Did One Line From 'Stranger Things 3' Hint at a Fan Theory About Will?

Emily Hannemann

Stranger Things

[WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Stranger Things 3.]

To say there’s a lot going on in Stranger Things 3 would be a vast understatement. Between battles with monsters and possessed townspeople, investigations into Russian soldiers hiding underneath Starcourt Mall and all the various growing pains of teenagerdom, it’s a wonder everything fit neatly into just eight episodes.

Yet, in the midst of all the plot and the unfolding chaos in Hawkins, some fans wondered whether a line of dialogue from Mike (Finn Wolfhard) to Will (Noah Schnapp), in the midst of an argument, confirmed (or at least hinted at) a popular fan theory: Will Byers could be gay.

In “The Case of the Missing Lifeguard,” a very-upset Will storms out of Mike’s basement after his friends aren’t taking his D&D game seriously. This prompts a quarrel between the two pals, during which Will expresses his annoyance at Mike and Lucas’ obsession with their respective girlfriends. Mike’s response to this? “It’s not my fault you don’t like girls!”

It should be said that there are a number of possible explanations for this line that have nothing to do with Will’s sexual orientation. It’s entirely possible that Will just doesn’t like anyone romantically, given how much trauma he’s endured, and he was shown to be missing the childhood he lost to the Upside Down. He hasn’t seemed to be interested in girls or guys, so the show hasn’t confirmed anything either way.

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In the first season, Joyce talks about how Lonnie called Will a series of homophobic slurs — and when Hopper asks “Is he?”, Joyce doesn’t answer. Of course, she had bigger things on her mind than confirming whether her son liked boys or girls (or both!), and in the '80s, those terms were used as insults.

But in making the association between those words and the youngest Byers, the writers seemed to hint at something that the show bible — the original material presented to Netflix when the series was pitched — stated outright: that Will is a “sweet kid with sexual identity issues.” Plenty has changed from that document (Joyce isn’t a chainsmoker with a thick Long Island accent, Lucas’ parents aren’t in the middle of a terrible divorce, Terry Ives is Eleven’s mom rather than a conspiracy theorist), and the showrunners could have diverged from that aspect of Will’s character.

Season 2 offered another potential hint in Will’s drawing of a “rainbow spaceship.” Of course, any kid would be happy with a set of a hundred crayons and to use all of them. But some fans, seeing the potential LGBTQ+ symbolism — as well as Will’s awkwardness at the Snow Ball dance — pondered whether there was anything deeper going on.

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For his part, actor Noah Schnapp has said he thinks that line about his character was left open for fans to interpret however they wish. In an interview with The Wrap, he said, “It’s really up to interpretation. While all the characters were out developing and growing up, Will was in the Upside Down and he was alone there, not interacting with or connected to his friends or the rest of the world. And when he got back, he expected everything to just go back to how it was before, how it was when he was normal and when he was a kid and he wanted to go back to the basement and play D&D.”

He continued, “All his friends have girlfriends and they’re out dating, and he just wants to have fun with his friends. You see in Episode 3, he just wants to play D&D in the basement, and now all of his friends have girlfriends and they are dating. And it’s kind of, when you hear Mike say that line, it’s really up to the audience to interpret it. I kind of just interpret it like he’s not ready to grow up and he doesn’t really want to move on to dating and relationships yet. He still wants to be a kid and play in the basement like he did in old times.”

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A lot of people entered the Upside Down this July.

So, there it is. Fans are free to speculate. But whether or not Will is ever canonically confirmed to be anything other than straight, it’s fair to say most can agree on one thing: When all’s said and done, the youngest member of the Byers family definitely deserves happiness.

Stranger Things, Streaming, Netflix