In the aftermath of 2017’s It, Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise the Dancing Clown became something of a gay icon. Between memes and makeup tutorials, Pennywise was everywhere — he and another monstrous LGBTQ+ favorite, the Babadook, were seen as #couplegoals. But after seeing It Chapter Two, I’m sad to announce that Pennywise is not gay, or even an ally. In fact, Pennywise is surprisingly anti-queer.
Spoilers for It Chapter Two follow.
As has been previously reported, the film opens with a scene straight from Stephen King’s original novel, in which a gay couple (Xavier Dolan and Taylor Frey) are attacked by a group of homophobes, who beat Dolan’s character Adrian and throw him over the side of a bridge. His boyfriend, Don, follows him down to the river below, just in time to watch Pennywise literally eat his heart out. This attack, inspired by the real-life murder of Charlie Howard, could be written off as simply Pennywise taking an opportunity to feed (although its implied, moreso in King’s novel than the film, that the entity It — the name the Losers Club gives to the monster otherwise known as Pennywise — controls the town of Derry and may have telepathically inspired the homophobes to attack the couple.)
But what really cements Pennywise’s bigotry is his treatment of Richie (Bill Hader), who is revealed to be closeted and in love with his childhood friend Eddie (James Ransone). When Richie sets off to Derry’s arcade to procure a token needed for the ritual to defeat It once and for all — which turns out to be a literal arcade token — he reminisces about being called a “fag” as a child (Finn Wolfhard returns as his younger incarnation) by bully-turned-sociopath Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton). Then he’s attacked by a giant Paul Bunyan statue and, eventually, Pennywise himself.
The killer clown isn’t content to just threaten Richie with violence. Instead, he reveals that he knows Richie’s secret, his “dirty little secret.” He doesn’t just say it, he sings it — the song even appears on the album’s soundtrack (coming for all the pop girls’ necks, I see). So Pennywise isn’t just the physical manifestation of what is revealed to be some kind of cosmic entity that feeds off fear and human flesh, he’s a homophobe. Trump’s America strikes again!