It has long been suggested by Stranger Things fans that Will Byers – played by actor Noah Schnapp – could secretly be harbouring queer feelings.
Whether from school bullies or his own father, Schnapp's character has often been the subject of ridicule and the target of homophobic jibes in the show, with no explanation other than the fact he’s a shy and sensitive child.
**Warning: contains spoilers for Stranger Things season 4 part 1**
Is Will Byers gay in Stranger Things?
Stranger Things season 4 has dropped many hints that Will could indeed be gay, leading many fans to accuse the show of queer-baiting (suggesting LGBTQ+ romances without ever confirming the queerness of those relationships) and of avoiding an important opportunity for positive LGBTQ+ representation in the process.
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The Stranger Things season 4 trailer alone dropped a big hint, showing Will doing a school project on Alan Turing, the gay mathematician who was prosecuted in the 1950s for his sexuality and forced to undergo chemical castration.
And now that season 4 has actually landed, the hints at Will’s sexuality have been coming thick and fast.
In the season 4 premiere, Will recoiled from a girl who wanted to play footsie with him which, while it could mean he's not interested in girls, could also be because he actually has feelings for another girl – Eleven.
Eagle-eyed fans have also spotted instances in season 4 where Will has appeared jealous of Mike hanging out with Eleven, but who exactly his envy was directed at – Mike or Eleven – remains unclear.
Will confused viewers further in episode 5 when he opened up to Mike, telling him: "Sometimes I think it's scary to just open up like that. To say how you really feel. Especially to people you care about the most. Because what if... what if they don't like the truth?"
But with Will never elaborating his point further, the scene could once again be read as either an affirmation of his love for Eleven *or* Mike…
What have the Stranger Things cast said about Will Byers’ sexuality?
Following accusations of queer-baiting by the fans, Stranger Things star Schnapp insisted on the importance of not labelling Will's identity.
"I feel like they never really address it or blatantly say how Will is," Schnapp said of his character in a recent interview with Variety.
He continued: "I think that's the beauty of it, 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."
He added: "He's just confused and growing up. And that's what it is to be a kid."
Eleven star Millie Bobby Brown added that "we don't have to label things", continuing: "I think 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. That's OK to not know. And that's OK not to label things."
However, in a recent interview with Digital Spy, Wolfhard appeared to contradict his co-stars by revealing: "I think you find out slowly through the season, Will's kind of love towards Mike and I think it's a really beautiful thing."
Back in 2016, Schnapp first added his own thoughts to the conversation, hitting back at the harmful stereotypes at the heart of rumours that his character could be gay.
"Does being sensitive, or a loner, or a teenager who likes photography, or a girl with red hair and big glasses, make you gay?," he asked. "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!" he concluded.
And perhaps it never will...
Stranger Things seasons 1, 2, 3 and 4 part 1 are available on Netflix now and part 2 releases on 1st July 2022.
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