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Horror’s top creators open up about how the genre shaped their queer identities as well as their art

By Vanessa Armstrong

“Horror is Queer” is not only the title of Shudder’s Comic-Con@Home panel on Thursday evening — it’s a statement of reality for many of the fans and creators in the LGBTQ community. During this 45-minute virtual event, moderator Jordan Crucchiola spoke with queer artists in the space, including Sam Wineman (director of The Quiet Room and Shudder’s upcoming documentary on LGBTQ horror film history), Nay Bever (co-host, Attack of the Queerwolf podcast), Bryan Fuller (creator, Hannibal), Don Mancini (creator of the upcoming SYFY series Chucky), and Lachlan Watson (actor, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina).

The panel was a thoughtful exploration of how queerness and horror have influenced each other, and how many LGBTQ community members identify with and find refuge in the genre. “Any community that is marginalized ... we are 100% allowed to find ourselves wherever we can,” Bever shared at the beginning of the event. “Because horror is this playground for the imagination, and queer folks are so used to trying to see things outside of the little box they’re given ... [horror and queerness] is such a wonderful combination, and the explosive nature of what comes from that is so beautiful.”

The panelists all shared their “horror origin stories,” and showrunners Mancini and Fuller went on to talk about when and how they’ve introduced explicitly queer elements into their work.

 “When we got to Bride of Chucky, that’s where I first started consciously trying to gay it up,” Mancini recalled. “I had an explicitly gay character; I cast Jennifer Tilly and Alexis Arquette and John Ritter, various people who had connections to gay culture. And from then on, we’ve gotten gayer, gayer, and gayer.”

Fuller, creator of the fan-favorite Hannibal, also talked about how certain relationships in the show morphed over time.

“With Hannibal in particular, I didn’t want to start out telling a queer story between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter,” Fuller explained during the panel. “I wanted to tell a story about how straight men fall in love with each other ... It was interesting because once you share with the community and once you have people tapping into what you’re trying to say, they’re going to be projecting a certain queerness on it, and there was certainly a dynamic with the Fannibals where they were projecting a queerness on Will and Hannibal’s relationship that I wasn’t consciously tapping into early on…. And then it became queer not solely out of listening to the Fannibal community and their projections on the material but also reading into the authenticity of the relationship between these two men, and realizing that there was a love relationship, and realizing that one of them was more in love with the other in a way that could become text and could be dramatized in a way I hadn’t anticipated.”

Comic-Con@Home Horror is Queer Panel

And while the panelists agreed that queer stories are becoming more accepted in general culture, Mancini and Fuller were quick to point out that part of what makes horror so compelling for many in the LGBTQ community is that it lies outside the borders of what’s generally considered “acceptable” in society.  

“Are we in any danger of losing our outlaw status? Because that’s something that honestly I have enjoyed. This speaks to what you were alluding to Jordan [the panel’s moderator], that activist thing from the '90s. There’s something very galvanizing about that,” Mancini noted. “I think there’s an analogy to be made to the horror genre itself—it is an outlaw genre, and I want to see it all as less mainstreaming of us and more of an acceptance of the weird as a valid thing in and of itself.”

Fuller was quick to agree: “I don’t think that ‘the other’ community is going to find total acceptance in heteronormative society. And I’m fine with that — I like being the freak, I like being the weirdo. It’s something that we were all taught growing up, that that is a bad thing. But then as we discovered our own individual powers, we realized it’s a wonderful thing to be weird, and it’s a wonderful thing to be other,” he said with a smile. “And I feel sorry for the squares.”

Interested in hearing the entire 45-minutes of the discussion? You can watch the entire panel above.

Click here for SYFY WIRE's full coverage of Comic-Con@Home 2020.