The Scream franchise holds a special place in the hearts of LGBTQ+ fans for various reasons. Whether it be the campy elements, the characters of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), the gay overtones of Billy's and Stu's relationship, and Kevin Williamson's unique voice, the movies exist as a magnet for queer horror fans. In many ways, Scream, and its sequels speak to those specific fans like myself in a way that traditional slashers cannot. 2022's Scream, the fifth film in the franchise, continues the queer legacy of the past movies and helps push it forward while tying it into contemporary issues around fandom and representation. While the film discusses toxic fandom, it also connects to the negative responses by specific horror fans with the inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters in prominent roles and established franchises of influential horror films.
The queer legacy of the Scream franchise primarily exists due to Williamson's script and Wes Craven's direction. The first film felt like a breath of fresh air compared to other movies in the subgenre while also commenting on the subgenre. The movie struck a chord with queer horror fans due to Williamson being gay and the queer elements that made the film unique. While previous slashers may have queer subtext, the subtext exists as text in Scream and helped create that niche within the fandom. You had Sidney rise to the pantheon of final girls, Gale was allowed to be openly bitchy, Billy and Stu giving Rope a run for its money, and the snappy dialogue had a queer quality to it. While a straight viewer can enjoy the film, a queer viewer has a deeper connection to it. More straightforwardly, the notion of outsiders overcoming the targeted violence and trauma directed at them rings true to the queer experience.
Queer representation often lies within subtext or minor characters in the prior four films. The most prominent queer characters before the 2022 movie lie in the characters of Billy and Stu. Their relationship goes beyond queer coding since they are partners who share the Ghostface identity and are intimate with each other in some aspects. They even stab each other at the end of the film to try to pin their murder spree on Sidney's dad. Outside of that, in Scream 2, Sidney notes one of her bodyguards is gay and jokes about "don't ask, don't tell" when describing him. Scream 4 also brings up the faux pas of killing gay characters within the horror genre, only for Robbie (Erik Knudsen) to yell "I'm gay!" as a failed attempt to stop Ghostface from killing him. Despite the queer nature of the franchise, the movies did not have explicit representation in their primary cast.
Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown), outside of taking Randy's place in the young character's friend group, is the franchise's first openly queer character. More impressively, the character plainly states her queerness, and the film allows her to display it in a non-judgmental way. Her queerness does not exist as just an off-the-cuff mention on the press tour or in a simple display of a pride button. Although I wish she had more to do at times, the gentle and delicate handling of her queer identity helps differentiate her from similar films. The inclusion of Mindy as the film's obsessive character reflects the strong queer fan undercurrent of the genre. The horror genre doesn't solely belong to the Randys of the world but the Mindys as well. It is also great to let queer performers like Brown portray queer characters. In many ways, the performer adds their experiences to the role and helps bring it to life authentically.
Similarly, including a queer character of color is a rarity within the genre, let alone a positive role. Finally, the film deviates from the horror genre's traditional "kill your gays" trope. Sure she takes a few stabs from Ghostface's bowie knife yet ultimately lives and will show up for the sixth movie. Hopefully, the next one will introduce some more queer characters as well.
The crux of Scream lies within fandom, true fans, and the toxicity that lies within it. The two killers, Richie (Jack Quaid) and Amber (Mikey Madison), bemoan the latest Stab movie from deviating from the franchise and want it to return to its roots. Richie states at the climax, "Because nobody takes the true fans seriously, not really. They just laugh at us, and why? Because we love something? We're just a fucking joke to them! How can fandom be toxic? It's about love! You don't fucking understand. These movies are important to people."
The pair's belief that they should direct the franchise as true fans, reflects responses similar to real-life reactions to the inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters in established horror franchises. Or even that horror is "too political" or "woke" now compared to the works in the past. Instead, the issue lies in the fans who would opt for the absence of queer representation, for those who would rather not be reminded of their existence. They believe they have a right as the true fans for their needs to be met, and any deviation should result in harassment or resistance.
This is not exclusively a phenomenon in the horror genre or for LGBTQ+ representation, it extends beyond that, when it comes to gender and race, as seen in the recent attacks against Obi-Wan Kenobi's Moses Ingram. As the internet provides a platform for marginalized voices to express their opinion, it also gives an outlet for this toxicity to fester and grow. It might be too on the nose for Richie and Amber to have met on a subreddit; it still speaks to the entitlement that specific fans have to their fandoms. Yet this is not even about their fandom, but rather how they chose to see the world and what specific groups should be allowed to live in it.
Outside of bringing life back to the franchise, Scream picks up the queer baton from the original and updates its relevancy for modern audiences. More impressively, it never lost its queer roots. I cannot wait for the sixth film and will be one of the first in line to see it. After all, who doesn't love a great queer scary movie?