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How They/Them Is Changing Horror for Queer People

How They/Them Is Changing Horror for Queer People

They/Them exclusive first look image
They/Them exclusive first-look image. Photo courtesy of Peacock.

While referencing horror classics like Pyscho and Friday the 13thThey/Them takes a novel queer approach to horror.

The ultimate queer horror film, They/Them, is hitting the small screen this summer. As the first of its kind, the slasher film follows a group of LGBTQ+ campers who arrive at a conversion camp for the summer to abolish their queerness.

Beyond the obvious horrors of psychological abuse that campers must endure, they also must survive a mysterious masked killer lurking around Whistler Camp.

Starring Kevin Bacon, Theo Germaine, Carrie Preston, and Anna Chlumsky, and directed by Academy Award nominee John Logan, the nail-biting film offers an unexpected yet refreshing take on a classic horror story we've seen time after time. Co-executive producer Scott Turner Schofield recently spoke with The Advocate to discuss the groundbreaking film.

Why was it important to you to represent every person's identity authentically with casting?
Trans actors made authentic casting an issue that came to a head in 2018, but Billy Eichner has called this out for gay men as late as this summer. This is not an argument, it is a fact: If you are an out LGBTQ+ person, it is still harder to get work in Hollywood -- in roles that reflect your own identity or any role at all. It is an implicit bias employment discrimination issue, and it is why so many LGBTQ+ celebrities come out publicly much later in life -- we have had to choose between being able to be seen as an artist or being seen as our whole selves in the world. But that is changing, thanks to everyone -- queer, straight, cis, trans -- who refuses to let the bias and discrimination continue. So we cast They/Them carefully because we wanted the best actors, period. As you'll see from their performances, these LGBTQ+ actors have long careers ahead of them -- where they can be who they are and play truly any role.

The horror genre is traditionally rich with sexual and gender differences, launching the archetype of the Final Girl, but it's also been a bastion of dangerous trans tropes. How does They/Them take dangerous horror tropes like those established in Psycho and Dressed to Kill and turn them on their head, if this is applicable to your film?
We actually have a direct reference to Psycho in the film, centering Quei Tann, who is trans. I won't spoil it here, but you'll know it when you see it. It's one of the first moments in the film where you see John Logan turning a queer gaze on horror's history and making trans fear the story rather than fear of trans people.

We filmed in the same location as Friday the 13th: Jason Lives, which rooted us in horror history, and because everyone who worked on the film is a deep horror nerd, the references to everyone's favorite flicks abound. So straight and cis horror fans will feel totally at home, but for queer and trans fans, you will be able to feel the difference in this film. I worked on the script, I watched every take of the film, and yet it took watching the final cut to feel the incredible surprise of knowing that I had never felt this way before: that fears I have as a queer and trans person matter and are central to the story. And while that was, yes, scary -- it was also powerful in a positive way.

How do you see They/Them moving storytelling forward for queer, nonbinary folks?
To have a film made by queer and trans people, starring queer and trans people -- but offered by major outlets like Blumhouse and Peacock to the world at large as a story anyone can scream at -- breaks down the barriers of bias that have held queer cinema back for too long.

They/Them is a groundbreaking example (among a few, right now) of a film where the story, the execution, and the quality did not have to be compromised because of its LGBTQ+ heart and soul, where LGBTQ+ themes are the reason it was produced and platformed, not perceived to be a liability to it by Hollywood. The more films like They/Them that succeed, the more that will be made -- because Hollywood always wants another success. So in that way, the film is helping move LGBTQ+ storytelling forward.

But it isn't just a story. When you know our stories, you're more likely to support us. The more films centering LGBTQ+ creatives from script to screen, the more people see and understand LGBTQ+ perspectives, the less "different" audiences will view ourselves and each other. I got into film and TV because I know how it can support positive change, and I see They/Them as a step in that direction.

They/ThemWhat are some of your favorite horror films and why?The original Scream, for the fun frights that hit me at just the right time in my life; The Craft because it is iconic and brilliant and necessary; The Craft: Legacy because I had such a good time working on it, and Zoe Lister-Jones is such an amazing artist and ally all at the same time.

But my all-time favorite horror film is Get Out. First of all, it's just an excellent horror film, hits all the beats, the performances are fantastic, the premise and the way it plays out had me glued to the screen. It stays at the top of my list because the way it used horror told my mind (and pounding heart) a story that helped me understand, in a profound way that stays with me, people whose experience is different than my own. If you can take the fear of another person seriously, you can seriously respect them.

They/Them premieres on Peacock August 15.

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Magazine - Gus Kenworthy

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