The Modern Horror Series Does It Right: Queer Representation

Has everyone rehydrated after sobbing their eyes out? Before we get started, we’re going to talk about the third episode of The Last of Us, so take caution as plot points will be discussed. We’ll also be discussing The Haunting of Bly Manor, which you should watch if you haven’t already. If you haven’t already put it together with the title and the two series, we’re discussing queer representation in horror series.

As a queer woman that consumes horror media like a child consumes candy, queer representation has been quite a hit or miss. We’ve had American Horror Story, which has the representation in numbers but is riddled with stereotypes and biphobia. Before the 2010s, there were films that were had implicit queer representation. Recently, we’ve had Jennifer’s Body and it can be traced all the way back to the 1960s with The Haunting. However, the 2020s have given us two distinct queer relationships that shine through the tragic settings. We’re going to discuss them individually.

SPOILERS ARE DISCUSSED FOR THE FOLLOWING: THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR, THE LAST OF US, THe Walking Dead, supernatural, killing eve, game of thrones, The 100

The Haunting of Bly Manor: A Sapphic Love Story

2020 started off as a vile year full of sickness, death and depression. However, one thing I was looking forward to was a new Mike Flanagan series. The Haunting of Hill House rocked my world on its release. It too had fantastic queer representation, though it wasn’t the forefront. The Haunting of Bly Manor was a different beast. Time looping, confusing and fascinating–it was an experiment that paid off content wise. What I was not expecting was crying so hard I felt like I was going to throw up over the storyline of Dani and Jamie.

Examining Dani and Jamie's Beautiful and Heartbreaking Relationship in THE  HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR - Daily Dead

Their Sapphic love story can be summed up in a Taylor Swift song title: sad, beautiful, tragic. Heterosexual love stories thrive on the will-they-won’t-they tension that grows over a story arc. This time, we get to see that explicitly through two women. There’s no drama around the circumstances on how they’re in love. There’s also no dramatic coming out sequence that verifies that ‘allows’ them to fall in love. They are simply falling in love like a typical romance we’ve seen on screens before–and it was refreshing. Before I delve into it more as well as compare it with episode 3 of TLOU, let’s get into how these tragic love stories are not in coherence with a harmful trend in media.

Bury Your Gays: A Harmful trope

While both of the storylines I’m discussing end tragically–in one or another’s death–these do not fall into the ‘bury your gays’ trope. ‘Bury Your Gays’ comes from the trend in media of an LGBTQ+ character finding happiness and then, in a shocking, unnecessary turn of events, they are killed off. This usually comes out of nowhere, and it’s a cheap trick to make a bunch of people cry and get upset as if it was some shocking plot twist and intended from the start. It’s lazy writing and seems like a cop out from writers–almost like they’re scared of writing a queer experience themselves and won’t bring in writers to finish out a character’s storyline.

Bury Your Gays: a queer betrayal
This one was one of the biggest disappointments–should’ve ended with Phoebe Waller-Bridge at the helm.

Examples of this trope being used: Charlie in Supernatural, Villanelle in Killing Eve, Denise in The Walking Dead, Poussey in Orange is the New Black, Lexi in The 100. One even involves Pedro Pascal with the death of his character Oberyn Martell on Game of Thrones. All unnecessary in the scheme of plot and brutality.

The Haunting of Bly Manor and The Last of Us did not do that, however. It ended sadly and in deaths, but we got to see them fall in love and be happy. There was no tragic ‘cusp of happiness.’ They were happy. They were in love, and it was on display. It didn’t end on shocking nor surprising terms. We knew what was going to happen when the bad things began–it was not to shock the audience. This led to true grief and no anger towards the writers–they did it right. They also did it in less time than the worst writers that draw out their queer character’s storyline only to kill them off.

The Last of US: Long, Long time

The Last of Us already had me impressed, but nothing took my breath away quite like this episode. We got a two-decade love story in 60 minutes, and it was something beautiful. We follow Bill and Frank, who weren’t fully fleshed out in the game–Frank was already dead when we meet up with Bill. This allowed for a lot of flexibility with his story and how to adapt it to the screen. What we got was a sweet, gentle love in a messed-up world. We saw them bicker about paint, we saw them laugh and eat strawberries. We saw them spontaneously and thoughtfully in love.

