More than two years ago, in one of the most unexpected and joyous moments for the internet, the titular monster from The Babadook came out of the closet as gay through a series of jokey memes. Even more surprising, the “gay Babadook” craze Babashook the world and became an instant gay icon. Looking back on all the Tumblr threads (which includes a fantasized romance with Pennywise the It clown), Jennifer Kent, the writer-director behind the 2014 modern horror masterpiece, is still trying to wrap her head around it.
“I’m still trying to work that one out… It’s quite perplexing,” Kent told EW while discussing her new film The Nightingale over the phone from Australia. “I feel it’s really quite beautiful, but I still have no idea why.”
Pausing for a moment to consider it further, she adds, “I mean, I kind of do.”
In a 2014 interview with The Guardian, Kent said she wrote The Babadook, a story about a widow and her son haunted by a malevolent entity, out of a “need to face the darkness in ourselves and in our lives.” But, in 2016, one Tumblr user, Ianstagram, had a different take: he transformed the stuff of nightmares into a top-hatted “gay man who just wants to live his life in a small Australian suburb,” though society wants to keep him in the closet.
That same year, some Netflix subscribers wrote how the Babadook appeared within the streaming platform’s section of LGBTQ movies, though it’s a little unclear as to whether these images were Photoshopped or an actual slip by the company. Regardless, by 2017, Netflix’s Twitter channel was promoting the film during Pride Month. Coincidence? … I mean, possibly.
Now, gay Babadook is everywhere, from Pride Parades to rainbow lapel pins. According to a 2019 survey by BuzzFeed News and Whitman Insight Strategies, 6 percent of LGBTQ people polled count the Babadook as a gay icon.
“I guess he’s an outsider of sorts,” Kent says of the trend. “It’s funny. It’s charming, I think, that the gay community has latched onto it. It’s really sweet. He’s trying to prolong his life, he’s trying to stay relevant.”
This year, timed to international LGBTQ Pride month in June, home video distributor Shout! Factory released a special rainbow-covered Blu-ray of The Babadook in honor of his status as an icon — and you can bet Kent has a copy of her own.
“I got one in the mail,” she says. “It’s got pride of place on my bookshelf.”