Character Of Will Byers In ‘Stranger Things,’ Explained: Is Will In Love With Mike Wheeler?


There are some eccentric characteristics that you associate with the character of Will Byers, played by Noah Schnapp. Will always had a forbering attitude. He was not the expressive kind, though always quite amenable towards the feelings of his friends and loved ones. He had a traumatic experience in the Upside Down, but firmly believed that one day he would go back to Hawkins, be reunited with his family and friends, and things would get back to normal. But things had changed since he left. With time, he realized that nothing was going to be constant in life. There is a time in everybody’s life where you just don’t want to grow up, or accept the harsh realities. At times the changes being made in your life  are not aligned with your sensibilities or contrary to your expectations and desires. Moreover, the Byers family moved to Lenora Hills and California, and somewhere Will felt the pang of being separated from his friends, but he still had a bleak hope that they would stay in touch and try to meet as often as they could. There are subtle hints given by “Stranger Things” Season 4 (Volume 1 and 2) where you feel that the Duffer Brothers are trying to comment on the sexuality of Will Byers. So let’s scrutinize these little moments and try to decipher whether it was all just a speculative theory, or whether the makers were actually intending to show that Will Byers is homosexual.

Oppressed Feelings And A Repressed Soul

In the first episode of “Stranger Things” Season 4, we see Eleven giving a presentation and being insulted and mocked by her classmate, Angela. Just then, a fellow female student sitting next to Will tries to pursue him. Will gets a bit taken aback by the gesture and restrains himself from making any eye contact. We dismiss that moment as being any sort of revelation because one genuinely feels that Will was worried about Eleven being tormented by all the hate and bullying. The makers make another subtle suggestion when Mike finally comes to meet Eleven in Lenora Hills. Will had been waiting to meet his best friend for quite some time now, but the response that he got was not what he had expected. There was a kind of hesitation between the two. Will had brought a painting to the airport which he had made for Mike, but something stopped him from giving it to him. He expected a bit more warmth and excitement from Mike’s end. Will had imagined in his mind how it would be to meet his best friend after such a long period of time, and the reality was nowhere close to it. Jonathan, though not completely aware of the emotional upheaval that Will was going through, sensed that something was not right with his younger brother. Eleven had planned the whole day for Mike, and inevitably Will had to tag along, though he was least excited about visiting the gaming arcade because of the awkwardness and distance that had come between him and Mike. Just the look in his eyes made Jonathan realize that he would eventually have to talk to his brother, who was feeling alienated. Things didn’t go as planned, and Eleven’s special day turned out to be a disaster. She was bullied and insulted once again by Angela, but this time everything was done in front of Mike. Will confronted Mike and told him that he had felt miserable throughout the day as neither he got the attention that he craved for nor did Mike make an effort to know how he had been for the past year. The boys hadn’t stayed in touch, and Will was nurturing a feeling that maybe Mike was not interested in what he said. Over the past year, Mike had called only a couple of times, and Will now wanted to address that issue and get some clarity. He compared his situation with that of Eleven’s, but Mike didn’t understand why he unnecessarily created a fuss about things, considering the nature of the relationship he shared with his two friends was so different. Mike inherently believed, like any other individual, that a person’s partner would be at the top of their priority list, and though friends would hold importance in their lives, it could not be equated to the former. In “Stranger Things” season 4, episode 4, after all the confrontation and heated arguments, Will and Mike have a reconciliation of sorts, where the latter tells the former how much he missed him and how things had become different after he left the city.

See More: Character Of Eddie Munson In ‘Stranger Things,’ Explained: Is Eddie Dead Or Alive?

Is Will Byers Homsexual? 

Over a period of time, Will realizes that though Mike considers him his best friend, he does not reciprocate the kind of feeling Will has for him. Undeniably, Will would have loved it if he could have gotten the kind of attention that Eleven got, but he had developed that emotional maturity where he knew he had to make a sacrifice for the happiness of his loved ones. His friend’s emotional well-being mattered more to him, as compared to his own selfish desires. Will takes a magnanimous approach and decides that he is going to fix the insecurities of his best friend. He shows Mike his painting that he also brought with him to the airport, but he lies that he had painted whatever Eleven asked him to. The painting showed the young adults fighting a demogorgon, with Mike leading the party. He just wanted to show Mike that Eleven held him in high regard and wasn’t going to leave him. He tells Mike whatever he feels, though he camouflages the whole narrative by saying that it was actually Eleven who felt so. Will loved Mike, he expected their relationship to be a notch above the rest, considering they were best friends and not just friends. But what he didn’t know was whether he was allowed to feel in that manner or not. He knew that there was some distinctiveness in the way felt about Mike, and it was not how others felt around him. Will felt lost at times. This was still the 1980s, and coming out as a homsosexual person or exploring one’s sexuality was not considered to be a viable option. Society was still very conservative and sexual orientation was a subject matter that was still considered taboo (not that the situation has changed much since then). Sometimes the feeling of dejection, the feeling of being different, becomes so claustrophobic that an individual loses their sanity in the process. Even Will didn’t understand such complex emotions completely. Deep down, he knew that his “different personality” would be mocked by society. He knew nobody would understand him. He had started to consider himself somewhat abnormal. He felt like a mistake and cried his heart out while expressing his own feelings to Mike, which the latter would never know belonged solely to Will. But all the while, Jonathan was observing everything from the rear mirror, and he knew that he needed to talk to his beloved brother. He knew that he had to assure him that no matter what, he would have the unconditional support of his elder brother. 

In “Stranger Things” Season 4, Episode 9, when Eleven finally escaped from the facility of Dr. Martin Brenner and reunited with Mike and Will, there came a moment where Jonathan caught Will looking through the glass pane, and trying to gather himself, while still feeling that he had to fight this battle alone. For the past year, Jonathan had been emotionally unavailable for anyone. He was hiding from his own problems, and maybe that was the reason why Will felt even more neglected and alienated. Jonathan had always been his go-to person, but when Will really needed somebody to confide in, he had nobody to talk to. Jonathan tells Will that he was there for him, and no matter how complicated the situation might get, he always had his back. It felt like somebody had lifted a heavy burden from Will’s shoulder. He cried, embracing his brother.

Though there is a lot of anticipation about Will Byers finally coming out, in Season 5 of “Stranger Things,” amidst all the fan theories, we are missing out on a very important and delicate point that the makers made through the character of Will. The writers pointed out the importance of validation in each and everybody’s lives, especially at a brooding age. It is so important for a child to be told that he has got unconditional support, and regardless of how great the turmoil is, there would be people who would have his back. That validation, those few words of assurance, does wonders to the confidence of the child. If not dealt with in the correct manner, these situations have the potential to have a detrimental effect on the child’s personality in the future. It is important to understand that no two people are similar. A difference of opinion and sensibilities never means that one person has to be wrong in order for the other person to be right. Every Will needs to have a Jonathan in his life. That warm hug and those few words of affirmation, gave Will all the strength to deal with his life and society in general.

See More: ‘Stranger Things’ Season 4: Ending, Explained: Is Vecna Dead Or Alive? What To Expect From Season 5?

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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