Monster Nation: Queers for Fears

Frank ‘N Furter, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

When Tim Curry suited up and strutted onto the screen 41 years ago, he continued a long tradition of LGBT horror that has ranged from gay director James Whale (Frankenstein, The Invisible Man) to today’s campy Ryan Murphy creations (American Horror Story, Scream Queens). In honor of Pride month, here are some of the fiercest queer characters in the horror genre.

No list of queer horror characters would be complete without Tim Curry’s “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania,” the ring leader of Rocky Horror’s orgy of Freudian excess. He makes his own Frankenstein monster boy toy, leads musical numbers, and seduces both Brad and Janet, all while rocking fishnet stockings and high heels. The character will be resurrected on Fox this fall in the form of transgender actress Laverne Cox, which will add a whole new dimension to the role.

Jesse, A Nightmare on Elm St 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

Flame Con guest Mark Patton starred in the uber-gay slasher sequel as Jesse, a young, deeply troubled boy whose struggle with Freddy Krueger mirrored his turmoil over his sexual identity. While he was ostensibly in love with Meryl Streep lookalike Lisa (Kim Myers), Jesse’s tortured existence suggested he was playing for the other team. The conflict with his predatory gym coach. The nighttime visit to an S&M bar. The impromptu sleepover with his hunky pal Grady (Robert Rusler). The ludicrous dance to “Touch Me Baby (All Night Long),” complete with phallic prop. There’s a reason this movie launched a thousand queer studies papers. Jesse is made even cooler by his portrayer Patton’s status as an outspoken gay rights and HIV awareness advocate; his documentary Scream, Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street is in post-production.

Willow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-–Present)

Alyson Hannigan's nerdy witch Willow was already a breakout character when she discovered her sexuality in the fourth season of the cult series. Her love affair with Tara (Amber Benson) broke ground and made both actresses icons to gay and lesbian fans (already some of the most ardent Buffy supporters). Tara was brutally killed in a lamentable example of the “Bury Your Gays” trend, but Willow lives on in the comics, where her pal Buffy has also explored same-sex lovin.'

David, Bride of Chucky (1998)

One of the lesser known characters on this list, David is the wisecracking pal in gay writer Don Mancini’s cheeky Child’s Play sequel. Though his part is relatively small, Gordon Michael Woolvett’s character is extremely likable and the audience is invited to laugh with, not at, him. [Spoiler alert:] His death is particularly jarring because we’ve grown to like him so much. This one gets a “Bury Your Gays” pass because, hey, slasher movie.

David Martin and Sam Brownstein, Stage Fright (2014)

This extremely entertaining musical slasher made Monster Nation’s “Gayest Horror Films” episode last Flame Con not only because it’s a musical but because of the surprisingly sweet and affecting romance that develops between hilariously queeny stage manager David (Thomas Alderson) and avowedly “straight” lead actor Sam (Ephraim Ellis). It all begins with one of the movie’s highlights, in which Sam sings “I’m gay, I’m gay / But not in that way,” and David counters “I’m gay, I’m gay / I’m actually gay.” Seriously, go watch this movie. It’s on Netflix and more people need to fall in love with it because it’s awesome.

Lana Winters and Liz Taylor, American Horror Story (“Asylum,” 2012–-13 and “Hotel,” 2015-16, respectively)

Bisexual Sarah Paulson and gay Denis O’Hare are American Horror Story MVPs, each having played numerous memorable roles across the anthology’s five seasons. But these queer characters were their respective finest hours. As dogged lesbian journo Lana, Paulson had the most impressive character growth during the excellent “Asylum” season, no small feat when Jessica friggin’ Lange is your costar. Winters’ sexuality cut to the core of what she experienced, including tragic separation from her lover and a literally stomach churning attempt at conversion therapy. After escaping the asylum and achieving fame, Lana grew heartless and superficial, but eventually evolved into a compassionate human being with the strength to confront and vanquish her horrific past. Meanwhile, O’Hare’s Liz Taylor emerged as the heart and soul of “Hotel”: an incomparably sassy transgender woman with a killer look and vast reserves of strength. She found and lost love in the form of Finn Wittrock’s adorably dim model Tristan (spoiler alert: the pair find happiness again, after death) and had an epic, guns blazing revenge moment set to Drake’s “Hotline Bling.” What’s not to love for a horror queen?

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