Most fans of horror are aware of the infamous gay themes that are woven throughout A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge. In fact, the star of the movie, Mark Patton, was closeted during the film's production. Later, fans picked up on the not-so-subtle nods to queerness which the movie's writer denied. This denial led to Mark eventually quitting acting due to the emotional stress. With stories like that one, it's no wonder that the road from Nightmare to the new Chucky has been so long.
It took over 35 years to finally bring queerness into the horror genre in a way that was not offensive, or drowning in tropes. The new Chucky series on SyFy has what its creator, Don Mancini, is calling a "final boy." Jake Wheeler (played by Zackary Arthur) is the latest boy to be stuck with the serial killer–turned–Good Guy doll, and if that's not difficult enough, he's also a 14-year-old openly gay student grappling with his own sexuality. Let's meet horror's latest hero. Who is Jake on Chucky?
Who is Jake on 'Chucky'?
If you're wondering why anyone under the age of 40 would be interested in a Good Guy doll in 2021, the answer is of course art. Jake is an aspiring artist who comes across the doll at a yard sale. Who among us hasn't witnessed the youth of today thrifting things that we owned as children? His father, Luke Wheeler — played by Final Destination's Devon Sawa — is not too keen on Jake's artistic sensibilities, which as we know is code for not comfortable with his gay son.
Instead of having an honest discussion with Jake about his inability to accept his son's sexuality, Luke destroys the art project but not the demonic doll. Don Mancini — who wrote all seven of the original Chucky films — drew from his difficult relationship with his own father to create the tension between Luke and Jake. In an interview with Logo's NewNowNext, Mancini said, "It’s probably something many gay guys, particularly of my generation, can identify with."
It was always Mancini's intention for Jake to be gay. As an openly gay man himself, he already incorporated LGBTQ characters in the franchise. In 2004's Seed of Chucky, Chucky (Brad Dourif) and Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly) have a non-binary child, who is mentioned in the first episode of Chucky. It made sense to just continue with that arc. "Well, I'm just going to increasingly brand my franchise as the gay horror franchise," he told Looper.
How does Zackary Arthur feel about his role on 'Chucky'?
In the show, Jake has a crush on a fellow student named Devon Evans, played by Björgvin Arnarson. When discussing his story arc with Jake, Don Mancini had a conversation with both Zackary and his mother to make sure everyone was comfortable. The relationship between Jake and Devon is "sweet, PG-13 teen puppy love kind of thing we see in other genres that depict eighth graders and their burgeoning romantic interests, but we don’t get to see often with 14-year-old gay boys," Mancini told NewNowNext.
This is not Zackary's first time on a show with heavy LGBTQ themes. He previously played Zack Novak on Transparent. When discussing the themes of being tormented on Chucky, Zackary had this to say to Screen Rant: "One thing I like to mention is that this series really shows the problems that happen every day, as far as bullying and people not accepting people who are coming into their sexuality, and I hope people empathize with that."
Chucky airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EST on USA & SyFy.