Sunday, June 16, 2024

Thanks to fans, Until Dawn is an iconic queer favourite

8 friends have just stepped foot onto Blackwood Mountain. Their goal? To “party like f***king pornstars” until dawn comes. If that sounds familiar, then you’ve probably heard of Until Dawn – a game that propelled Supermassive Games to even bigger success than before, spawning The Dark Picture Anthology and effectively scaring the pants off us every single year since.

Until Dawn understood the assignment from the get-go: a drama-filled horror game that knew each niche and trope that the genre had to offer and played it up by 100. And while I can’t speak for everyone, I know for sure that I was hopelessly taken in. Not by the world, but by the characters that inhabited it. That in itself is an odd opinion considering the main cast of Until Dawn was made up largely of typical horror stereotypes, but if there’s one thing that queer fans often find themselves flocking to – whether for better or for worse – it’s stereotypes. Especially in the horror genre.

There’s already been plenty of think pieces about the importance of Until Dawn and how it revitalized the slasher subgenre. But it goes further than that: Until Dawn is an iconic queer favourite among gamers, which in itself is incredible, as there isn’t a single queer romance involved in the game. But as it turns out, it didn’t need to be: fans saw the cliche’s and, as fans are wont to do, turned them on their head.

The first was with the character of Josh. For the most part, Josh is a character that the others slowly learn more about as the game goes on. Despite his constant, unbelievably creepy jeers of wanting to have sex with the female characters he spends time with, Josh is a character that many have interpreted as being queer in some way or another. One reason for this is because, even though Josh is understandably devastated after the loss of his sisters, he also suffers from feeling like an outsider and unloved by the people around him – to the point that has to go to therapy. This doesn’t necessarily mean he is queer, but it’s no mistake that feeling as though you don’t belong is something that many people – queer folk in particular – feel throughout their life. Of course, considering Josh’s role in the story, his interpreted queerness isn’t the positive people might be looking for.

Sam is a well-loved character and is the only woman who isn’t aggressively paired up with someone of the opposite sex

Then there’s Sam. Unlike the other women involved in the game, Sam is not aggressively paired up with any of the guys and the only hint that she’s into anyone is a small interaction between her and Josh. Even so, her main focus in the game is always Hannah – one of the twins that goes missing a few years before the game’s events happen. She’s not introduced as ‘Josh’s crush’ or ‘Mike’s ex’ or vice versa, she’s known solely as ‘Hannah’s best friend’. Again, there’s nothing about that which screams ‘Sam is a big goddamn lesbian’ but considering the rest of the gals and guys in the group… She is the anomaly out of them all and that says something.

It also doesn’t help that her connection with Josh outside of general friendship is that they are both unable to move away from the death of Hannah and Beth. Seems a bit gay to me.

Regardless of how you feel about Josh, Sam and the other characters within Until Dawn – it’s clear why queer fans have gravitated towards this game over any in the Dark Anthology series. The stereotypical trope of each character is hard to ignore and with stereotypes comes exaggeration, and with exaggeration, well…That fits nicely under the term ‘camp’, now doesn’t it? And as much as we can try to deny it, who doesn’t love camp with their horror? It’s why queer fans love Emily in particular – seriously, I don’t think I’ve met one queer fan of Until Dawn who doesn’t think she’s a queen. It’s because she’s exaggerated to the point that it’s laughable and camp. It’s funny that even though Until Dawn is incredibly straight, it’s also inherently queer in its presentation of themes and characters.

So it’s a shame that the Dark Anthology games doesn’t even try pick up with that same level of exaggeration and stereotypes, instead adopting a more serious tone. It’s sad really because there’s nothing quite as homoerotic as sticking something into another dude several times… Even if it’s a knife.

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