The show failed to directly address Will’s sexuality in Season 4

BY ELEANOR NOYCE, IMAGE VIA NETFLIX

In an exclusive interview with Variety, Noah Schnapp – who plays Will Byers in cult Netflix series Stranger Things – has revealed that “he is gay” and “he does love Mike.” Whilst expressing that Will’s long-debated sexuality is “up to the audience’s interpretation” in a previous interview in May 2022, Noah has now addressed his character’s identity.

“It’s pretty clear this season that Will has feelings for Mike”, Noah states. “It was always kind of there, but you never really knew, is it just him growing up slower than his friends? Now that he’s gotten older, they made it a very real, obvious thing. Now it’s 100% clear that he is gay and he does love Mike. But before, it was a slow arc.” Indeed, Stranger Things has been building up to this moment since Season 1, but not all fans are happy about the trajectory Will’s journey has taken. There have been accusations of queerbaiting; suggestions that the Duffer Brothers – the writers behind the show – could’ve been more outright with Will’s story, and perhaps given him a proper coming out scene rather than just hinting.

In the penultimate episode, Will and Mike share a gorgeous moment whilst roadtripping to save El. Having shied away from it all season, Will reveals to Mike that he painted him a picture which “El basically commissioned”, describing Mike as the “heart” of the group. “Sometimes, when you’re different, you feel like a mistake”, Will expresses – supposedly speaking from Eleven’s perspective when really, it’s clear as day that he’s talking about his own experiences. The conversation ends with Will crying silently towards the window, holding back some emotions which he feels he can’t express.

“I remember when I was doing the scene, I was bawling, like, going all out the whole day. And when I saw it on screen, it was actually more subtle. This scene was really important for him, because it really solidified that truth, that he loves his best friend and he doesn’t know how to tell him”, Noah furthers. Again, an unscripted scene with brother Jonathan – played by Charlie Heaton – brings up some buried emotions. “It was only after I did the scene of me in the van, where they saw me crying and the protectiveness that you see with Jonathan looking in the rearview mirror. They were like, we need a scene with that. So they wrote it as we were filming”, he explains. “It’s very important for people to see that Will is not alone – because all we ever see of him is struggling and feeling depressed and that he can’t be himself.”

Living amidst the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s, as well as being brought up in the conservative Midwest, Will Byers wouldn’t have had an easy journey. It’s been truly remarkable seeing his character develop across the four seasons, with the very first episode – The Vanishing of Will Byers – having aired six years ago today, on 15 July 2016. However, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed that again, Will was given the storyline of the “tortured gay.”

Notably, in Season 3, Robin Buckley came out in a heart-warming scene with best friend Steve Harrington scene that was so well-done I had tears in my eyes. Robin has been given a strong character trajectory, and has even acquired herself a real, tangible love interest in Season 4. It breaks my heart that Will Byers hasn’t had the same journey. Noah Schnapp’s comments are undoubtedly positive, hopefully signalling towards us hearing more of Will’s story in Season 5. Will Byers deserves it, after all the pain he’s experienced.

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