A Killer Return
Chucky is back just in time for Halloween, this time in a new TV series “Chucky,” on USA/SYFY, with an almost equal focus on it’s 14-year-old gay protagonist Jake, portrayed by Zackary Arthur, as is does in delving into the backstory of Charles Lee Ray, the serial killer spirit inhabiting the Chucky doll.
“Child’s Play” creator Don Mancini’s return to the world of the red-headed killer doll comes with an increased focus on the series’ evolving queerness, a topic that hasn’t been part of horror cinema other than deliberate shock and overt sexualization.
“Chucky” focuses just as much killing as other slashers, the kills are definitely part of what draws an audience, but the true heart of the series lies in Jake’s navigation of his climate as a young, gay man, the good and the bad.
“I wanted to create a final boy instead of a final girl,” Mancini told The New York Times, referring to the horror trope of a strong female character as the last standing, the one who lives to tell the tale. “It’s not something I ever saw when I was Jake’s age. Fortunately the world has turned.”
According to Mancini, an out gay man, “[Jake] was always intended to be gay,” Mancini told NewNowNext. “I’ve been putting a lot of gay elements into the movies since 1998’s ‘Bride of Chucky’ and it became increasingly important to me, partly because I saw so many LGBTQ fans respond favorably. I thought, ‘Ok, this is great, let’s give young queer horror fans some representation.'”
That desire to infuse his work with characters and elements specific to LGBTQ populations not only drew LGBTQ fans to the series, but it also provided some of the first explorations of gender-diverse identities years before inclusion became a Hollywood mission. Chucky himself has a queer, genderfluid child Glen/Glenda, and relates to Jake’s LGBTQ experience through that relationship, even going so far as to separate homophobes as “monsters” in the eyes of a possessed, murderous doll.
Centering LGBTQ Experience
“Chucky” continues that attitude, with some autobiographical infusion from Mancini himself, especially as it relates to Jake and his abusive, unaccepting father, played by Devon Sawa. “It’s probably something many gay guys, particularly of my generation, can identify with,” Mancini said. “The actors and crew were aware that this was very personal to me … It was cathartic to see it acted out.”
The real heart of the series is Jake’s burgeoning romance with classmate Devon, played by Björgvin Arnarson. Mancini describes it as “PG-13 puppy love” that places LGBTQ youth in a common storytelling role where they haven’t historically been featured. “This a very sweet, PG-13 teen puppy love kind of thing we see in other genres that depict 8th graders and their burgeoning romantic interests, but we don’t get to see often with 14-year-old gay boys,” Mancini said. “It’s something I identify with from my own experience and could bring to it.”
What it all amounts to is the logical next step in the “Child’s Play” series open discussion of LGBTQ identities and topics through its bursts of bloody glory. “I love the character of Chucky, and I don’t get tired of him, but in order to keep it going this long, it can’t just be about a killer doll,” Mancini said.
That doesn’t mean that Chucky’s past doesn’t get some shine, though. Fan-favorites Brad Dourif and Jennifer Tilly return to their roles as the pint-sized pugilist and Tiffany respectively. Alex Vincent, who portrayed Chucky’s owner Andy in the first two films also makes a return, and other characters from the series, including Glen/Glenda, may show up as well.
Chucky: Previously on Towleroad
Image via NBCUniversal