By The Nerdling
Warning! Minor Spoilers for Stranger Things Season 3
I’m sure most of you have had a chance to watch the current season of the powerhouse Netflix series, but I have to throw up the warning just in case. The spoilers for season 3 will be incredibly minor (seasons 1 and 2 are fair game) and do not give away that highly debated ending.
Season 3 of Stranger Things has a lot of positives going for it. The treatment of their female characters is a step up from previous seasons. Steve Harrington’s continual development from typical 80’s movie jock to mother hen of the kids and a low-key hero is heart-warming. The lore of the Mind Flyer continues to be intriguing. And the on the nose subplot of Russians using a power-hungry (and super thin-skinned when it comes to protesters) politician as well as blind consumerism to infiltrate America is very timely.
But there is one storyline I wish they would have taken a little more time to address. Will Byer’s confused sexual identity and Mike’s throwaway line about Will not liking girls. That one bit of dialogue continued an ongoing debate as to whether or not Will is gay.
Driving the discussion further is a recently revealed note from when series was in development. Matt and Ross Duffer’s original description of Will Byers was “a sweet, sensitive kid with sexual identity issues. He only recently came to the realization that he does not fit into 1980s definition of ‘normal’.” The twin brothers have changed several points from the series they originally called Montauk. Will’s confusing sexuality could be one of them.
Noah Schnapp, who portrays Byers, has stated he read the line as “[Will’s] not ready to grow up and he doesn’t really want to move on to dating and relationships yet.” But Schnapp also feels that line is “really up to the audience to interpret it.”
While the debate on Will’s sexual identity is interesting, I wish the Duffer Brothers would have focused on Will’s sexual confusion stemming more from trauma than knowing if he is gay or not.
While Will was in the Upside Down, Mike, Dustin, and Lucas had this grand adventure where they bonded and matured together. They found the courage to stand up to their bullies, go up against a group of black-hat government spooks, and face down a terrifying monster.
The three boys had to face the emotions surrounding the death of their best friend during their journey. They didn’t have to deal with those feelings for long, but speaking as someone who has lost a close friend at a young age in an accident, that has a lasting impact. It hits like a ton of bricks when your young brain has to cope with the reality of death is not just something that happens to old people.
Mike began to discover girls are no longer icky. Lucas and Dustin came around to liking girls when Max arrived. Will… he was too busy being stalked and eventually possessed by the Mind Flayer to discover what love is to him.
Will’s stunted emotional growth is touched on in seasons 2 and 3 but is quickly thrown aside when the action starts. This is frustrating since the romance storylines continue along with the horror. I feel it would have been beneficial to the character of Will for the rest of the group to address his feelings on being left behind by his friends mentally and emotionally. Instead, the script lets everyone off the hook when the goosebumps on Will’s neck made an appearance.
Season 3’s “The Case of the Missing Lifeguard” saw Will destroying Castle Byers not out of frustration of his confused sexual identity, but because his friends were moving on and growing up. As Schnapp says, “he still wants to be a kid and play in the basement like he did in old times.” Mike, Lucas, and Dustin had these life-changing journeys along with Eleven and Max. Will was left behind to hide from and survive monsters.
It probably didn’t help in the year after returning from the Upside Down Joyce and Johnathan hovered over Will, afraid to lose him again. Protecting him from anything that might have been the slightest amount of upsetting. Keeping him from growing up, from exploring who he is outside of his family construct.
If Stranger Things gets a season 4 renewal (which I’m sure it will), I would love to see more of Will’s struggle to grow and mature in the face of trauma. There are fans of the show who can relate to feeling stunted emotionally after a traumatic event. They would feel vindicated to see their struggle reflected in Will Byers. Whether Will is gay or straight is important to address, but it is just as equally important to show Will working through trauma to find his identity.
The Nerdling was born in the majestic land known as Texas and currently resides there after several years of journeying through Middle Earth in a failed attempt to steal the one Ring from that annoying hobbit, serving the Galactic Empire for a time, and then a short stint as a crew member on the Serenity. Since moving back to her homeland, Nerdling flirted with a hero reputation. Saving children from the dangers of adoring domineering, sparkly vampires (champions with souls are the only vampires worth loving) and teaching normals the value of nerdom, all while rooting for her beloved Dallas Stars. Then came the Sokovia Accords and her short spell of saving others came to an end. With Darth Vader’s reputation rightfully returning to badass status, Nerdling is making her way back to the Empire. They do have cookies, you know. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.