On Thursday, Stranger Things star took to social media to come out as gay to the public. In a TikTok post that has been liked over 9 millions times, the 18-year-old did a lip-sync to the audio “You know what it never was? That serious. It was never that serious. Quite frankly, will never be that serious”. Superimposed on the video was “When I finally told my friends and family I was gay after being scared in the closet for 18 years and all they said was ‘we know’.”
The post was accompanied by a caption that said “I guess I’m more similar to will than I thought.”
@noahschnappI guess I’m more similar to will than I thought♬ original sound – princessazula0
Earlier in 2022, buzz circulated around Schnapp’s character, Will Byers, being queer. The show, now entering its fifth and final season, has depicted Will being trapped in the upside down and possessed by a mind flayer. Now it seemed that Will was potentially navigating his sexuality and feelings for his best friend Mike Wheeler (played by Finn Wolfhard) during the 80s. Which, honestly, can be just as terrifying as everything else he experienced in the show.
In an interview with Variety in July 2022, Schnapp confirmed that Will was, in fact, gay and in love with Mike. This announcement came after dodging plenty of speculation around his character’s sexuality and connection to Mike.
“I mean, it’s pretty clear this season that Will has feelings for Mike. They’ve been intentionally pulling that out over the past few seasons”, said Schnapp. “I think for Season 4, it was just me playing this character who loves his best friend but struggles with knowing if he’ll be accepted or not, and feeling like a mistake and like he doesn’t belong…Now it’s 100% clear that he is gay and he does love Mike.”
Witnessing queer or queer coded characters on-screen definitely has an impact on society. GLAAD’s annual Where We Are on TV reports highlight not only the diverse array of LGBTQ+ representation on-screen in television, but it also informs how production companies and networks can improve on increasing proper LGBTQ+ on-screen representation in television.
While Schnapp’s character wasn’t confirmed as gay until after the release of season 4’s first two episodes, the coding of his character still spoke to many fans of Stranger Things.
“People have come up to me — I was just in Paris and this, like, 40-year-old man came up to me and he was like, ‘Wow, this Will character made me feel so good. And I related to it so much. That is exactly who I was when I was a kid.’ That just made me so happy to hear,” added Schnapp.
And like Schnapp said, he’s more like Will than he thought. Having a queer actor portray a queer character adds more depth to the character’s narrative, but also empowers queer audiences to recognize that our stories can be told by our community in nuanced ways that make you even more proud to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community.
While we aren’t entitled to knowing anyone’s sexuality, there is a resounding impact on LGBTQ+ viewers and non-LGBTQ+ viewers alike when queer characters are appropriately visible in TV shows. While it empowers our community, it exposes heterosexual and cisgender counterparts to our narratives, which bolsters their understanding and embracing of our community.
However, we’ve seen in the past, specifically with Heartstopper star Kit Connor, that when young actors portray queer characters, the speculation around their sexuality from the masses can cause undo hardship as well. While O’Connor’s coming out journey was a forced one, thankfully tons of support from the public came his way.
Thankfully, Schnapp has been surrounded by ample support from family, friends, and now the public too. We couldn’t be more for happier him.