is will byers gay? 'stranger things' actor noah schnapp on his character's sexuality

The actor took to Instagram to ‘jump into the conversation’ about the supernatural Netflix series’s ‘unanswered questions’ — including his character’s sexual orientation.

by Emily Manning
17 October 2016, 4:00pm

Before Will Byers was hauled off into a parallel, rather slimy dimension on Stranger Things, the middle-schooler was the subject of ridicule from people in this one. Will is often the target of homophobic jabs from school bullies and his own father, with no explanation outside of the fact that he's a somewhat shy and sensitive kid whose friends aren't exactly football stars. These slurs and the frequency of their use have apparently left some viewers wondering about Will's sexual orientation, which — other than these hateful comments — was not addressed in the smash Netflix series's first season. Over the weekend, Noah Schnapp — the 12-year-old actor who plays Will — added his own thoughts to the conversation.

"I've been reading stuff for a while. I think everyone here is missing the point," Schnapp wrote in a thoughtful Instagram caption, accompanied by a screenshot of Twitter chatter speculating about sexuality on the show. "An author called Gary Schmidt came to speak at our school this week and he said that good stories aren't supposed to leave you with answers because then you never question yourself and you forget about it. A good book, or a good show leaves a lot of unanswered questions but makes you think. Which is what you are all doing. For me, Will being gay or not is besides the point," Schnapp wrote.

The actor continued, arguing that, "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. And that's why I think the Duffers wrote the show the way they did. So you can ask all these questions. I hope the real answer never comes out!"

Many commenters have praised Schnapp for his measured and mature response. And that praise is deserved: Schnapp is right to assert his character shouldn't be hastily stereotyped into a sexual orientation, and that the show's ardent fans should think critically about its many unresolved questions. Some commenters, though agreeing with Schnapp's larger points, have sought to reinforce the importance of LGBT representation, even when characters are as young as the Hawkins middle schoolers. "Well said buddy, but I have to disagree with some of the comments right here," wrote one Instagram user. "Representation is still important no matter if it directly affects or not the plot (I mean, ST is not a romantic drama and yet they force down our thorats [sic] unnecessary heterosexual love triangles)." "If the show wants to include so many negative slurs about the LGBT community, it seems rather cruel to not give them a voice or representation," Gizmodo's Beth Elderkin added.

Both of these responses raise important points: Schnapp's statement about overarching differences includes allusions to Jonathan and Barb — one of whom is involved in an aforementioned heterosexual love triangle, the other of whom is very dead. And given that the show's homophobic slurs have been almost exclusively directed at or used to describe Will, the chatter about his character's sexual identity is certainly not unfounded or even, as Schnapp put it, "besides the point." And while Schnapp has broken his silence about his character's sexuality, Matt and Ross Duffer, the show's creators, haven't. So if you're curious about Will's character development — is he gay? Is he an evil slug spewer? — you'll just have to wait and see. 


Text Emily Manning
Image courtesy Netflix 

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