Freddy Krueger isn’t your typical gay icon. He’s not blindingly attractive, laugh out loud hilarious, and he certainly isn’t a style guru. So why does Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985) leave the viewer thinking they just watched a classic gay horror-comedy? You could argue that all of the Nightmare films have a certain level of camp value, and Freddy himself isn’t always as scary as he was perhaps intended to be. But Freddy’s Revenge takes it further than any of the other films in the long-running franchise and genuinely feels like an LGBT+ film in parts.
Was this the intention of the filmmakers? There’s been a lot of rumour and whispering around the movies’ gay subtext over the years, with people involved in the film’s production arguing both sides. Some say of course it was a gay film, while others say there was never any intention to make the film gay. So it really is open to the viewer’s opinion and personal experience of watching the film. I’d be interested to see what a group of straight people thought of the film, but for me, this film is gay with a capital G. So join me, Anthony Divers, as I take a look back at Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge and ask 1, 2, does this seem gay to you?
So first up, let’s talk about the main character of the film. This time around he’s a teenager haunted by his nightmares named Jesse Walsh. Portrayed by a young Mark Patton, Jesse lives with his two parents and younger sister at 1428 Elm Street, a house we soon discover was the home of Nancy in the first Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) film. We assume she is now in some kind of mental asylum after we hear Jesse being told she went crazy after seeing her boyfriend killed across the street, and her mother commit suicide in the front room. We learn a different tale in Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)… But back to Jesse.
The opening scene would have us believe that Jesse is an outcast at school, unlike the original Nightmare protagonist Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), who was actually quite popular. This opening scene shows Jesse at the back of a school bus, sitting alone and looking uncomfortable amongst his rowdy classmates. But as the film progresses, we find that he isn’t so outcast at all. One of the popular girls, who I swear was Meryl Streep the first time I saw her but is strikingly similar. Kim Myers (Hellraiser: Bloodline) has a crush on Jesse. He’s good at sports, and despite initially appearing as the ‘bully’ character, teenage dirtbag Grady (Robert Rusler) ends up being quite friendly with Jesse. (Not as friendly as I suspect Jesse would have liked him to be, but more on that later).
So, this teen is popular, the girls seem to like him and he has friends. So why did he see himself as an outcast in the nightmare at the start of the film? Could it be because he has a secret that he thinks would cause his social downfall if it was revealed to his peers? Something like being gay, perhaps? We never get any definite answer, but after re-watching the film recently, I would say that Jesse sees himself as an outcast because he and he alone knows the truth about his sexuality.
The truth, in mid-’80s America, could really get you in trouble. If Jesse was openly gay, this movie wouldn’t have happened. I believe that his struggles with his sexual desires, which he considers to be wrong and evil because of the way he has been raised, is the key to Freddy’s Revenge. Without his dark secret, Freddy wouldn’t have appeared at all. What if Freddy was only there as a physical manifestation of Jesse’s fear of being gay? Someone else agrees with this theory, more on him later.
Next up, there’s the male nudity. Now I’m not talking about any completely naked men; there’s only one of them in the film, and we see him from behind so it’s not so graphic. We also see some other guy’s naked ass, two scenes with men in their underwear, and I honestly lost count of scenes with topless men. I got to around 19 before the final party scene, where every guy was topless. Now, these numbers don’t seem so high, but we need to remember that this film was released in 1985. Boobs in horror were at critical levels and a killer couldn’t swing his weapon of choice without seeing some young lady’s nipples.
So for this film to have zero boobs, and so many men taking the limelight instead, we have to question why. Why no boobs? Why so many topless teenage boys? Because Jesse was gay, that’s why. To be fair, a lot of the topless scenes were of Jesse, and that could be because his house was as hot as a boiler room due to Freddy’s increasingly strong presence. But mostly I think it was the film maker’s way of subliminally telling us of Jesse’s secret desires. Also, there’s the dancing scene. Oh boy. Jesse gyrates around his room while tidying up, making some very sexual gestures. It feels alien in the film; I don’t get it. No sir, I don’t like it.
