Stranger Things Cast Thinks It’s “OK Not To Label” Will Byers’ Sexuality
“That’s the beauty of it, that it’s just up to the audience’s interpretation.”
Among the many questions Stranger Things fans have about the hit Netflix series after Season 4’s literal explosive finale — including the fate of its cast and villains (who and what will they be up against next?) — one that keeps coming up is about Will Byers’ sexuality. Is Will gay? Played by 17-year-old Noah Schnapp, the Upside Down survivor’s sexuality has long been a talking point for fans, especially after seeing the rest of the Hawkins gang grow up and fall in love. In a May 30 interview with Variety, Schnapp and his co-stars revealed that they think it’s OK his sexuality hasn’t been labeled yet. “That’s the beauty of it,” Schnapp said. “That it’s just up to the audience’s interpretation, if it’s Will kind of just refusing to grow up and growing up slower than his friends, or if he is really gay.”
Will’s sexuality has been alluded to throughout the series but never explicitly established. Bullies in Season 1 taunted Will as being a “fairy.” By Season 3, when Will fought with his best friend Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Mike shouted, “It’s not my fault you don’t like girls,” which fans took as another sign that Will might be gay. In Season 4, Volume 1, fans picked up on what they believed to be more clues on Will’s sexuality, including when he chose a gay mathematician as his “hero” for a school project. In Volume 2, the clues seemed even more apparent and emotional.
When Mike told Will about his fears of losing Eleven, Will showed Mike his painting of the gang fighting a monster with Mike front and center. “See how you’re leading us here? You’re guiding the whole party, inspiring us. That’s what you do,” Will told him. “And see your coat of arms here? It’s a heart ... That’s what holds this whole party together. Without heart, we’d all fall apart. Even El. Especially El.”
Though he was talking about Eleven, Will seemed to be alluding to his own feelings as well. “These past few months, she’s been so lost without you ... She’s so different from other people, and when you’re different, sometimes, you feel like a mistake. But you make her feel like she’s not a mistake at all. Like she’s better for being different. And that gives her the courage to fight on. If she was mean to you or she seemed like she was pushing you away, it’s because she’s scared of losing you ... El needs you, Mike. And she always will.” After their talk, Will burst into tears but only Jonathan noticed.
In the Season 4 finale, Jonathan and Mike shared an emotional moment when Jonathan made it clear he accepts Will completely. Catching Will watching Mike and Eleven, Jonathan told his brother, “I miss talking to you … Right now, we need to talk more than ever. Because things are getting just complicated.” He added, “I don’t want you to forget that I’m here. And I’ll always be here. No matter what. Because you’re my brother. And I love you. And there is nothing in this world, okay, absolutely nothing, that will ever change that.” Though Will didn’t tell him anything right then, he cried and hugged Jonathan.
With these major developments, Will could be primed to come out in the next and final season. In the same Variety interview, Millie Bobby Brown, who plays Eleven, said there’s no rush for Will to label anything. “It’s 2022 and we don’t have to label things,” she said. “What’s really nice about Will’s character is that he’s just a human being going through his own personal demons and issues. So many kids out there don’t know, and that’s OK ... And that’s OK not to label things.” Calling it an “amazing role,” Brown added that Schnapp gets to be “that role model for kids out there who don’t know what they’re going through growing up.”
Schnapp agreed, saying, “Will is kind of like a zebra in a field of horses. He kind of stands out. It’s just nice to see that and have that shown on Stranger Things for fans to connect to and be able to relate to. Because so many of our viewers are young kids who are at that stage in their life.” He added, “He’s just confused and growing up. And that’s what it is to be a kid.”
Schnapp does have theories on why his character is slower to grow up, and it has to do with being captured by a demogorgon. In a 2019 interview with The Wrap after Season 3, he explained, “While all the characters were out developing and growing up, Will was in the Upside Down and he was alone there, not interacting with or connected to his friends or the rest of the world. And when he got back, he expected everything to just go back to how it was before, how it was when he was normal and when he was a kid and he wanted to go back to the basement and play D&D.”
For years, Schnapp has been saying Will’s sexuality is up to audiences to interpret. Referencing the line Mike yells at his character in Season 3, he told The Wrap, “All his friends have girlfriends and they’re out dating, and he just wants to have fun with his friend… When you hear Mike say that line, it’s really up to the audience to interpret it. I kind of just interpret it like he’s not ready to grow up and he doesn’t really want to move on to dating and relationships yet. He still wants to be a kid and play in the basement like he did in old times.”
Schnapp has been addressing the fascination with Will’s sexuality since Stranger Things debuted in 2016. In a since-deleted 2016 Instagram post reported by Variety, the then-12-year-old wrote, “For me, Will being gay or not is besides the point. Stranger Things 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. Does being sensitive, or a loner, or a teenager who likes photography, or a girl with red hair and big glasses, make you gay? I’m only 12, but I do know we all relate to being different.”
In video posted by Netflix on May 23, David Harbour, who plays fan-favorite Jim Hopper, teased that fans will get to see Will’s love interest soon. Addressing a fan theory that Will and El are dating on the down-low in Season 4, Harbour cheekily said, “If you’ve been watching the show, you should know that Will is not interested in El. He’s interested in someone else in the group.” He added, “Will wants to be in the basement with Mike playing D&D for the rest of his life.”
Wolfhard agreed that Will and Eleven’s relationship is more like “brother and sister” and teased that fans will find out “very soon” who exactly Will has the hots for.
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