The eponymous robot doll joins an illustrious line-up of recent horror villains — Ma, Pennywise, The Babadook — embraced as queer heroes. Unlike those guys, M3GAN was built to be one
It’s not difficult to understand why queer audiences have embraced the M3GAN so quickly. That was the purpose behind her manufacture.
Here is the most succinct explanation for those who are unfamiliar. A young girl named Cady is sent to live with her workaholic, tech-savvy aunt after her parents pass away; the latter fills the parental void with an AI-driven doll named M3GAN, which is the subject of the new film from Saw director James Wan and the horror genre’s biggest star, Jason Blum. She is initially friendly as you might expect, and she is remarkable in that she always knows exactly what Cady needs.
There are a few drawbacks. Cady becomes too emotionally reliant on M3GAN for her own good, much like an orphaned baby bird that imprints on the first cunning creature it encounters after hatching. Not good. Oh, and M3GAN’s beta software goes into an excessively protective, sneaky frenzy, concluding that Cady must be kept safe on all fronts. all expenses. Speaking figuratively and colloquially, up to and including maximum slayage. Not very good, either.
Early trailers, featuring TikTok-ready scenes of M3GAN sashaying down a hall in a fashion most fierce, ignited the queer online zeitgeist. Online marketing quickly capitalized on the queer response, with M3GAN’s Twitter profile adopting the lower-case text speak of a stan, echoing gay slang (bestie, affinity for brunch, lots of nail polish emojis), and positioning M3GAN as an ally of the gays because, well, with a camp villain like this, of course you would.
In many ways, M3GAN resembles a Guncle: she is the parental usurper who ignores responsibility in favor of being the “cool” adult, and if such feelings register in her emotional cortex, one would assume she harbors deep delusions of grandeur. She is also happy to look fabulous while in charge of the children. That isn’t the reason why M3GAN, like many of her horror contemporaries before her, has been so popular with LGBTQ+ audiences; consider the memes that positioned the titular Babadook as a retroactive Pride icon or another well-known mononymous villain, Ma.
Maisie Williams replies to fans on the internet
Indeed, as M3GAN storms the box office in the US (it took in a staggering $30m in its opening weekend), the cultural conversation swelling into a whirlpool of thinkpieces and columns measuring this killer doll’s position in the online space, we risk overthinking it.
Even if taken somewhat out of context, a quote from M3GAN writer Akela Cooper that was widely mocked on Twitter after being shared by a film news aggregator effectively demonstrates our propensity for overstretching. She told SFX Magazine, “I actually asked one of my gay friends about [why M3GAN became a queer icon].” “He claimed that this set-up was actually a family reunion, in which the young girl had to move in with her aunt because she had lost her family. Then, this doll is introduced into the mix. The concept of “found family” appeals to a lot of people in the gay community.
Oh, okay. It’s certainly true, and Cooper has been unfairly criticized for taking this stance on M3GAN’s cult stardom, but we don’t need to overthink this. Yes, it’s possible that M3GAN speaks to us gay people on a deeper, subconscious level, reflecting our fears of being abandoned by our families, which unfortunately affect a disproportionately large portion of the LGBTQ+ community. We’re all Cady, pining for the embrace of a woman who yasses and kills her way to success, as we all so obviously desire. Perhaps she is the maternal figure we all long for.
Or she could just be sort of serving. Her reference points are empowering pop ballads, especially Sia’s “Titanium,” which is presented here in the form of a camp lullaby, just like the most dangerously online gays who spend hours of screen time scrolling through the Twitter timeline. She kills bitches after scanning them for filth. She twists herself in a rhythmic manner, much like many stars on a Friday night in Heaven.
There’s also the all-too-familiar sense of whimsical tragedy, ala Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, which has long been cherished by gay men who enjoy fantasizing about being famous. (See also Mia Goth’s hysterical performance in Pearl, another horror film that this year’s LGBTQ+ audiences readily accepted.) She was designed from the very first wire for “icon” chants and finger snapping.
Louis Peitzman stated on Twitter that Allison Williams in M3GAN “understands that if you want to make a toy that preteen girls will love, you have to create something that gay people will lose their shit over.” And throughout the entire one hundred minute runtime, M3GAN is side-eyeing her mechanical, yassified peepers while dramatically removing her big-frame sunglasses like a want tobe Hollywood starlet. To put it bluntly, it’s all purposefully ridiculous and targeted at a demographic who, to put it mildly, loves that shit. Avoid going overboard. Just relax and take it all in.
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