After consistent hints, Stranger Things has finally confirmed Will Byers’ sexual identity, but the show’s depiction is a little bit complicated.
The question surrounding Will Byers’s sexuality finally gets answered in Stranger Things season 4, but it’s still worth asking if the show got it right. Amidst a town plagued by horrific deaths and otherworldly creatures, the Netflix Original is still a coming-of-age story, especially as its teenage characters have stepped up as their town’s protectors. These young heroes have also started to navigate teenage relationships and explore their identities. As such, the sexual identity of Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) has been the subject of speculations since the early episodes of Stranger Thingsonly to be confirmed four seasons later.
Stranger Things season 1 revolved around the disappearance of Will Byers following his abduction to the Upside Down. Although his friends and family eventually saved him, he never fully escaped from his capture, as he could still feel the Mind Flayer’s presence. Consequently, Will lost much of his childhood, particularly when his friends began to pursue interests outside of playing make-believe with him. As the socially awkward teen was forced to act maturely, he also needed to come to terms with his own identity.
His relationship with Mike in Stranger Things season 4, volume 1 dropped further hints that Will might be gay. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) noticed that Will was painting a lot recently, presumably dedicated to someone he likes. When they fetched Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) from the airport, Will was planning on giving the painting to his best friend, but he backed out of it at the last minute. That painting proved to be truly significant when he brought it along even as they were fleeing their home. He was also visibly upset earlier that he was delegated as Mike and Eleven’s third wheel, instead of spending more time with his best friend. These clues, alongside the cast’s comments, fueled viewers’ expectations that Will’s sexuality would finally be addressed in Stranger Things season 4 volume 2, especially since the show’s previous season managed to include Robin Buckley’s (Maya Hawke) coming out. But did Stranger Things give justice to Will Byers in his coming out story?
How Stranger Things 4 Confirms Will Byers Is Gay
In its penultimate episode in episode 4, Stranger Things confirms Will Byers is gay. Although it shies away from explicitly labeling Will’s sexuality, the show does more than hint at it this time around. In the back of Argyle’s (Eduardo Franco) pizza truck, Mike shares his doubts about his future with Eleven; Will is quick to dissipate his best friend’s worries by finally revealing his painting. The unveiled artwork depicts a group of knights, led by Mike, fighting a three-headed dragon. While explaining how Mike is the heart that holds their group together, Will practically confesses his own feelings for his friend in a declaration of love, only disguised as relationship advice for him and Eleven.
Will talks about how difficult it has been for Eleven to cope with life in California in the past few months, especially since she is different from the other teenagers. Also, the Stranger Things characters are grouped in various locations, with Mike having been a thousand miles away. Will explains to Mike, “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.Despite hiding behind Eleven, Will’s speech clearly pertains to his own experiences of feeling confused, different, and worthless — yet being with Mike has given him enough reason to go on. Unfortunately, Mike is oblivious to this connection, so while he is reassured about his relationship with Eleven, he barely realizes that Will is already crying beside him while looking out the van window.
The Problem With Will Byers’ Crying Scene With Mike
Will’s impassioned speech brings him to tears, but only his brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) notices what was actually going on. Mike heartbreakingly does not react to it, but he might be shutting out everything else around him due to his own fear for Eleven’s safety. Even though Mike not seeing Will cry is fairly understandable, that still does not excuse his inability to empathize with his best friend. After all, this behavior totally runs against Mike’s characterization throughout Stranger Things, Mike is not the most emotionally aware character in the show, but in regard to Will, he was always in tune. Aside from that, Will pours his heart out, implying that he will never stop needing Mike in his life, but in the end, that scene is only in service of Eleven and Mike’s relationship. Will’s confession is simply treated as an instrument to push Mike into finally admitting that he loves Eleven in a pivotal scene later on.
Did Stranger Things Do Enough With Will Byers?
the way Stranger Things has handled Will’s coming-of-age so far is quite a complicated journey. After implying that Will is gay, the show confirms his identity but only to further a heterosexual relationship in the process. Instead, he could have been given a chance to explore this side of himself without having unrequited affections and being subjected to heartbreak at a young age. Fortunately, Jonathan, also in a romance with Nancy (Natalia Dyer), caught on and assured his brother that he would always love him no matter what. While the scene was certainly heartfelt and genuine, it noted their brotherly love and Jonathan’s unconditional acceptance of his brother. While familial support is incredibly important in any coming-out story, Will’s sexuality and his story overall have often been sidelined in order to advance the plot of others.
On the other hand, Stranger Things‘ refusal to explicitly label Will might also suggest that as a teenager in the rural Midwest, he is still taking his time and learning more about himself. He is still on that journey toward finding out who he is and what he truly wants. Moreover, should Stranger Things season 5, with its time-jump, eventually choose to label Will’s sexuality, it will leave the other characters with the option of accepting or rejecting him. Everyone easily accepting Will’s preference would deprive audiences of a realistic representation of a queer teenager in the mid-1980s, a time when queer people were particularly targeted, while rejecting him outright would sow unnecessary hate among the characters. Hopefully, since Will will most likely be the focus of Stranger Things season 5, his journey will be fleshed out more, leaving a satisfying conclusion to his story.
NEXT: Everything We Know About Stranger Things Season 5: Cast, Setting & Story
Stranger Things season 4 is now streaming on Netflix.
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