Most mainstream horror rarely have queer women be the lead, but the Netflix trilogy takes a rebellious stance with a romance that covers centuries. Director Leigh Janiak’s “Fear Street” trilogy is based on the author R.L. Stine’s horror series and not just has queer people as the leads, but also an adorable lesbian romance that pushes the entire narrative. The director says it was intentional and it was an “opportunity to tell a story that hasn’t been told within that genre very often, if at all,” she said.
Stine’s stories were mostly “very straight and very white,” but Leigh Janiak’s version includes successors set in 1978 and 1666. The present has a gay Black teenager, Deena as one of the leads, who has the regular teenager troubles of homophobic parents. But she fights for the relationship with Sam (the other lead). She doesn’t allow anything to get in the way — not a witch, who puts a curse on her town, wayyyy back in the 17th century, not an evil incarnate in the form of a white male cop and not even a killer in a skull mask.
Right at the start of the first part “1994,” she breaks up with her girlfriend who is passing as straight, with a jock boyfriend. This is in some way to satisfy her homophobic mother and largely the heteronormative society itself. Very relatable to most of us! She is not the typical mainstream 90s kid (at least in the US), wears (and rocks) oversize flannel, and is into girls. It wasn’t easy for her to “pass” as straight and the society around her didn’t make it easy for her. And somewhere “she’s been forced to take ownership of that.”
A lot of other characters in this Leigh Janiak version of “Fear Street” similarly defy the typical “wholesome, white final girl” trope. Deena’s brother, Josh, spends hours in online chat rooms that talk about conspiracy theories and the innumerable murders in their town, Shadyside. Her classmate, Kate, is an alpha American-Filipina cheerleader. Oo, and then there is also Martin, a black young man, an obedient custodial engineer at the mall who is continually profiled by the police. All these characters, although supporting roles anchor the story. They’re also the leads in some ways.
In “1666”, there is Sarah Fier, a queer woman who was portrayed as a witch by the people around her and later hanged on account of her love for another woman. It is somewhere the same kind of hatred and violence that keeps Deena and Sam apart even in the 90s’. In this part of the trilogy, Leigh Janiak wanted to focus on “the idea that women who were accused of being witches back then were those who merely didn’t fit the standard” set by people around them back then. Labeled witches just because they were not falling in line with whatever societal set lines were.
Eventually, the “Fear Street” trilogy was ambitious in more than one way. For people who enjoy slashers, there was carnage along the way. The leads, Deena and Sam help not just save the town, but more importantly, they preserve their love for each other.