SPOILER ALERT: This story covers plot points from Stranger Things Season 4, which is currently streaming on Netflix.
With 16 main characters, at least a dozen new characters, and five main locations — including a prison in Soviet-era Russia and a converted underground missile silo somewhere in the American West — it’s honestly surprising that Season 4 of Stranger Things has any time, quiet moments to explore personal growth. But anyone who has followed Will Byers’ (Noah Schnapp) journey throughout the show has noticed that the boy who survived Upside Down is struggling to reconnect with his old ones for reasons that don’t seem to have much to do with it Bonding Dungeons and Dragons buddies means being captured by a Demogorgon from another dimension.
Will appears to be gay and is struggling to come out.
That impression only got stronger in Season 4. In the first episode, Will and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) have to give a presentation at their new California high school about a hero they look up to; Will chooses Alan Turing, the gay mathematician who was prosecuted for his sexuality and forced to undergo chemical castration in the 1950s. Will also physically shy away from a girl who shows interest in him. And when Mike (Finn Wolfhard) comes to visit from Hawkins on Spring Break in Episode 2, Will seems heartbroken that Mike has treated his girlfriend Eleven so indifferently.
Later, in Episode 4, when Mike confides in Will that he wishes he’d been more explicit about his feelings for Eleven, Will offers an insight that could easily apply to anyone brave enough to come out to a best friend .
“Sometimes I just find it scary to open up like that — to say what you really feel, especially to the people you care about the most,” says Will. “Because what if – what if they don’t like the truth?”
In an interview with Schnapp and Brown for Diversity, However, Schnapp had a more ambiguous view of how the show’s writers, led by creators and executive producers Matt and Ross Duffer, approached Will’s sexuality.
“I feel like they never really bring it up or openly say how Will is doing,” he says. “I think that’s the beauty of it, it’s just up to the audience’s interpretation, whether Will is just refusing to grow up and growing slower than his friends, or whether he’s really gay.”
At this point, Brown intervened. “Let me just say it’s 2022 and we don’t have to label things,” she said. “I think the really beautiful thing about Will’s character is that he’s just a human going through his own personal demons and issues. So many kids out there don’t know, and that’s okay. It’s okay not to know. And it’s okay not to label things.”
Snap agreed. “I find that people try to label him and just want to know, so much like, ‘Oh, and that’s it,'” he said. “He’s just confused and growing up. And that’s what being a kid is.”
However, other members of the Stranger Things cast seem to have more definitive opinions on Will. In a promotional video for Netflix Mexico released May 23, Wolfhard and fellow cast members David Harbour, Winona Ryder and Caleb McLaughlin are asked about fan theories for the show, including one that Will and Eleven are in a secret relationship in California and hide it from Mike.
“If you’ve seen the show, you should know that Will isn’t interested in El,” Harbor said. “He’s interested in someone else in the group.” Harbor later added, “Will wants to play D&D in the basement with Mike for the rest of his life.”
Wolfhard also said that Will and Eleven’s relationship is “like brother and sister” and suggested audiences will “soon see” who Will is “interested” in — “very interested,” Harbor added. But that revelation, if it comes, doesn’t come in Vol. 1 of Season 4, which ends with Episode 7. (The final two episodes of “Stranger Things” Season 4, aka Vol. 2, debut July 1.)
For their part, Schnapp and Brown say they’re glad Will’s sexuality has remained undefined.
“It’s such an amazing role that Noah plays,” says Brown. “And being a role model for kids out there who don’t know what they’re going to go through when they grow up.”
“Will is like a zebra in a horse meadow,” adds Schnapp. “He’s kind of noticeable. It’s just nice to see that and have it featured on Stranger Things for fans to connect with and identify with. Because so many of our viewers are young kids who are at that stage in their lives.”