Fandom In Context: LGTBQ+ 'It' Fans Keep The Film Series Afloat

Fandom In Context: LGTBQ+ 'It' Fans Keep The Film Series Afloat

One year after the release of It: Chapter 2, director Andy Muschietti's adaptation of Stephen King's famous work enjoys the fruits of its labor. Horror movies have a long tail in the public consciousness. As Halloween rolls around, audiences in need of a good scare turn to whatever they can get their hands on. Despite diminishing returns on the sequel, It has a good reputation. And, by the end of October, quality doesn't matter that much anyway. Both It and It: Chapter Two are among the highest-grossing horror movies of all time, and Pennywise sits among Freddy Krueger, Boris Karloff's Frankenstein and Hannibal Lecter as one of cinema's most recognizable monsters. As Pennywise entered the horror pantheon, the movies' heroes garnered a fanbase of their own. In horror movies, protagonists enter and exit with the slash of a knife, rarely sticking around. Heather Langenkamp, who plays Nancy in A Nightmare on Elm Street, re-emerged sporadically in the series' eight-film run. The same is true for Tommy Jarvis from Friday the 13th. But it takes a bit more gusto for heroes to survive and build a fanbase. Jamie Lee Curtis from Halloween and Sigourney Weaver of Alien are the exceptions, not the rule. But _It_'s heroes float, too. In the year since the quieter release of It: Chapter Two, the film's heroes, the Losers Club, have inspired an unexpected surge of fan art and fiction without much mention of the clown.

To some fans, the Losers Club, as the characters dub themselves, are the franchise's heart and soul. The Losers Club are Bill, Eddie, Richie, Beverly, Mike and Stan, who fight their past, and Pennywise, to emerge stronger friends and people, if they can survive the two films. The charactrs extend past the movie and connect with fans through themes of trauma, loyalty, and found family. And for fans within the LGBTQ+ community, it's Richie and Eddie that take center stage. In It: Chapter Two, Richie (portrayed by Bill Hader) deals with life as a closeted gay man. His best friend, Eddie (James Ransone), many read as "queer coded." Together, they're shipped, drawn and gushed about as "Reddie" on social media and in fan art. "Richie and Eddie are the characters that I, and I would say the majority of the fandom, are most invested in," says Australian fan artist Lottie, who works under the name Trashcanprince on Twitter, where she has more than 28,000 followers. "I see a lot of people who are in the 'Reddie' fandom and haven't ever consumed the source media. I think this is testament to the huge amount of quality fan works."

"Reddie'' shipping makes a larger portion of the It fandom than you'd expect. While the first wave of It fever in 2017 saw women proclaiming their love for Pennywise (played by Bill SkarsgΓ₯rd), the 2019 sequel inspired a deeper fandom within the LGBTQ+ community. "I got really invested in It after the second movie, when it was revealed that Richie was canonically gay," says fan artist Miles, who goes by @slugboyart on Instagram. "It's always great to see representation like that. That's what drew me in." But it's not just representation that appeals to Miles. The Losers deal with life as outcasts, which he says is "really relatable for a lot of people in the LGBTQ+ community."

"With Richie you can tell how much he's suppressing his feelings, teasing Eddie just to get his attention, because while he's terrified of being gay in such a homophobic town, he still can't help but yearn for him," says Miles. "I think that specifically resonates with a lot of the LGBTQ+ audience because a lot of us have experienced that, that feeling of yearning for someone and not quite understanding it, not understanding why it's so bad when it feels really quite nice."

Dealing with childhood trauma is the point of It. Pennywise is the embodiment of childhood fears that the grownup Losers Club in Chapter Two have to reconcile. Fans continue those themes through their art. "Every member of the Losers Club has some trauma they're shifting through, which makes it easy to connect with them on screen," Miles says. "I personally love drawing these characters because I can project a lot of my own feelings and experiences onto them, and when I share that with the world, it's a very good feeling, like I'm a little less alone."

The characters of It live on well past the second film's near-three hour runtime. While It: Chapter Two, has a burgeoning LGBTQ+ following, it wasn't always this way. At the time of release, many found It: Chapter Two homophobic. Twitter user @oldmoneydarling wrote, "The opening scene involves the brutalization of two gay men and the murder of one of them. I felt sick and it threw off my entire movie experience." The scene hurt many fans, especially those who saw Pennywise as a queer icon in the vein of the Babadook. In 2017, Pennywise and the Babadook shipping was all the rage on Twitter. This ship did not continue into Chapter Two. "I think it changed after the second movie since he eats one gay character and kills Eddie in front of Richie," says Swedish fan artist Soph, who came to the first movie in 2018. "Most people headcanon Eddie as queer and Bill Hader referred to Eddie as Richie's first love. It became a running joke about 'Pennywise the homophobic clown' after that." As the fandom dug deeper into the Losers, interest in Pennywise diminished.

In the year since the film's release, Chapter Two developed a cult following among members of the LGBTQ+ community. "I do believe there was a massive boom in fandom after the second film due to the introduction of the adult versions of the characters," says Lottie. "The Losers are a group of people who, at 40 years old, are only now overcoming trauma, finding love and really beginning the lives they want. I think a lot of adult fans really resonate with the idea that it's never too late for these things." And while the characters don't all have happy endings in the films, fan art and fiction is a way to retcon some of the story's missteps in the fans' eyes. "I think the tragic element of the [Reddie] story is what drives the huge amount of fan works," says Lottie. "This becomes obvious when you look at how many fan works are 'fix-its' or 'alternate universe' fics that undo deaths from the film and allow a romantic ending."

Fans find happy endings for characters because it's on them to keep it going. With the book closed on the It movies, the fandom relies on artists and writers to find new avenues as interest decreases. "I generally feel like the fandom is shrinking nowadays, but I have nothing against it," says Soph. "Last year, my It art could get 1,000 notes, while nowadays I maybe get around 100 to 200 on Tumblr." Luckily for horror fandoms, they always have October. "I think the fandom comes alive again during October since people rewatch the films, Soph continues. "It's a smaller community right now, but I have some friends I like to show art to and discuss the movies. People are waiting for alleged new content, but I don't really care for it. I enjoy making my own."

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