Thursday, October 12, 2023

The Queer Horror of ‘Chucky’: Episode 3.02 – “Let the Right One In”

Each week Joe Lipsett will highlight a key scene or interaction in S03 of Don Mancini’s Chucky series to consider how the show is engaging with and contributing to queer horror.

Gather around children because the time has come for “the talk.”

Last week’s “Chucky” Season 3 premiere basically confirmed that Don Mancini and company were planning on taking Jake (Zackary Arthur) and Devon (Björgvin Arnarson)’s relationship to the next level. Like a lot of other queer-storylines on the series, this development is folded in organically among the bloodshed and the larger threat posed by Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif) at the White House.

Quite some time has passed since the Season 2 Christmas bloodbath: Lexy (Alyvia Alyn Lind), now also orphaned, is living with the two boys under a single roof under the care of science teacher-turned-guardian Mrs. Fairchild (Annie M. Briggs). That makes for a lack of privacy, as evidenced by how quickly the boys’ hot and heavy make-out is interrupted here.

It’s a refreshing change in depiction compared to other queer-oriented YA titles. This isn’t the chaste romance of Heartstopper, nor is it the heavily sexualized make-outs of Euphoria or even Gossip Girl. Shirts come off, bodies roll around a little, but it’s not especially gratuitous. It’s a nice moment for queer youth, but not enough to offend straight audiences.

When Jake and Devon are discovered, however, it’s all awkward comedy. Lexy is sent away so that Mrs. Fairchild can sit the boys down and educate them about the birds and bees, ie: the mechanics of gay sex.

Or at least she starts to…”the talk” ends rather quickly and abruptly because all three participants are so uncomfortable.

It should be noted that the humor in this scene is due to Mrs. Harris being uncomfortable about having to talk about sex, not specifically queer sex. This is a vital distinction because it doesn’t present gay sex between men as something weird or unusual. It is simply that as – a single woman – Mrs. Harris clearly never intended to be in a situation where she would need to have “the talk” with two teen boys.

Despite pulling the plug on the conversation relatively early, even seeing the start of it matters. While boy/girl couples have been on the receiving end of such humiliation from parental figures from the dawn of time, seeing it delivered to two queer teen boys remains something of a novelty.

In the US, the delivery of sex education is inconsistent, outdated, or completely absent depending on what state residents live in. Throw in anti-LGBT rhetoric from the “Don’t Say Gay” bill adopted (or proposed for adoption) by at least twelve states, including Florida, Alabama, Ohio, Louisiana, and Texas, and it’s a tough climate to learn anything about queer issues, much less sex-related issues.

A 2020 report by SIECUS (Sex Ed for Social Change) includes the following startling statistics:

  • 11 states have policies that include affirming sexual orientation instruction on LGBQ identities or discussion of sexual health for LGBQ youth.
  • 9 states explicitly require teachers to portray LGBTQ people negatively in health education instruction or prohibit teachers from mentioning LGBTQ people (emphasis mine)

This is why it’s so important that Mrs. Fairchild even attempts to talk about sex with Jake and Devon. And while the conversation quickly dissolves into awkwardness, the inclusion of such a scene on such a high profile show as Chucky is what is significant here.

Too many sex education programs are a) centered exclusively around heterosexual sex, b) disregard homosexuality completely, or c) paint it in a negative light. Shining a spotlight, however brief, on the mechanics (not to mention the desire) demystifies and normalizes this behavior, which is paramount for both closeted and “out” queer teens watching the show.

It also feeds into this season’s storyline involving the Collins family in the White House. Like our trio, the First Family has experienced tragedy in the form of the (mysterious) death of Joseph, but, more significantly in this episode, there’s friction between the First Lady (Lara Jean Chorostecki) and her eldest son Grant (Jackson Kelly).

It’s clear from their combative conversation that she’s reticent to let him engage in “normal” teen behavior, such as meeting Lexy, Jake and Devon at the coffee shop. Grant’s use of “normal” is significant: as the son of the President, he’s arguably far more high profile and important than your average teen, but his unusual status aligns Grant, as well as younger brother Henry (Callum Vinson), with our trio: their lived experiences (his as the son of the President; theirs as murder survivors) confirms that they are, in fact, not normal teens.

And yet despite their respective situations, all four are undergoing the same typical physical and hormonal changes as their contemporaries. All teens go through puberty and begin to actively think about sex; they therefore need to be armed with relevant, contemporary, useful information. The difference between Jake & Devon vs Grant is that not all parents can – or do – talk candidly with their kids about the changes going on with their bodies, a fact that only serves to paint foster mom Mrs. Harris in an even better light.*

*And basically confirms that she was doomed to die…

The post The Queer Horror of ‘Chucky’: Episode 3.02 – “Let the Right One In” appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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