If it’s in a word, or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook… especially now that he’s taken over the entire internet. Seemingly overnight, the creature has ascended from the mere terrifying personification of grief that he once was into something completely new and unexpected: a tongue-in-cheek ambassador of the LGBTQ community.
The Babadook was first introduced to audiences in a 2014 horror movie of the same name by director Jennifer Kent. The film is about a woman who, while dealing with the death of her husband, is haunted by a sinister presence (guess who) after reading a creepy children’s book with her son. The film was lauded as a triumph, and the titular monster has since amassed a cult following, especially as the butt of mostly affectionate jokes. My current theory is that it’s because the Babadook’s grim, clownlike appearance has a certain black comedic appeal, and also because “Babadook” is a fun word to say.
— Katie Dippold (@katiedippold) June 30, 2016
They speakers at the RNC are getting crazier and crazier pic.twitter.com/TlU38Ze6xT
— Freddy Scott (@freddyscott) July 20, 2016
Like many in the queer community, the Babadook did not publicly embrace his status so willingly at first. It seems he was outed eight months ago by Tumblr user Ianstagram, who had this to say about the movie:
Others attribute the Babadook’s new orientation to a glitch on Netflix that recommended The Babadook as an LGBT movie. If the glitch existed (Teen Vogue reports that it was a photoshop), it has now been fixed, but not before Tumblr user Taco-Bell-Ray’s post about the phenomenon also went viral as well.
As jokes on Tumblr are wont to do, the Babadook’s queerness took on a memetic life of its own. The most salient running gag is that the “B” in “LGBT” actually stands for Babadook (which has caused some backlash in those worried about bisexual erasure, unless you interpret it to mean that the Babadook is bisexual as well); others have argued that he’s clearly in a relationship with the Bye Bye Man, another recent horror movie villain. And then there’s this music video, which is now so popular that the opening line, “The Babadook is one thicc bih,” will autocomplete if you search for “The Babadook” on Google. (At least it did for me. I’m not sure what that says about my internet consumption habits.)
this physically hurt to make pic.twitter.com/xwP8ogaDNV
— alexis (@lgbthansolo) June 5, 2017
The meme has also made its way to Twitter, and in June, fan art of the creeping specter waving rainbow flags began to dominate both social media networks just in time for Pride Month, a yearly celebration of queer identity.
In fiction, the struggle for queer acceptance is often made into rhetoric that invites us to sympathize with the supernatural; think of that scene in X2 where Bobby Drake is asked, “Have you tried not being a mutant?” or the insistence that the vampires of True Blood have “come out of the coffin,” or literally any moment of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. At its worst, the practice unintentionally paints the LGBT community and other marginalized groups as dangerous predators, who must overcome their monstrous nature to live among “normal” people.
But if the community chooses a monster to rally around? That’s a different story altogether. After all, interpreting subjects (either historical or fictional) through the lens of queer theory and claiming those figures as icons is a time-honored tradition among LGBT audiences and scholars alike, and the Babadook is ripe for such a transformation.
“Throughout the film, the Babadook took revenge on families that attempted to suppress him,” Twitter user LGBTHanSolo, who made the “thicc bih” video, told Broadly. (Granted, this interpretation is a bit of a leap.) “As many members of the LGBT community can attest for, suppression is something that we get used to on a daily basis.”
Whatever the reason that Babadook now resonates so strongly now with queer internet-dwellers, one thing’s for certain–he is about to have a fantastic Pride Month.
Image: Causeway Films