For the record, I seem to be the only not-edgelord that believes the gay-bashing scene at the beginning of the movie is completely appropriate. With an important caveat that I will explain.
For the record, here is my full review of IT: Chapter 2 —” I genuinely deeply enjoyed… 90% of it. The jolting non-sequitor use of Juice Newton’s “Angel Of The Morning” was especially tedious because Deadpool already did that particular juxtaposition humor way better. There were so many spoonfed Easter Eggs I literally got sick of them and wished there were more subtle ones. And also I just absolutely hate “The Leper” creature because it looks so laughably corny and tryhard and it shows up in this movie way more than the first one and I hate it. Other than that (and a certain other thing) I enjoyed it way better than the first movie.” — Rani Baker
I’m gonna talk about that other thing now.
SPOILERS AND SHIT I WARNED YOU
“They’ll all pinch my cheek and tell me how much I’ve grown,” Eddie said.
“That’s cause they know how cute you are, Eds — just like me. I saw what a cutie you were the first time I met you.”
“Sometimes you’re really a turd, Richie.”
“It takes one to know one, Eds, and you know em all. You gonna be down in the Barrens next week?” — Stephen King’s IT, page 331
So, hold up, Richie Tozier is a closeted gay man in IT: Chapter 2. That’s literally his character arc, and yet it is somehow incredibly obvious but also never directly addressed. As in, I watched the whole damn movie and then like ten minutes later asked my straight friend that took me to the film “Wait, is Richie supposed to be gay?” and he was like “I’m not sure.” It was just… unusually coy for a modern movie. Which is funny, because Bill Hader specifically went on record saying that being coy about this would be the wrong move.
Incidentally, this makes the second film with a main character played by Bill Hader where he goes back to his hometown and confronts his adolescent homosexual longings and deep personal trauma that I am aware of. The first is The Skeleton Twins, a very messy and uncomfortable film where Hader and Kristin Wiig play twins still traumatized by their father’s suicide. Their lives are falling apart because of secrets they keep from loved ones and not confronting their trauma headlong, but ultimately they realize the need to stick together because they are the only people that really understand each other. Honestly I wish the gross and terrible and nonsensical reference to Juice Newton’s “Angel Of The Morning” was replaced by a reference to Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.”
This sounds like a non-sequitor but it is not. There was already a model of how Richie Tozier’s arc could have played out.
And here is the part where you tell me this is a scary clown movie and I’m just a pink-haired SJW that wants to force LGBT characters into storylines to destroy Western Civilization. And that is true. But researching this when I got home I realized homosexual subtext between Richie and Eddie has literally been text from the beginning.
“Wheezy! How’s your sex life? What’s your sex life?” — Pennywise, IT Miniseries
We’re actually intended to draw direct comparisons between Adrian Mellon and Eddie Kasprack, both asthmatic and cutesy and a magnet for bullies. The original version of The Leper (ugh that fucking thing again) in the book had an element of homosexual panic to it, begging Eddie to let him suck his dick. In the book it was deeply implied that Eddie was the one that had a crush on Richie, something they played up in the IT: Miniseries which was recorded around the same time IT:Chapter 1 takes place. Probably not a coincidence about Eddie’s big Pennywise reveal in the miniseries resembling a scene from Nightmare on Elm Street 2, another movie about closeted homosexuality. It’s actually understandable that they switched up the dynamic in the recent reboot because… what exactly is Richie’s damage?
The Current Version Of IT Is All About Trauma
IT as a novel is basically a boomer coming of age story, like many of Stephen King’s stories. It’s trying to pinpoint exactly where childhood dies. It’s Stand By Me/The Body but also with a cosmic horror murder clown. The current version of IT is a much more complicated, nuanced, and modern narrative about childhood trauma. All of the original “Loser’s Club” already had very distinct trauma that influenced how Pennywise managed to consistently get under their skin. IT: Chapter 2 managed to up the stakes by confronting that terror directly. So let’s see how that is set up in the first movie.
