Last Friday, Season 2 of the smash Netflix series Stranger Things hit the streaming site. Predictably, fans binged it over the weekend and shared their many thoughts on Twitter.
A lot of speculation centered around new character Billy Hargrove, played by Dacre Montgomery.
Because Billy looks like a whole snack. pic.twitter.com/ujfU0EbYD9
— Stranger Things (@Stranger_Things) October 28, 2017
More specifically, is Billy racist for singling out Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin)? And is he gay with internalized homophobia, which he takes out on Steve (Joe Keery)?
Just take one look at Twitter to see how fans interpreted the character in his first season.
— Schrödinger's Kat (@InParadoxState) October 29, 2017
so uh i don’t really wanna admit this bc y’all will come for me but i kinda got a gay vibe from billy from stranger things?
— mikayla 🏳️🌈 (@bikatedison) October 31, 2017
listen billy from stranger things is gay and no one is gonna tell me otherwise
— nat 🦇 (@parkliife) October 29, 2017
Others are less happy with the idea of Billy being gay, due to his abusive and volatile nature.
Billy in Stranger Things is racist and abusive. I hope he will be not gay bc we don't need this shit as our "representation" in this show
— FinnSky (@JFinnrey) October 30, 2017
I worry about all the gay love for Billy on #StrangerThings He's a sexist, racist bully who has hit or will hit his step sister. Let's not.
— Benji Maybe (@chance47) October 30, 2017
‘He feels threatened’
Montgomery interprets his character differently, however.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, he acknowledged when he first read the script he saw Billy as a ‘racist dick’.
Those feelings evolved and now Montgomery believes it’s because Billy ‘feels threatened’ and has an urge to protect his sister, Max (Sadie Sink).
‘These male figures in his life, whether it’s Lucas, Steve (Joe Keery), his dad (Will Chase), whoever these different characters that embody his world are … if Max is that one constant, he knows he needs to drop off and look after [her].’
Montgomery doesn’t believe it has to do with race or suppressed sexuality with Lucas and Steve.
‘I don’t think Steve — somebody touched on that the other day. “Now is Billy attracted to Steve?” And I was like, “No, I don’t think he is.” I don’t think it’s like this confused, homoerotic kind of thing. I think it’s literally he’s threatened by all these characters in his life,’ he said.
Fans cite scenes like Billy and Steve in the gym showers after basketball practice. They also look to a scene in which Billy’s abusive father calls him a ‘f*ggot’. Montgomery called hearing the language ‘extremely jarring’.
Montgomery sees it more about the father than Billy: ‘It does scream so many things about the time and about how freely this particular character [uses] this word.’
He also noted fans only scratched the surface with Billy.
‘There’s something far more sinister going on with Billy. We’ll see how that unfolds,’ he said.
There is a complex discussion about representation within this.
Stranger Things is a show that sorely lacks diversity. Queer representation is minimal in media. Do we simply need more representation at all, or certain types of representation?
Arguably, there wouldn’t need to be this conversation if there was more queer representation in general. Queer characters could fill a variety of roles. As it is, because the numbers are so low, audiences have a need to see positive representation first and foremost.