When The Babadook came out in 2014, audience members were awed by the film's emotional authenticity and unique visual style. Plus, its titular monster was shit-your-pants levels of terrifying.
The movie is about a single mother, Amelia, who resents her young son, Samuel, who she blames for her husband's death. When the two of them move into a new house, the boy finds a pop-up book called Mr. Babadook, from which the nightmarish Babadook springs forth—a spindly fingered, top-hat wearing supernatural creature who grows stronger as victims deny his existence. The film gained notoriety for its reexamination of familial horror story tropes and its avoidance of sacrificial motherhood or matricide. In their effort to escape the Babadook, mother and son actually grow closer together.
But The Babadook's true claim to fame and continued relevance stems from its antagonist's emergence as a queer icon. The fervor started on Tumblr, of course, and was probably intended as a joke. Netflix classified The Babadook as an LGBTQ+ title, and Tumblr user taco-bell-rey called them out for it. Memes began proliferating across the platform, and by mid-2017, the Babadook had cemented his status as a queer icon—popping up at Pride celebrations and inspiring drag performances.
For years, The Babadook director Jennifer Kent kept silent about the phenomenon. But at Sundance this year, where Kent's newest horror film The Nightingale is being screened, she finally acknowledged the icon her monster had become. "Of course, I love that story," she told Bloody Disgusting reporter Fred Topel. "I think it’s crazy and just kept him alive. I thought, 'Ah, you bastard.' He doesn’t want to die, so he’s finding ways to become relevant."
Given the Babadook's penchant for lurking around, Kent's long-awaited response to the phenomenon feels pitch perfect. Remember, the more you deny the existence of the Babadook, the more he'll infiltrate your daily life. According to the rules of first-order logic, ignoring the Babadook's status as a queer icon only makes it more true.
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