The Babadook as Gay Icon
In our last outright spooky blog post for this Halloween season, I wanted to follow-up on a Tweet I saw a couple of weeks ago (which of course I now can’t find) about how wild 2018 is because the Babadook is now the internet’s favourite gay icon. I was as intrigued as I was here for it.
Full disclosure: I’ve never seen the movie The Babadook. I’m too much of a chicken for scary movies, so had to rely on good ol’ IMDb for the following plot synopsis: “A widowed mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son's fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.” A spoilerrific description of the plot (which is the only way I consume horror movies, btw) filled in the following blanks: The widowed mother, Amelia, reads to her son, Sam, from a book called Mister Babadook, and it seems like the monster in the book becomes a reality and terror ensues. The monster is finally defeated when Amelia stands up to the thing, and it seemingly takes up residence in the basement where it’s suggested that Amelia takes care of it.
LGBTQ, where the “B” stands for “Babadook”
The Babadook’s (or, The Babs, as I’ll be calling him) adoption by the LGBTQ community seems to have started in 2016, but found traction in February 2017 when a Buzzfeed writer reposted a Tumblr thread to Twitter in which the many interpretations of the movie were discussed. The inciting comments seems to have been: “It may be ‘just a movie’ to you, but to the LGBTQ community, the Babadook is a symbol of our journey.” From there, the Tumblr community started tagging on the thought, and the next thing you knew there was a whole culture/meme history built around The Babs. A non-hetero Babs hit the main stream when social media influences (like Mikey Pop – and don’t ask me who that is, because I’m not cool enough to know) reposted memes and viral videos featuring Netflix and RuPaul’s Drag Race crossover content.
I think the best way to describe why The Babs is seen as a symbol of the LGBTQ community is the following tweet from @gaywonk:
An article on Vox.com breaks down why phenomenon further with the statement: “Mister Babadook, as the figure is referred to in the movie, is queer in the most empirical sense. Its existence is defiance, and it seeks to break down the borders of acceptability and establishment… although it’s couched in absurdity, the idea of a queer Babadook is also perhaps a way to satirize bigger, real-life ongoing conversations and cultural preoccupations.”
Babadook on the Loose
The Babs as LGBTQ icon wasn’t just relegated to a few social media threads. Oh no – he stormed the public consciousness in the summer of 2017. While attention to the original Tumblr thread was heating up, pride month (June) was quickly approaching. Whether it was an attempt to seem cool, a genuine love for the LGBTQ funny, or a desire to spread the smiles around, The Babs started getting attention in the real world from some very public appearances.
On June 9, 2017, Maura Healey, the Attorney General for Massachusetts, posted a Babadook meme welcoming everyone to her state:
2017 also saw a lot of Babadooks appear at Gay Pride Celebrations:
At the end of the day, I love this appropriation. It’s sublimely ridiculous, and yet it’s also heartbreaking. At the root of all the jokes, there’s clearly a lot of truth – some people do feel like they’re the monsters haunting their families. Which is just not cool. No one should be made to feel like their version of representation is a creature designed to terrorize. So, LGBTQ community – keep up the good work with the funny, but know that there are allies out here that see through the masque at the glorious Babs you really are.
Now, everyone, go forth and be nice to each other.