The queer romance between Bill and Frank is beautiful.

The end of their story is a tragic one. It is not violent, however, as someone may expect in a zombie-style show. There was no such thing as a gentle death on The Walking Dead. Bill and Frank got to grow old together. They discussed how scary love is. They talked about queer sex like it was sex–we saw that first time awkwardness on screen. It was relieving to see something so endearing about a queer relationship without fetishization or stereotypes. It was pure love like every relationship should be. There is a reason “Long, Long Time” is being compared to the Pixar movie, UP–it was a life complete we were mourning.

Comparing Bly manor and Long, long time

A queer love story ending tragically.

There isn’t much more to say in comparing these two, other than we have a queer love story that ends tragically by forces out of their control and another queer love story that ends tragically in a good way. It was not death for drama. Their deaths were meaningful and inevitable–either by the cruel curse of the Lady in the Lake or by a man not letting the love of his life die alone. Queer representation can always improve; however, it seems like The Last of Us took from notes from media that came before it. They approached Bill and Frank’s story with the same melancholy delicateness that Flanagan did with Dani and Jamie’s.

How Bill and Frank Are Queer Representation that isn't 'Bury Your Gays'

As I’ve said before, queer stories should not be solely about the common traumas. Not every LGBTQ+ story needs a dramatic coming out story nor do we need to watch the character we love bullied and terrorized. The community already deals with those things enough. If TV is meant to be an escape from it all, every piece of media that represents us shouldn’t focus only on that. We want to see romance and comedy. Drama that is about universal stuff. These shows are not released to push a ‘woke’ narrative. If you’re claiming it is, you need expand your horizons and stop watching things that cater only to you.

The love stories here are sad and magnificent–and we got them from the horror genre. I think I’m going to love them (and cry about them) for a long, long time.


What’s Next

I still haven’t recovered, and I don’t plan on doing so. TikTok also won’t let me go–I keep getting bombarded with the most beautiful, sad edits of those two. The Void of Celluloid is on visual platforms with regular content. Therefore, check out the TVOC TikTok and Instagram. It is Black History Month as well as Valentine’s Day coming up, so I am going to do a few articles here and there about Black horror cinema and television as well as some recommendations on what to watch for the holiday and over the course of the month. Stay tuned for that.

Anyways, thanks for spelunking this void with me. If you’re new to the Void of Celluloid, welcome. Feel free to spelunk some other voids while you’re here. You can follow me on other platforms by clicking the buttons below. We post regularly and stay up to date about what’s going on in horror today, reflect on what went on yesterday, and plan for a better, horror filled tomorrow. See ya next time.

Stranger Things: Horror Movie References You Might Have Missed

It’s been three weeks since the release of Stranger Things 4. The show really shook the world and was the most important season–I mean, it put Kate Bush back on the charts (where she rightfully belongs). While the press time has seemingly passed, I wanted to discuss the horror references in the show. I also wanted to do this without giving spoilers way too early in the cycle, so here it is now.

Stranger Things - What You Missed

This season was a tad bit scarier that the seasons in the past. With that came more horror movie references that made my heart giddy. It was fun to pick these out and cheer when an homage was made, so why not share my list with the world and see if there was any you might have missed. Without further ado, here are five references you might have missed in Stranger Things 4.

Vecna’s Attacks: A Nightmare on Elm Street

Stranger Things - Vecna

The first episode traverses through the torment that Chrissy goes through. It is a no brainer that the way Vecna attacks and manipulates his victims is an homage to A Nightmare on Elm Street. This trance that those who are cursed go under emulates a dreamlike state that can be fully controlled by the gruesome ruler of the Upside Down. Vecna poses as people to get under the victim’s skin. He traps them in a mental cage. He changes the scene at will. All of these are tactics that Freddy pulls from time to time.

