Each week Joe Lipsett will highlight a key scene or interaction in Don Mancini’s Chucky series to consider how the show is engaging with and contributing to queer horror.
We’re into the homestretch now. This penultimate episode of Chucky’s first season* really kicks the plot into overdrive as everyone descends upon Hackensack and the show sets the literal stage for a big finale at a charity screening of Frankenstein.
*USA Network and SYFY better renew this show. We’ve all seen the numbers!
Mixed in among the legion of Chucky dolls at 987 Sherwood Lane, Jennifer Tilly vamping it up in a near-literal Black Widow dress, and Junior (Teo Briones) murdering his father Logan (Devon Sawa), there’s also a really important character moment to discuss.
Obviously “Twice The Grieving, Double The Loss” is tough for Junior and Devon (Björgvin Arnarson), who both lost their mothers last week. They deal with the grief in different ways: Junior succumbs to devilish temptation and kills his father at Chucky (Brad Dourif)’s behest (there’s a conversation about cyclical violence to be had here, but that’s for another piece). Devon, meanwhile, pushes Jake (Zackary Arthur) away, retreating into the comfort of his true crime obsession.
The one thing that both boys do is blame Jake. Junior lashes out at him for being a curse (heh), while Devon pulls away, arguing that “being around you hurts.” Jake, in return, opts to pack a bag, steal cash from his drunk uncle and head for the bus station. And that’s where the queer horror of this episode is located: homelessness and Chosen Family.
It’s significant that when the pair experienced trauma in the past, they turned to each other and (eventually) Lexy (Alyvia Alyn Lind) for support. While we saw in the last episode that Devon’s mother was supportive of his queerness, she still wasn’t the one he confided in or relied upon when he was in trouble. Jake, meanwhile, has never had a parent that he could turn to, which continues in this episode as Logan drinks away his grief and passes out on the couch. Both of these storylines align with the experiences of the characters throughout the season, which has repeatedly been defined by a divide between teens and adults (a common YA trope, which Chucky absolutely is).
The fact that Jake nearly winds up homeless and Devon expresses concerns about being put into foster care are both incredibly legitimate concerns for queer youth. According to Youth.Gov:
LGBT youth experience homelessness at higher rates than non-LGBT youth for a range of reasons. A recent study of more than 350 runaway and homeless providers throughout the United States identified four top causes for homelessness among LGBT youth: (1) family rejection resulting from sexual orientation or gender identity; (2) physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; (3) aging out of the foster care system; and (4) financial and emotional neglect.
Significantly, when Jake returns from the bus station, he does not go to his blood relatives. Instead he goes to Lexy, who remarks that his decision to abandon his Chosen family – meaning her and Devon – is selfish. While her word choice is a touch cruel, the sentiment is powerful. Going back to episode one when Jake’s father failed to support his sexual orientation, Chucky has been engaging in a dialogue about the value of finding your Chosen – or Found – Family, which, according to GLAAD, is “a group of supportive people providing unconditional support.”
Chosen family is not an exclusively queer concept, but it tends to be more relevant to our lived experiences, particularly the 39% of queer adults who have faced rejection from their birth families. Lexy’s use of the term is a reflection of two things: 1) it is emblematic of just how far the character has come from those early episodes, but also 2) how she – and by extension the show – views her friendship with Jake and Devon. The words are also a signal to queer audiences who will recognize and understand the depth and importance of the term, which explains why Lexy and Jake are willing to lay their lives on the line to rescue Devon heading into the finale.
After all, these three really only have each other now and nothing is more important than (Chosen) family. We’ll see if it’s enough to get them through the battle to come.
Chucky airs Tuesdays on Syfy and USA Network. For more coverage, see Meagan’s review of episode seven.