notes from the upside-down

So, does Will Byers finally come out as gay in the ‘Stranger Things’ season finale?

Will Byers, Stranger Things season 4, gay, coming out
Mike Wheeler and Will Byers share a moment in season 4 of “Stranger Things”

Spoilers ahead for the final season of Stranger Things…

Now that Netflix has released the season four finale for its 1980s-era sci-fi horror series Stranger Things, there’s really just one major question on queer fans’ minds: Does Will Byers finally come out as gay?

Will is a shy, sensitive, and artistic boy who prefers playing Dungeon & Dragons (D&D) over his best friends’ interests in dating girls. Byers becomes a bit of an outcast, even amongst his own friends, when he is abducted into an alternate dimension known as “the Upside Down” and is later possessed by a demonic entity known as “The Mind Flayer.”

A few clues throughout the series suggest that Will might be gay. He feels a bit jealous when his closest friend Mike Wheeler begins dating Eleven, the initial female member of their crew. When Mike and Eleven break up, Will tries to cheer Mike up and resume playing D&D with him. However, Mike lashes out and tells Will that he has to grow up. The two make up after the spat, but the boys grow even more distant when Mike’s family moves to California in an attempt to escape all the deadly creatures inhabiting their Indiana hometown.

Noah Schapp, the young actor who plays Will, has only added to the ambiguity when, in 2016, he said, “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 … I hope the real answer never comes out!”

But while the season’s final episodes strongly suggest that Will is gay (or at least attracted to Mike), they neither contain a full-fledged admission nor any overtly gay romantic actions on Will’s part.

As Vulture points out, in the season’s penultimate episode — while Eleven is being held in a secret desert laboratory, and Mike is freaking out trying to find her — a passionate and teary-eyed Will tells Mike why he’s so special and matters so much … to Eleven. As they talk, it’s obvious that Will is expressing his own feelings towards his buddy, using Mike’s ex as a mask.

Will tells Mike that he is “the heart” of their friend group, and then reveals that he has drawn a full-color poster depicting Mike as a heroic knight — holding a shield emblazoned with a heart and a crown — protecting Will and their friends from a dragon. The poster makes it exceedingly clear just how much Will idealizes Mike.

Near the end of their conversation, Will also utters the line, “When you’re different, sometimes you feel like a mistake,” while he wistfully gazes out of the van window. “Different,” eh?

In the second episode, Will’s older brother Jonathan tells Will that he will love and accept him no matter who he is. While the scene depicts a sweet, intimate moment of support between siblings, its subtext suggests that Jonathan knows that Will is different from other boys… and not just because he was possessed by the Mind Flayer.

While the season doesn’t provide a definite answer, queer fans may still feel satisfied that these instances at least point to Will’s being gay. And if fans feel dissatisfied with that, perhaps they can at least appreciate that another female adventurer in the series, Robin Buckley, is written as much more explicitly lesbian — she even starts pursuing her own same-sex romance.

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