EJ Moreno on Chucky season 2 and its importance to queer horror…
We are entering a new era for pop culture. LGBTQ characters are on the big screen and television like never before, and the horror genre leads that movement in many ways. While the queer community and horror entertainment have shared bonds for decades, more than ever, positive and engaging representation is presented. That’s where Chucky and its upcoming second season come into the picture.
Chucky, which spawned from the original Child’s Play film series and its Chucky-focused sequels, launched a successful first season on television. It was a new horror hit with a familiar slasher icon with impressive ratings and positive critical praise. But the presence of Chucky and his strange world also gave way to something exciting: queer main characters in a mainstream series.
Jake Wheeler, the young man at the center of the first series, is an out gay character who enters his first high school romance. We also mentioned Chucky’s gender-fluid child (more on them later) and featured queer icons like Jennifer Tilly in significant roles. This comes after years of creator Don Mancini slipping subversive references or throwaway gags in the Chucky franchise without getting called out for pushing some agenda. With the chance to create a major show with the killer doll at the center, Mancini fully represented the LGBTQ community.
Gay characters are nothing new, especially in horror and cult television. We can name David Duchovny on Twin Peaks, numerous American Horror Story characters, and, let’s not forget, Bryan Fuller’s queer-tinged Hannibal series. It’s always been there, but the way Chucky did it felt so much more progressive.
You can tell that Don Mancini knew putting Jake’s character front and center was insanely crucial to the show’s success, not just the sassy killer doll who attached himself to Jake. We had to tell Jake’s story as a young gay boy in high school to sell this new era of Chucky and horror television. It’s still rare to see young queer romance depicted in such a big project. So, many applauded the efforts we saw in season one of the series.
But Don Mancini and all the creatives behind Chucky weren’t content with what they did during round one. They are preparing an even wilder and more queer season two, which will be an absolute treat for viewers.
In a new interview with i09, Mancini teased the arrival of one of horror’s most iconic queer characters. “This year, we learn more about Glen and Glenda and what has been going on with them. Fans have been wanting to know about that since 2004,” says the filmmaker. Yes, Lachlan Watson (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) will join the cast as Glen and Glenda.
Last seen in Seed of Chucky, Glen and Glenda stem from the killer child doll we saw in the film. Glen was struggling with their gender, as well as urges to be a killer, throughout the whole movie. It wasn’t until the very end when we saw Glen slip into Glenda and then later separate into two human bodies, that the questions of who Glen/Glenda began.
For a movie about a killer talking doll, that felt like a complex narrative to thrust on horror fans, but it wasn’t without reason. Even the name Glen/Glenda stems from the legendary filmmaker Ed Wood, known for cross-dressing throughout his life. Wood would go on to direct the transgressive 1953 film Glen or Glenda, which dove into the subject and launched a million queer think-pieces.
There are no doubt films like this, and the work of John Waters would inspire Don Mancini’s upbringing, seeping into his career once he got more creative control; hell, even John Waters cameoed in Seed of Chucky to further the connections.
When this writer initially saw the Glen and Glenda character appear in Mancini’s films, I knew it was a moment in queer horror history. But sadly, Seed of Chucky bombed, and Mancini went down a different route with the Chucky movies. Then the television series rolled around, and we got Jake Wheeler’s storyline front-and-center. From there, we got Chucky’s now-infamous “genderfluid” line from Season 1 and the tease of the kids appearing; things finally started to get rolling.
Don Mancini used his platform to give way to a transgressive storyline inspired by classic camp icons and etch it into mainstream pop culture. Even without seeing a single episode of Chucky Season 2, the confirmation of the kids and more exploration of Jake’s love story shows we have more queer stories to tell.
Chucky Season 2 is also preparing for facing off with another scary villain – especially for young queer kids- and that’s religion. In this season, we see the characters in Incarnate Lord (formerly the Burlington County Home for Wayward Boys), a locale from Chucky’s past.
During SYFY’s TCA day, the filmmaker dove into the backstory for the religious Season 2 spin. “As a kid, I was raised Catholic, although interestingly, when I was in eighth grade, I was sent to an Episcopalian school,” Mancini said of what inspired this exploration.
“It was really when I went to that school that I learned about aspects of the Catholic church that I actually hadn’t been apprised of. For example, the concept of transubstantiation, which is the Catholic belief that during the mass, when the priest blesses the host and the wine, it literally transforms into the flesh and blood of Christ. I was like, ‘Wait, we are supposed to believe that?’ I just found that fascinating.”
“Any religion, I think, presupposes a belief in the supernatural. And, so, to have Chucky intersect with that, I think, is just really interesting. One of the things we have always found is that Chucky often is at his most entertaining when he is subverting the status quo, and/or going after authority figures, and puncturing the hypocrisies that people or institutions can have. So, this is a fun arena to set Chucky loose in.”
Well, the religious backstory and queer influence are personal to Mancini; it’s also not like horror tinged with religion isn’t expected. For decades, horror movies like The Exorcist, The Omen, The Nun, and even Midsommar dive into how scary zealots can become. Chucky now joins those ranks, giving this franchise yet another sub-genre it’s explored. And for those who are touchy with this subject matter in horror, at least this will come with actual intent from the filmmakers and not just pure shock value.
That’s the beauty of Chucky. From its humbling beginnings as a simple slasher to its path of breaking barriers, none has felt offensive or “shock for shock’s sake.” Don Mancini and all involved with the films and tv shows are putting everything into the production to make it feel special, and that’s why its progressive LGBTQ moments feel earned.
And maybe many of us are ignorant of the hate online, but most seemingly accept the madness Chucky is getting into these days and are embracing it. The ratings are still strong, the TV stations are pushing it well, and the fan reaction to the second season is favorable. We are seeing the killer doll franchise carve new paths for queer content and it’s a twisted treat.
Chucky season 2 premieres on Wednesday, October 5th at 9pm, simultaneously on USA and Syfy.