IT CHAPTER TWO Hints at Queer Subtext in NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST 2 Reference

SPOILERS for It Chapter Two Contained Herein! You Have Been Warned!

Throughout IT Chapter Two, Pennywise taunts both the adult Richie Tozier ( played brilliantly by Bill Hader) and his younger self (played in flashbacks by Finn Wolfhard) with threats that he is harboring a big “dirty secret.” While neither character ever actually comes out and says what this secret is, it is fairly obvious by the end of the film that Richie is a queer character, and that he has harbored a longstanding crush on his childhood friend Eddie Kaspbrak all these years.

Richie carving “R+E” on the Kissing Bridge in Derry at the end of the film pretty much cements it. Still, it seems that some fans still don’t want to admit what’s right in front of their faces. But if there was any doubt that IT Chapter Two meant for Richie to read as LGBT, one fan just pointed out another huge visual cue to his being a closeted queer character.

Writer BJ Colangeno noticed that the shirt adult Richie wears is very similar in style to the shirt that actor Mark Patton wears in an infamous dance scene in A Nightmare on Elm Street Pt. 2: Freddy’s Revenge. One shirt is bright yellow and the other mustard color, but it is pretty dang close, and I doubt it’s a coincidence.

So what does this reference to an ’80s horror classic have to do with Richie’s sexual orientation? Nightmare 2 has long been seen as the biggest mainstream horror film ever made with an LGBTQ subtext. In fact, the entire movie can be viewed as one big allegory about repressing one’s true sexual orientation… so much so that it’s hard to read the movie as about anything else.

Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton), the only male protagonist in the entire Nightmare franchise, moves into the Elm St. house, and Freddy Krueger begins to possess him. Although he has a gorgeous girlfriend, when Freddy begins to take over, he runs to the bedroom of his best friend, the high school hunk. Whom he promptly kills. This is after he goes to a gay bar in the middle of the night and finds his high school coach there, whom he also kills. (There is also an exploding parakeet for some reason.)

In short, whenever Jesse is confronted with his own sexuality, his repressed Freddy comes out to play. Needless to say, it’s not subtle at all. And all that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to that movie. That the costume designers for IT Chapter Two would go out of their way to give Richie a very similar shirt seems quite telling of how they see the character.

IT CHAPTER TWO Hints at Queer Subtext in NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST 2 Reference_1New Line Cinema

Richie Tozier being gay is something fans of the novel IT have always theorized about. In the book, Richie’s reaction to Eddie’s death can be viewed as those of someone harboring romantic feelings for the other. Especially as he gently kisses his cheek as Eddie dies at the end, and seems the most unable to cope with the loss of his friend. But what was merely hinted at in King’s novel is made pretty explicit in the film to anyone who is paying attention. The 1990 mini-series doesn’t deal with it at all, sweeping every seemingly controversial aspect of the book under the rug.

Does Richie go on to finally live out his life an out LGBTQ person after the defeat of Pennywise? We never find out, but it seems he is the most shaken of all the Loser’s Club by the end of the film. And that’s no doubt due to losing one of his great loves. But the fact that Richie’s struggle is taken seriously and not just reduced to mere subtext is one of the best things about IT Chapter Two.

Images: New Line Cinema

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