[Comic-Con@Home Panel Recap] SHUDDER Presents ‘Horror is Queer’

[Comic-Con@Home Panel Recap] Shudder Presents ‘Horror is Queer’
Courtesy of Shudder
For this crazy year’s online Comic-Con@Home experience, SHUDDER Presents: ‘Horror is Queer’, a panel of LGBTQ creative powerhouses brought together to discuss why the horror genre is inherently queer. The panelists are Nay Bever (co-host of Attack of the Queerwolf podcast), Don Mancini (creator of the Child’s Play franchise), Bryan Fuller (creator of “Hannibal”), Lachlan Watson (actor in “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), and Sam Wineman (director of The Quiet Room). They bring magnificently rich takes on explicit onscreen representation, queer coding (which is the subtextual implication that a character isn’t straight, sometimes done unintentionally), and where we see ourselves in horror.

Moderator Jordan Crucchiola starts out the 45-minute panel with a shoutout to any Fannibals watching, praising the passionate as ever “Hannibal” fandom for its notoriously polite fervor. After introductions, Crucchiola dives deep into questions that explore how an LGBTQ audience’s experience of the horror genre is intimately multilayered.

Is a straight story told by a queer creator still queer? Sam Wineman argues that it is, and uses the classic touchstone Nosferatu as an example. There are no queer characters in Nosferatu, but the narrative’s sense of otherness is too authentic not to have been informed by the director’s life experience. Don Mancini agrees that while Child’s Play is not explicitly queer, it was informed by his queerness in the sense that the lead character, Andy Barclay, is “lonely and isolated and wants to find that one special friend in the end.” This is not something Mancini thought about consciously while he wrote the character, but his own motivations became clear to him in hindsight. Bride of Chucky is where he first began to consciously gay it up with an explicitly gay character in the story and the casting of queer icons Jennifer Tilly and Alexis Arquette. After that, he says, “It’s just gotten gayer and gayer and gayer.”

Later in the ‘Horror is Queer’ panel, Bryan Fuller complements the Child’s Play franchise for bringing queer sensibility to the mainstream by first hitting a huge target audience and then using that platform to bring in new ideas with later films, notably building up from a dabble of it Bride of Chucky to the unapologetically transgender themes in Seed of Chucky. To that, Mancini notes that Seed of Chucky was not well-received upon its release: “We rip out a piece of our hearts in order to make these things authentic… but it comes with a price of, you know, less success in ways that are important as measured by Hollywood.”

Still, Mancini says he wouldn’t trade anything in the world for the stories that he hears from queer, and specifically trans, kids who tell him that it meant a lot to them to see themselves as protagonists of a Hollywood movie…even if those protagonists were killer dolls. This is the reason why, though Seed of Chucky may not be considered a Hollywood success, Mancini considers it the most important thing he’s ever done in his career. 

Fuller relates somewhat, sharing that “Hannibal” did not receive stellar ratings while airing either. He says he did not deliberately write his main characters, Will and Hannibal, as queer out of respect for Thomas Harris’ characters (who were obviously not written as queer in the original material). He noticed fans projecting their own queerness on the two men’s relationship as the show progressed, then eventually realized himself that the relationship between Will and Hannibal in the show had organically evolved in a direction that could become queer.

Bryan Fuller: “The material, the actors, the community receiving the show all spoke to the queerness of it and it was hard to ignore.”

Will and Hannibal’s relationship was not written with an agenda in mind but developed into a queer relationship because that is what felt genuine for the writing.

The ‘Horror is Queer’ panel tackles a wide array of fascinating topics such as Lachlan Watson’s experience as a nonbinary actor going up for binary roles in Hollywood and Nay Bever’s examination of the nuances in reclamation (the same queer representation that makes one of us feel empowered might cause another equally valid person to feel attacked). Not to mention how wholesome it is to see a group of marginalized creatives mutually support each other tell each other how their works have influenced and inspired one another. Overall, the conversation that took place in the ‘Horror is Queer’ panel left me feeling some sense of pride in using the term “other” as a declaration of community.

To finish off, I’ll leave you with my favorite answers to whether we can claim characters and stories not intended to be queer. Sam Wineman stated, “If Alien’s queer to me, then it is queer.” And Nay Bever said, “If queer and/or trans folks see ourselves in something, then it’s ours. Period.”

If you want to check out the panel in full, check it out below!

Jaanelle Yee
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