The Babadook Is a Frightening, Fabulous New Gay Icon

“Fierce,” perhaps the greatest compliment that Twitter’s gay conglomerate could ever confer, is as apt an adjective as any for the Internet’s unlikely new queer icon. The Babadook is a snaggletoothed,
black-hatted monster who first emerged as a villain in Jennifer Kent’s
allegorical horror film of the same name, in which he haunted a single
mother’s home as she struggled, after her husband’s sudden death, to
raise a quirky, raucous son. The film, released in 2014, concluded with
the Babadook’s confinement in the family’s basement, but, thanks to a rampant, original “Babadiscourse” on Tumblr, he has since risen to new
renown, styled and celebrated by online visionaries eager to reinterpret
his every feature as a sign of queer resistance. In recent weeks, and in
time for Pride Month, more memes than one could imagine have
Photoshopped the Babadook into scenes from gay culture: a scrapbooking
class, a city still from “Looking,” a runway from “RuPaul’s Drag Race,”
a Stonewall protest. Media critics have paused to opine on the monster’s “camp sensibility” and to aggregate fan art and tributes at pride
parades across the country, where the Babadook has appeared on floats
and even in the flesh, portrayed by twerking impersonators with enormous
rainbow flags. That creepy pallor? A daring powder foundation. The
talons are a manicure, the top hat a statement piece.

It was Netflix, at least allegedly, that helped to inspire the monster’s
new identity. Late in 2016, a screen shot surfaced on social media
showing “The Babadook” listed under the streaming service’s L.G.B.T.
menu. (Though many claim that the image is doctored, Netflix, whose
representatives seem to be in on the joke, may well choose to take
credit for the provision of a new queer icon after its unpopular
decision, earlier this month, to cancel the gay-friendly science-fiction
series “Sense8.”) Part of this narrative’s fun is the possibility of an
accidental…

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