North Texas Daily

Never leave a character’s sexual orientation up for interpretation

Never leave a character’s sexual orientation up for interpretation

Never leave a character’s sexual orientation up for interpretation
June 17
12:00 2022

Representation of diverse communities in media occurs more frequently in pop culture today, giving millions of people fictional characters and worlds they can relate to. What is equally important to true representation is the responsibility of not leaving any gray areas. There are still people throughout the world who refuse to accept how people live their own lives — or rather who they live their lives with.

An important human characteristic, like someone’s sexual orientation, should not be left up for interpretation if they are clearly going through situations that hint at the character being a part of the LGBTQ+ community.

This all came to the surface of the pop culture world when “Stranger Things” season four hit Netflix last month. Many fans have speculated Noah Schnapp’s character, Will Byers is gay and struggling to find himself — and this season has hinted at the concept more than ever before. Scenes of girls very clearly hitting on Will — with him not being interested in the slightest, as well as his frustration with Finn Wolfhard’s character, Mike Wheeler, for being a neglectful friend all lead avid watchers to question his undisclosed sexuality.

Eagle-eyed fans have even discovered a school project Will worked on was about Alan Turing, a World War II computer scientist who was prosecuted for homosexual acts. All signs point towards a major development in Will’s character this season, but when it comes to Schnapp and the writers of the show, Matt and Ross Duffer, it is up to the audience’s interpretation.

Schnapp explained the beauty of his character’s undisclosed sexuality is how viewers are able to interpret it in multiple ways. There is an argument to be made about making a character’s sexuality ambiguous if the show or movie actually handles it in an appropriate way. However, clearly conveying to the audience the character is gay and then saying it is up for the audience to decide almost feels like they are pandering to the homophobic crowd who would call the show too political if there is an ounce of representation.

There is obviously no malicious intent by Schnapp, but what Will is going through in this season is what millions of others are going through. Seeing it so easily tossed to the side as something to be decided on by the fans and not something set in stone is hurtful to those who deserve representation in media.

Since Schnapp’s quote shook up the internet, the Duffer brothers took it upon themselves to fill in the blanks on what is happening. They said Will’s sexuality will be addressed in the second volume of the season, and it was a matter of not spoiling parts of the story not yet released. So in the end, the problem was easily avoidable.

What makes the situation interesting is the attention it brought to other problematic scenarios, which is what everyone should take away from the conversation. Situations like this one — where media tactics are used to navigate around bad press — occur far too often, and they normally happen at the hand of the most popular companies in the world.

Disney was recently accused of cutting a same-sex kiss from their newest film “Lightyear” after Pixar employees demanded action from the company and its act of spinelessness. Disney is known for adding representation in their films and shows with the intention of checking a box instead of accurately representing those who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Those who complain about shows and movies being “too woke” will never change their close-minded opinions about anything, so disregarding their opinions as a whole is the only way to move past these issues of intolerance.

There will always be people who have something ignorant to say, especially when it comes to representation in media. Though a lot of the films and series on our screens are fictional, there are real messages to be conveyed, and moments where we are able to discover our real selves.

Ambiguity removes the significance of how LGBTQ+ individuals feel as human beings. No matter how specific the topic, everything can be boiled down to one simple message – love yourself and love each other.

Featured Illustration by Jazmine Garcia

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Jaden Oberkrom

Jaden Oberkrom

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