The next part of my evidence; we have that gym teacher Coach Schneider (Marshall Bell). Now a lot of you may not be aware of this, but a young schoolboy having a crush on his gym teacher is kind of like a gay urban legend. Almost all of us either had a crush on our gym teacher, know someone else who had a crush on their gym teacher, or have even heard of someone who went ‘all the way’ with their gym teacher. That third one is a lie 99% of the time. Stuart (Aiden Gillen) influenced a lot of people in British TV show Queer as Folk. It has been said that a homosexual gentleman will, how do I word this…embellish the truth from time to time to achieve a heavier punchline.
So when we see Jesse bumping into his gym teacher at a very obviously gay bar, I don’t think I was the only gay man to roll my eyes. This old chestnut?! There’s Coach Schneider, in a leather vest, in a gay bar, grabbing hold of Jesse who, surprise surprise, has his pyjama shirt wide open. The next scene is Jesse running around the school gym before being told to hit the showers by Coach Schneider. The scene after that cranks the queer to 11, as we see the still leather-clad coach literally having a load of balls attacking him in the changing rooms.
I don’t want to sound childish but come on! Balls? Really? The gay teacher is attacked by balls?! I feel like I’m making this shit up, but I’m not. He is then dragged into the showers by a skipping rope and stripped naked as the showering Jesse looks on in what we assume is horror but is possibly a little lust too. He is hung up to the shower heads, facing the wall, hinting at bondage and kinks years before 50 Shades of Grey (2015). Then, when Jesse gets too excited by what he is seeing, he disappears and Freddy appears in his place. Fred does what he does best, killing Coach Schneider and leaving his wet naked body suspended by the skipping rope.
It’s one of the most homoerotic death scenes I’ve ever seen. We then see a blood-smeared Jesse, naked except for Freddy’s iconic glove. He clocks the glove and then screams the girliest scream in film history. I’m ashamed to admit it made me laugh. Balls, bondage and a girly scream. I loved it.
Freddy loves Jesse
So next up, I would like to talk about Jesse’s relationship with the man himself: Freddy Krueger. They were never going to be the next Jay Z and Beyoncé, but there’s definitely something there. Let me say right now; I do not think Freddy Krueger is gay. But what I do believe, is that he knows Jesse’s secret, and he uses it to get inside Jesse. Not in a gay way, in an evil demon possession kind of way. Jesse is of course terrified of Freddy. He doesn’t want to sleep with him; he wants to get away from him. His relationship with Freddy is reminiscent to me of the relationship Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) has with Bob (Frank Silva) in Twin Peaks.
There is terror and hate, but there’s also obsession and, (I feel like I’m cheating the memory of Laura by saying this but), an element of lust? Maybe? Just possibly? I refer only to the scene in Fire Walk With Me (1992), where Laura sees who Bob really is for the first time while he is on top of her in bed. Just before she sees him, there is lust there. Not love, but carnal lust. A spark; a passion for the forbidden. (forgive me, Laura) If Jesse was a secret homosexual, wouldn’t a man telling you that he wanted to be inside you be a tiny bit exciting, despite the way he looks?!
I know I’m stretching here, but it makes sense in my head. In one scene Freddy says ‘you’ve got the body and I’ve got the brain.’ He then pulls his skin away, revealing his pulsating brain, which spoils the moment a little. For a second, Jesse could take that as a compliment! I joke, but I do think that Freddy being obsessed with Jesse feeds into the homoerotic subtext. He may have only wanted Jesse’s body so that he could possess him and kill all of his friends, but for a young gay man to feel like this man is obsessed with him would light a flicker of excitement inside him.