Bill Denbrough: Survivor’s guilt over the death of his brother.
Stanley Uris: Struggling over what obligation means and his place in the world. (remember the Bar Mitzvah scene).
Beverly Marsh: Replicating the abuse of her father through subsequent relationships where she pursues domineering and abusive men.
Ben Hanscom: Terror of being alone because he feels repulsive.
Mike Hanlon: Equating Pennywise with the terror he experienced his whole life as a black male in a shitty rural town and obsessively devoting his whole life and sanity to overcoming Pennywise at all costs.
Eddie Kaspbrack: An obsessive hypochondriac because of an overbearing mother terrified of losing him like she did his father. Basically the living embodiment of the first third of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.”
Richie Tozier: ??? I mean ??? I dunno clowns???
But They Actually Did Hint At This In IT: Chapter 1
Okay but like this moment from IT: Chapter 1 is interesting. In the middle of this extended banter through the hallway The Losers pass Henry Bowers’ gang. Patrick Hockstetter lasciviously licks his lips at Richie, which leads to Richie jokingly wondering if the jerkass crew would sign his yearbook.
Patrick… is a fucking mess. A weird sociopathic monster… but also canonically gay in the book. Reminder that I am roughly the same age as Richie Tozier was 1989 and also in a shitty redneck town also I got lured into some not great situations with other boys that same age that sexually harassed me and then tried to blackmail me over it despite that they had taken advantage of me.
But they also do it again with this particular moment they hint at in the first movie where Richie and Eddie are the only two kids eating ice cream. This particular incident plays out in the book in a certain way:
“I can carry it,” Eddie said, a little out of breath. “How about a lick on your Rocket?”
“Your mom wouldn’t approve, Eddie,” Richie said sadly. He began to eat faster. He had just gottento the chocolate stuff in the middle, his favorite part. “Germs, boy! Ah say . . . Ah say you kin get germs eatin after someone else!”
“I’ll chance it,” Eddie said.
Reluctantly, Richie held his Rocket up to Eddie’s mouth . . . and snatched it away quickly as soon as Eddie had gotten in a couple of moderately serious licks.
No subtext there at all, no sir.
But also like… Richie’s trauma was never really explored in the first film. Richie swears he never even saw Pennywise, which is revealed to be a lie in Chapter 2. But only to the audience, not to the rest of the Losers Club. Why tho?
Anyway This Could Have Been Handled Better
Like, what the fuck. Mike is straight up outed as inviting his closest friends on a suicide mission against a seemingly invincible cosmic horror that at best they can only banish for a limited amount of time. How is Richie being unable to just say “Hey MY LITERAL BEST FRIENDS IN THE WORLD THAT NEED THIS PERSONAL CONNECTION TO DEFEAT A COSMIC CLOWN SPIDER anyway I have struggled to come to terms with the fact that I am gay because I grew up in a redneck town in the middle of the AIDS crisis and somehow even in 2016 I have trouble admitting I am gay” a thing? There was no evidence in the first act that coming out would even effect Richie’s career, which also makes this reveal weirder.
He didn’t even have to say he was in love with Eddie. He could have admitted he was always in love with Eddie and Eddie been like, “I’m flattered but you are just my best friend.” HE COULD HAVE JUST ADMITTED HE WAS GAY TO HIS BEST FRIENDS IN THE RITUAL OF CHUD. Like why was this so downplayed. Even his personal token is so obscure literally nobody but the audience understands what it means. Ben’s token literally brings to the surface his lifelong silent crush on Beverly, having Richie admit his love for Eddie would have brought some interesting symmetry. It’s so ridiculous, unless the idea is that Richie just stays in the closet forever because his childhood crush is dead. Which like, wow.
I mean that is some sad shit. The movie started with a gay bashing and then ends with… a gay man still afraid to admit himself to the childhood friends he feels so close to he helps defeat a cosmic horror at the expense of his first love and he can’t even admit it?
I mean, is the message here that Richie stays in the closet forever? Fuck, that’s the bleakest ending any iteration of this story ever made.