If it’s in a word or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the misplaced fetishization of pop culture that’s sure to follow.
That’s right, I’m talking about the Babadook.
After a strange Netflix glitch that listed “The Babadook” under its LGBT Movies category, the internet began to fondly embrace the strange horror character as an ironic LGBT icon of sorts. People dressed as the Babadook began to show up at pride events, and if you google “gay Babadook” you’ll see images of his character dressed in drag with captions like “Babayaas.” Personally I think it’s fine to laugh at the unexpected twist of character development that spurred from a Netflix glitch.
But then some of the LGBT community grabbed onto a new character.
In the past month, the theatrical remake of Stephen King’s novel “It” hit theaters. For some reason or another, fans decided that Pennywise the killer clown was also gay – and would henceforth be remembered as the Babadook’s gay partner.
This is where things begin to feel much too weird for me.
There’s absolutely no question that today’s media still strongly lacks representation for the LGBT community. The internet, of course, has done an interesting job of finding ways to remedy that with groups of fans who claim previously straight and cisgender characters to henceforth be gay, bisexual, nonbinary, transgender, and much more within their circles.
Is there harm in this? Usually not.
I’ll use myself as an example, being a trans man who would love to see my community represented in more of the video games I play. Just recently while playing Final Fantasy XII, I was thinking about the strong bottom-heavy design of some of the male characters and wondering how interesting it would be if a few of them were trans men.
But the problem is, they’re not.
Satisfying myself with the idea that they somehow represent me is a delusion that only quells the dissatisfaction that would otherwise fuel me as a consumer to support video games with actual representation like Dragon Age 3 (a video game that featured a trans man in the storyline).
You see, whenever fans decide that Mr. Straight from Cisgenderland is asexual or genderqueer, they’re giving media the ok to go on doing what they’ve always done because “it’s ok, we’ll find ways to be happy with what we’ve got.” This can get especially fishy if you base your headcanon (that is, your personal interpretation of a character) off of harmful stereotypes, such as when robotic characters are considered asexual because “they can’t feel love.”
That isn’t to say that the power of fandom can’t bring change. Now and then you come across a very convincing fan theory, and there is even the rare phenomenon where enough fans feel strongly enough about a character that the creators must come out and confront their theories. This can open a door for discussion on improving the storyline, but more importantly it shows that the fanbase is ready and willing for the representation that the writers originally seemed hesitant to deliver.
With Pennywise, though, there’s nothing beyond – at most – provoking straight fans to experience the lack of representation that we in the LGBT community face nearly every time we go to the movies.
But even if that is the kind of war you want to wage (and no judgment from me if you do), this is really not the character to do so with.
The reason myself and some others find it so unsettling that Pennywise and the Babadook are now plastered all over the LGBT flag is this: if we beg representation from the media, are these really the characters that we want to represent us?
In a country where so many straight people already view the LGBT community as a band of monsters and freaks, the last thing we need is a murderous clown who creeps after children to be our next messiah of gay rights.
Sure, I get the tongue-in-cheek fun of taking a creepy character and embracing them as something more light-hearted. It’s called dark humor. But I seriously question the subconscious of whoever decided that the already stigmatized gay community was the best way to go about it with this one.
It all goes back to what fuels your headcanon. I see great power in fans banding together, pushing creators to quell their lack of representation.
But before you get all babashook, just think about your motives… and don’t let yourself forget that our community deserves better than a monster.