Just while we’re on the subject, I don’t want to seem like I’m obsessed with Twin Peaks or anything, but it also struck me that Nancy’s diary was very similar to Laura Palmer’s which was released years later. It had entries such as ‘he comes to me at night’ and ‘he wants to kill me.’ I guess Bob could be the original nightmare…
Next up, we need to talk about Ron Grady. Another gay urban legend is falling for the one who bullies you at school. I think this one is kind of like straight girls liking the ‘bad boy,’ but much more toxic. Ron bullies Jesse a lot at the start of the movie, but we quickly get the impression that Jesse actually likes Grady. Grady is, of course, gorgeous—your typical ’80s jock type. He’s also not afraid of showing some skin (who wears short shorts?!). He also has my favourite line in the film when he asks Jesse about his relationship with Kim Myers’ character, Lisa. He turns to Jesse, mid-press-up and asks ‘are you mounting her nightly or not’. Who said romance was dead!
So Grady is this beautiful bully that Jesse gets closer and closer to. By the end of the film, or the end of Grady’s story anyway, I was fully expecting a kiss followed by the whole ‘what the hell bro I’m not a fruit,’ but sadly this didn’t happen. What did happen was just as gay. Lisa had been trying to get closer to Jesse for the whole film, and as her house party got into full swing, they end up alone in a little hut. Things start going the way Lisa wants them to go when Jesse has a part of his body get bigger and wet. It’s his tongue. He basically gets Freddy’s sex pest tongue from the infamous phone scene in the first film, but I’m reading between the gay lines here.
So, he freaks out and runs; and where does he run to after getting too steamy with this gorgeous girl? You guessed it; Grady’s house. Specifically, Grady’s bedroom. Which, on a side note, features posters on the walls of gay icon Tina Turner and flamboyant Brit-pop star Limahl. Is Grady gay too?! The point is he runs from Lisa to Grady. Jesse fully has a crush on Grady, which is sad considering he kills him in the next scene. Homosexuals can be so dramatic when jilted!
Behind the camera
I’d also like to touch upon some things I discovered while digging into the background of the film that also adds to the facts pointing to this being a gay film. According to Patton, one scene in the film was rewritten after he refused to do it, worrying it was too strong a hint at homosexuality. In the scene where Freddy rubs one of his blades along Jesse’s lips, the original plan was for him to actually insert the blade into Jesse’s mouth. Patton felt this was too blatantly a reference to oral sex, and asked for the scene to be changed. Apparently, tension was high between Patton and writer of the second film David Chaskin (I, Madman).
Patton believed the role was written gay, as Chaskin knew he was a closeted homosexual at the time. But Chaskin denies this, as well as all allegations of gay subtext, stating the role came across gay because of the way Patton acted it. Quite the drama! Patton allegedly stopped acting after this film because of the stress filming caused him. Even the man behind the glove, Robert Englund has commented in interviews how he believes the film was ‘obviously intended as a bisexual film’. He states that Freddy only manifested to Jesse because of his sexual desires. An interesting take on it.
Was Freddy even in this film? Or was it all in Jesse’s head? His dark secret manifesting itself as an actual monster? It’s feasible. Struggling with secrets can affect people in many ways. Perhaps Jesse was struggling to cope with what he thought was a terrible secret. And God knows stranger things happen in the later movies…New Nightmare (1994) anyone?
So after looking at my findings, what do you think? Does the second Nightmare on Elm Street feel gay to you? I personally think it’s pretty undeniable at this point. It’s a film about a secret homosexual, dealing with his demons of shame and doubt while growing up in the house where Nancy lived. (It occurs to me that Nancy and Jesse are both derogatory words for homosexuals. Interesting…) It is indeed an interesting film in the series in the sense that Freddy wants to possess someone, as opposed to killing them in their nightmares. This leads me to believe that Freddy Krueger really wasn’t in this film. It was all Jesse.
Which kind of sucks when you think about it. He was so worried about his sexuality that he made up a killer and hid behind his ‘mask’ to kill his friends. That was better than accepting he was gay? And I thought I was a drama queen!