(Note: Since I was asked, I am not the person cosplaying in the featured image. It is simply a stock photo that I liked.)
SPOILER ALERT: This article includes mild spoilers for It: Chapter 2, the character of Adrian Mellon, and Richie’s story arch. If you do not want spoilers, please exit out of this page and go watch the film first.
It (2017) is hands down one of my favourite movies. (Sorry mom and dad.) It was well-acted, cinematically beautiful, and one of the best book-to-movie adaptations I’ve seen. So, when the tickets went on sale for It: Chapter 2, I bought a ticket for the first possible showing nearby. I was super excited! I brought my notebook and pen, ready to review the film for y’all. Obviously, that didn’t happen, and now I am going to tell you why.
. . .
Fans of the book and those who have seen the film already know that two sensitive and potentially triggering plot points take place in the adulthood portion of It. Firstly, there is a highly homophobic scene in which a man named Adrian Mellon is brutally beaten and dropped off a bridge while his boyfriend is forced to watch. This heinous act was so cruel that it reawakened It. It proceeds to kill Adrian. This scene highlights the cruelty that It feeds on. It also reinforces the fact that fears and insecurities are deeply interconnected. Finally, it sets the scene for the world in which Richie, a queer man in the Losers club, lives. Secondly, Beverly enters into a deeply abusive marriage, and her husband attempts to rape her when she prepares to leave for Derry. This cycle of abuse is central to Beverly’s character arch and the overall theme of childhood trauma lasting into adulthood.
Both of these plot points had a purpose in the film, and I walked in mentally prepared to see this occur on screen. What I didn’t prepare or sign up for is to be sitting next to homophobic, misogynistic assholes who would genuinely make me fear for my safety. The group of young men I sat next to cheered on the bullies beating Adrian Mellon, minus one person who sat silently looking extremely uncomfortable. They praised It as he murdered him. Then, scenes later, as Beverly was being domestically abused on screen, they joked about her deserving to be raped because she was a woman.
I was frozen in my seat, blinking through tears.
This show of hatred petrified me to my core. My very existence was being threatened by these men exuding cis-heteronormative, toxic masculinity. Most people would respond to this with a question as to why I didn’t simply get up and leave. What those folks don’t realize is that this isn’t a unique experience. When I was in college, a group of men would sit on a bench outside the LGBTQ+ resource center shouting bible verses and telling us we would go to Hell. I was previously ostracized by coworkers because a friend and I were talking about a woman celebrity I found attractive. Once, a man tried to pressure me into sex upon seeing my Pride pin. Friends of mine have been attacked for walking hand-in-hand with their partners. It goes on and on and on. There is a reason I have never publicly dated a woman. As a bisexual, queer, disabled, poor woman, I don’t have a safe place in this world. It’s lucky that I have loving family and friends who rally around me. Many LGBTQ+ folks, particularly people of colour, don’t even have that. Still, one of the hardest moments I’ve had recently was telling my two young girls (my nieces I’ve helped raise) that people want to hurt me because of my sexuality and then seeing the sad, pained look on my dad’s face.
So, with all that in mind, what good would leaving do? I was in a no-win situation. Getting up and walking out would waste my money, and I would just experience the hate elsewhere. Staying would definitely put a damper on my time at the movies. Like I’ve experienced time again, my safety was in jeopardy. I may’ve stood my ground by staying for the movie, but the minute it was over, I ran out of the theatre and got as far away from those men as possible. I was shaking the whole way home and started bawling once my front door closed. It took an hour on the phone with my friend to calm me down.
For all the people who asked why Adrian Mellon’s death was included because “things like that don’t happen anymore,” this is why.
For the people who criticized Richie’s character for not coming out because “It’s 2019,” it actually makes complete and total sense.
It taunting Richie in the town square saying, “I know your secret, your dirty little secret,” hits harder for those of us living the high stakes of being proudly out. We experience many horrors that you see on screen (minus the murderous shape-shifting alien).
Most of the people I’ve heard complaining about the LGBTQ+ parts of It: Chapter 2 aren’t actually in the queer community. The only prevailing outcry I’ve heard from other queer folks is that they wish they knew about the scene/s ahead of time so they could mentally prepare. They wished there was some kind of trigger warning for the homophobic violence or that there was some sign in the theatre like what they put up for movies with strobe lights. (Check out Doesthedogdie.com for major trigger warnings on movies, tv shows, and books.) I won’t speak for every queer person, but overall, much of the LGBTQ+ community is glad these things were included in the story.
. . .
I am happy to say that the homophobic, misogynistic assholes did not ruin the actual movie for me so much as the moviegoing experience. The next week, I went back to watch the film again. I enjoyed it. It: Chapter 2 wasn’t as good as the first installment, but it surely entertained. It contained more blood/gore. The actors lived up to the roles. Overall, it was good! But, I still won’t forget about the way that my experience seeing the show the first time shaped the way I interpreted the plot and characters. If I had to go through this awful thing, I hope my encounter allows you to expand your ideas about queerness in the second installment of this classic Stephen King story.
P.S. Richie and Eddie were heavily implied to not be straight in the book. If you don’t like that being made more overt in the movie, too bad.