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The Babadook Director Finally Acknowledges the Character Becoming a Gay Icon

Just in time for Pride.

The Babadook [LGBTQ Pride Edition]

It is a truth universally acknowledged that, somehow, the Babadook (of the horror movie The Babadook) has become a gay icon. Between a Tumblr joke that has expanded into an entire fandom and Netflix accidentally putting the film in the LGBTQ+ section, the joke has taken on a life of its own, to the point where the film was released with a special Pride Month case. Fans even ship the Babadook with Pennywise, because shipping is universal.

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Director Jennifer Kent has finally weighed in on her character’s sudden rise to fame. While on the press tour for her new film The Nightingale, Entertainment Weekly asked her about her thoughts on the Babadook as a gay icon. “I’m still trying to work that one out… It’s quite perplexing. I feel it’s really quite beautiful, but I still have no idea why.”

She then added, “I mean, I kind of do.”

It does make sense. The history of queer-coding villains means that many of us who identify as queer found ourselves in the villains of the stories. Take The Lion King’s Scar for example, or The Little Mermaid’s Ursula. In an fantastic essay Reclaiming Horror Movie Monsters as Queer Icons, writer Mark Pariselli neatly summarizes it all, writing,

Queerness and monstrosity have also long been intertwined, especially in horror cinema. Throughout film history, queer people have been characterized as aberrant, abject or monstrous “others,” presenting a threat to white, heterosexual normality. Transgressive figures such as the vampire have been used to monsterize queer sexuality and desire since Universal’s horror films of the ’30s. Horror film villains and monsters are usually evil, so is reclaiming them as queer icons problematic? Admittedly, the practice is fun, but it is also pretty punk, like taking back the term “queer” and subverting its derogatory connotation. And sure, monsters and villains are bad, often violent and dangerous, but they are also the most radical characters, breaking taboos and the status quo, defying traditions and expectations about what is considered normal or natural. They also do all this with panache, wearing the coolest costumes and makeup, and – when it comes to Disney films – singing the best songs.

The Babadook is a movie monster of the highest degree. It makes sense that he would be reclaimed by queer fans, even if there is nothing about his story that necessarily speaks to the queer experience. Reclaiming monsters is very punk, as Pariselli puts it. We’re taking characters that exist outside the realm of acceptable society (which is a big ol’ metaphor for heteronormativity) and turning them into icons and, in a sense, heroes.

There is something beautiful about the reclaiming of something viewed by society as being monstrous; after all, the LGBTQ+ community has been viewed as dangerous by heteronormative society for ages. Kent is right; it really is quite beautiful, even if it can be hard to understand exactly how the Babadook himself is queer in his own narrative. Kent might not have intended the Babadook to be a queer icon, but at least she views it as a positive.

There is plenty to be discussed about the queer coding of monsters, but this is something that’s become part of the cultural conversation surrounding the film, and it won’t go away soon. For now, find your favorite Babadook meme (Memedook?) and keep celebrating the last few days of Pride month.

(via Entertainment Weekly, image: IFC Films)

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Kate Gardner
Kate (they/them) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions they have. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, they are now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for their favorite rare pairs.

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