Freddy's arms stretching out : r/NightmareOnElmStreet

Vecna’s appearance almost reflects Freddy Krueger. The disfiguration caused to Henry is very similar to the burn marks and scars seen on the slasher villain. Mixed in is the brutality of the kill–another thing they seem to have in common. A Nightmare on Elm Street is famous for its notoriously gruesome kills and the style in which Vecna kills his victims could fit right in.


Victor Creel: Speaking of Nightmare

Speaking of Freddy Krueger, the man behind the burns makes an appearance in the “Dear Billy” episode. Instead of being the perpetrator this time, he acts as father of the perpetrator in a twist. Robert Englund delivers in the haunting role, sporting grueling eye prosthetics. It’s his story that pushes the narrative further into the question of who is Vecna and what does he want.

Despite Victor being a victim rather than a villain, there’s no denying he’s connected to it all. Unfortunately, he’s even confused as to how and why he was targeted, and the events ruin his life forever–leading to him gouging his eyes out in grief. It’s a monologue that will stick with you and ultimately propels the story, therefore a great use and nod to Robert Englund and his character’s influence on the Stranger Things bad guy.


Steve Pulled Under: Jaws

There was a lot of surprises this season, and “Watergate” was one of them. The newly opened gate is discovered by Steve in his deep dive down Lovers’ Lake. Covered with suspicious tentacles, its presence is as ominous as it is threatening. As he swims up to inform the group, we are greeted with a reference from the first blockbuster ever.

What Happened To The Girl From Jaws' Iconic Opening Scene?

First, he is pulled down quickly. Next, he bobs up to react. Suddenly the underwater beast pulls him into the depths and through the mouth of the gate. Steve’s abduction is quite reminiscent of the first kill in the Spielberg classic Jaws. The first jerk down is always the most terrifying. Seeing the panic in Steve’s eyes and the transition of confusion to terror in the rest of the group is what sells the scene. It acts as the perfect reintroduction to traversing through the Upside Down.


A Rope Between Two Dimensions: Poltergeist

Stranger Things - A Reference to Poltergeist
I Rewatched Poltergeist for Its 40th Anniversary and I Have Questions |  Tor.com

Speaking of Spielberg classics, he acted as producer for the next film referenced. After their adventures through the Upside Down and their brawl with the Demobats, the gang make the connection between the deaths and the gates. They meet up with the others in Eddie’s trailer and cook up a method of escape.

This method of escape emulates a very iconic scene from Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist, which celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year. The rope that they throw up into the other dimension has the same kind of effect and look as the one used by the mother to save Carol Anne. Paired with the same emotional feeling of reuniting only for something terribly wrong to ruin it, it’s impossible to deny this is a Poltergeist reference.


Eddie and a Spider’s Form: It

Stranger Things - Eddie Munson

Finally, the number one comparison to Stranger Things is IT. Their similarity to each other is the reason for comparison, in which the series’ fourth installment further emphasized. The number one thing to bring up–even though it saddens me beyond belief–is the death of Eddie. It is general knowledge that IT packs an emotional punch with the death of their Eddie, and the Duffer Brothers decided to take that in the same direction. Eddie Munson died a hero and so did Eddie Kaspbrak.

We also got the tidbit of information that Vecna was behind the Mind Flayer. More importantly, he made it in the form of a spider due to his fascination with spiders. A spider form is kind of the butt of the joke in regard to the IT miniseries, as it is the “ultimate” form of the alien in the final battle. So, the comparisons to IT took on rather ironic levels in the season’s big plot twist.


Conclusion

This season was a wild ride and climbed the list to be my second favorite season of the show. I hope you enjoyed it as well and are hopefully exiting your mourning period for fictional characters. We have to wait two more years for the Stranger Things series finale, but in the meantime, let me know if there were any references that I might have missed or if there is anything you’re looking forward to next season. You can watch Stranger Things here on Netflix.

Anyways, thanks for spelunking this void with me. If you’re new to the Void of Celluloid, welcome. Feel free to spelunk some other voids while you’re here and follow me on other platforms by clicking the buttons below. We post regularly and stay up to date about what’s going on in horror today, reflect on what went on yesterday, and plan for a better, horrific tomorrow. See ya next time.