disappointing, they’re cowardly,” she writes in the piece. “Queerbaiting isn’t a fun way to stir up the fangirls; it plays with peoples’ lives, with both their true identities and how LGBT+ characters are represented on screen, and it’s lazy writing, too. Whilst coming out scenes aren’t everything and they’re arguably overdone, these stories provide crucial, life-saving representation. LGBT+ people really want to be working towards a world where no one needs to come out — but we’re not there yet”.
Others have similar opinions as they took to Twitter to express their thoughts. One person wrote, "only straight ppl would think it's beautiful to never acknowledge gayness."
only straight ppl would think it's beautiful to never acknowledge gayness. https://t.co/gp2Iuo3A62
— Nathaniel Rogers ☮️ (@nathanielr) May 31, 2022
Someone else wrote: “Leaving such identities unexplored and open to such interpretation is not the masterstroke they think it is.”
leaving such identities unexplored and open to such interpretation is not the masterstroke they think it is https://t.co/4sm5NieVJi
— Scott Bryan (@scottygb) May 31, 2022
One more tweeted: "Stranger Things had the opportunity to make an insane amount of progress for lgbtq+ representation in mainstream media, and yet it chose to queerbait its audience like everyone else. When will queer representation be taken as seriously as straight representation?”
stranger things had the opportunity to make an insane amount of progress for lgbtq+ representation in mainstream media, and yet it chose to queerbait its audience like everyone else
when will queer representation be taken as seriously as straight representation?#StrangerThings4
— the strangest thing is you (@angelicbyler) July 1, 2022
Contrary to the criticism others have come to the show’s defence, pointing out that it is set in the 1980s — when coming out as gay could be incredibly dangerous.
Discussing the topic on Reddit, one fan wrote: “People forget that people were getting beaten to death and disowned for being openly gay in the 80’s. It’s not as accepted as it is today.”
“I’m gay, and I was born a few years after Will,” another person wrote. “His experiences and emotions are almost exactly like mine. I would far rather a drama set in the past took a realistic view of what it meant to be gay than an idealised ‘modern’ view.”
Another gay man who grew up in the ’80s agreed, explaining: “Will's story is authentically 80s gay. For those of you not born yet, the storytelling of Will is very much what and how isolating it was, and how much of a struggle it was to accept being your authentic self. The amount of times I cried and hid who I was makes Will look like a damn role model.”
“I’ve said this before - I’m lesbian, class of 1987,” one more redditor wrote. “In the 80s being gay was not like it is now - the AIDS epidemic was a huge deal, there were very few gay characters or role models to look up to, and many more people were closeted.”
Here are some more responses.