Did Will Byers appear in the ‘Stranger Things’ finale?

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

In the course of the four seasons, Weird stuff has asked and answered many questions: What is the Upside Down? It is a parallel dark dimension full of monsters and danger. We know Eleven, but where did One through Ten go? Well, Two through Ten are dead, and One is a super villain. What happens to a cheerleader’s basketball star friend when the cheerleader is killed by a demon in the trailer of a dungeons and dragonsplay drug dealer? Well, he goes crazy and becomes an anti-Satan scare maker. All these questions answered, and only one remains: Will Byers be gay yet?

Will Byers’ sexuality has been a source of speculation since season one, when 12-year-old Noah Schnapp, the actor who plays Will, felt the need to discuss it on Instagram. “To me it’s not important to be gay or not. Weird stuff is a show about a bunch of kids who are outsiders and find each other because they have been bullied in some way or are different… I hope the real answer never comes out!” he said. A nice statement for a 12-year-old, sure, but six years later? The same feeling is not cutting the mustard.

Since that first season, the reluctant “We’re not sure about Will’s sexuality, haha” statements have continued, but the Will Byers on the show are getting gayer and gayer. Back in May, when the first seven episodes of season four were released, we noticed Will was pining for Mike, rejecting girls’ advances at school (well, one girl), and distancing himself from his straight older brother—all very homosexual behavior ! When asked about it, Weird stuff makers whose Duffer brothers said: Variety“The full arc of the story hasn’t come out yet because we’re really in episode 7, it’s what we call the end of our second act.” They went on to make a statement that implied more than said, “So there’s a lot more resolution in the story; we try to do the same with the arcs of the characters. And I’d say that applies to Will’s arc. So it’s going to be a lot easier for everyone to talk about — the actors and us — once those last two episodes are played. But sure, his journey and arc is far from complete.” Okay, Will Byers gay observers thought. Sounds like this is leading us somewhere

And now, with the new episodes coming out today, the question remains: will Byers be gay yet? The answer: a definite “species”.

The new episodes feature two prominent “Will Byers gay kinda” scenes, one in each episode. The first has him cheer up his buddy and (subtextually) crush Mike by saying all the amazing things he thinks about Mike, but under the guise of saying they are what his girlfriend, Eleven, thinks. The scene includes the upbeat phrase “When you’re different sometimes you feel like a mistake” and ends with Will’s brother, Jonathan, who seems to fully understand what Will is thinking. The second episode features an even more emotional moment: Jonathan tells Will that he loves and accepts him no matter what. It’s a beautiful scene and a beautiful way to react to your brother’s coming out. Only Will didn’t come out. It’s all quiet subtextand at this point the subtextualization of Will’s sexuality becomes a problem.

What have we actually learned from these two episodes about Will Byers? No. 1: Will is definitely gay or at least attracted to men. Jonathan’s speech is virtually meaningless without that part. Yes, he wants a connection with Will, but he comes from the standpoint that he loves him doesn’t matter who he is† Even if it’s all just subtext, the subtext is so strong and so obvious in response to viewers’ preconceived notions about Will’s sexuality that it would be a ludicrous move to straighten him out completely on this point.

No. 2: The Duffer brothers really don’t want Will to come out himself. It makes little sense that a straight man in the ’80s could deduce from himself that his brother is gay, but the show implies that Jonathan discovers Will’s sexuality because they’d rather do that than have Will say it. That is a problem. This season of Weird stuff was thematically based on characters revealing their deepest insecurities, concerns, and emotions. Max has to come to terms with the fact that she may have wanted her brother to die, and the plot was brought up in the final episodes by her admitting. Mike’s arc ends when he saves Eleven by telling her he loves her, something he couldn’t say before. Hopper and Joyce end their season-long arc by finally admitting and acting on their feelings. And then there’s Will, whose bow the show wants you to feel has ended, even if it hasn’t. Jonathan accepts the end of Will’s implicit sexuality Jonathan’s bow because Jonathan is finally building an emotional connection. Meanwhile, this season, audiences have to put in all the legwork to understand Will’s journey because it’s completely subtextual and it still doesn’t have a payoff. For this plot to work, the subtext must become text. The reason for Will’s “otherness” must be acknowledged.

Look, as far as I’m concerned we have an answer to the question “Will Byers be gay yet?” The answer is, “Yeah, Will Byers gay.” Everything else goes against seasons of conspiracy until Will Byers comes out. Now it’s just time for Weird stuff to admit it.

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