The Stranger Things star, 18, posted footage of himself lip-synching to an audio clip of a woman saying, “You know what it never was? That serious,” with a text overlay reading, “When I finally told my friends and family I was gay after being scared in the closet for 18 years and all they said was ‘we know.’”
In a caption, the teen added, “I guess I’m more similar to Will than I thought,” referring to his character on the Netflix sci-fi series.
After season 4 of the drama premiered last year, Schnapp confirmed that Will is gay and in love with his friend Mike (Finn Wolfhard), who is in turn dating Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). “It’s pretty clear this season that Will has feelings for Mike,” the Bridge of Spies star told Variety in July 2022. “All his friends, they all have girlfriends and they all fit into their different clubs. Will has never really found anywhere to fit in. I think that’s why so many people come up to me and tell me that they love Will and they resonate with him so much, because it’s such a real character.”
Viewers of the show had speculated for years that Will identifies as LGBTQ+, but Schnapp said that it was an intentional choice to have the character slowly come to terms with his sexuality. “Now it’s 100 percent clear that he is gay and he does love Mike,” he explained. “But before, it was a slow arc. I think it is done so beautifully, because it’s so easy to make a character just like all of a sudden be gay.”
In one viral scene, Will turned away from Mike and cried after giving him a pep talk about Eleven that was obviously about his own feelings for Mike. A screenshot from the moment has since become a meme, with fans using it to describe things like, “When someone tries to explain the rules of any card game to me.”
Schnapp has said he doesn’t totally get why the image became so popular, but one Stranger Things director had an idea. “He said, ‘I think it’s because it perfectly represents the feeling of suffering in silence. Of a quiet pain,’” the University of Pennsylvania student told Vogue in December 2022. “I think a lot of people can relate to that.”