Do me a favor and go on Twitter. (Please come back when you are finished.) Search for the terms “Evan Hansen Gay. “And then scroll down to your heart’s content. You won’t run out of people discovering, as the Broadway musical turned big movie heads for theaters around the world on Friday, that Dear Evan Hansen is not a strange story; hat holder Evan Hansen isn’t some sad gay kid who gets bullied and goes up to high school in the bathroom for lunch. No: Evan Hansen is a heterosexual threat.
Yet this ubiquitous notion that Evan is gay has persisted for years since the Broadway blockbuster debut. The question that remains is: where does it even come from in the first place? Well, to get there you need to know a little bit more about the plot first. (Spoilers for an upcoming four-year musical.)
In the musical, Evan Hansen is an anxious and bizarre teenager in a blue striped polo shirt. Did I mention he’s anxious and weird? So anxious. So strange. The whole plot hinges on the audience buying into the idea that he is anxious and weird, but not homosexual. He’s a loner, because the aforementioned anxiety and weirdness prevents him from having friends at school. At the insistence of his therapist, Evan writes blank letters addressed to himself and signs them “Me.” “Dear, Evan Hansen,” he wrote. “Today is going to be an amazing day and here’s why. One of these letters ends up in the possession of a classmate, Connor, who commits suicide. When Connor’s parents find the letter next to their son’s body, they assume that Evan and Connor were secretly best friends. It’s a lie that Evan perpetuates for most of the series until it finally becomes clear to Connor’s family, but not before it becomes a viral sensation and has sex with the grieving sister for the dead child.
Connor’s parents might as well have concluded that their son and Evan were more than just friends, however. Instead, the series establishes their fake friendship in the form of “Sincerely, Me,” a song where Evan rewrites a fake correspondence between the two, in order to more fully convince Connor’s family that the boys’ friendship existed. The song contains both homophobic undertones and the lingering idea that maybe Connor and Evan are protesting too much. There are supposed jokes about how life without Connor was ‘hard’ or ‘tough’, and the even more blatant homoerotic line: “Our friendship goes beyond / Your average bond type / But not because that we’re gay./ No, not because we’re gay / We’re close but not like that / The only man I love is my dad. It should also be noted that the role of Evan Hansen was played by a series of gay actors. (Ben Platt, the OG Evan and star of the movie is, in fact, dating another ex-Evan, Noah Galvin.) Which isn’t at all to suggest that gay actors can’t act straight out, but this public notoriety and this casting model certainly does little to shape the narrative away from the idea that “this is a gay story”.
So many Dear Evan Hansen talks about an unrequited desire, to feel completely alone in this world, as if no one will ever love you or have you or even just see you. The show opens with an issue titled “Waving Through a Window”, a heartbreaker of Evan about the fact that he’s always outside the glass, scanning friendships, girlfriends and happy families. which he aspires to have himself. That’s not to say that these feelings of depression and loneliness aren’t universal for a human being, but they are certainly felt to an increased degree by LGBTQ people. The rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts are significantly higher for queer children than their straight counterparts, according to The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ crisis intervention and suicide prevention organization. A recent study found that a staggering 52% of trans and non-binary people under the age of 25 were considering suicide in 2020. And Dear Evan Hansen does not just imply the possibility of suicidal ideation; alongside Connor’s death by suicide at the start of the show, Evan sports a plaster cast on a broken arm; we are told he fell from a tree during summer vacation. Until, towards the very end, we learned the much darker truth. Evan’s injury was not an accident, but a sign of surviving a suicide attempt.
This is what makes Evan the perfect messenger for the grand finale of the first act of the series, “You Will Be Found”. “You Will Be Found” finds Evan delivering a speech at a school assembly in memory of Connor, nervously at first, then with every ounce of emotion in his body, telling his classmates that they are not. not alone. He can sympathize with Connor’s pain because, in a way, it’s his too. The whole has a palpable energy “it’s getting better”, the mantra of the aptly named It’s getting better project, a non-profit organization focused on supporting LGBTQ youth. Project It Gets Better took off in 2010, thanks to a moving and now viral video from co-founders Dan Savage and Terry Miller, who pleaded with LGBTQ kids to stay alive because life, well, gets better. In the series, Evan goes viral in much the same way. He and his classmates even go so far as to name their effort… The Connor Project.
Homosexuals are sometimes accused of having read too much in art, seeking a representation where – therefore the omniscient they or they say – there isn’t. This is hogwash. If something speaks to you in a movie, book, or musical, take whatever you can. But it’s unfair to say that to watch Dear Evan Hansen and finding a gay subtext is like reading tea leaves for a hidden sign. Frankly, it’s not even a subtext; it’s just text. There is in fact a Dear Evan Hansen related novel) from the show’s creators (don’t you just love capitalism?), which offers more plot and story about the characters in the musical. It turns out that Connor had a relationship with a male classmate and was in the process of discovering his “fluid” sexuality; we just can never see him on stage.
It’s not like JK Rowling who took Dumbledore out a decade after his death as a publicity stunt. Making Connor canonically queer only confirms what so many fans and critics of the show inherently knew, and what millions of other people on Twitter felt about the show without ever really engaging with the material at hand. -beyond the surface: Dear Evan Hansen is, at bottom, a story as cheerful as they come.
“It’s about the need to be seen and heard and to feel that your voice matters. I absolutely felt this for a very long time and I still feel it sometimes ”, co-creator Benj Pasek told The Advocate in 2019, while pushing for the book. “Gay identity – you live in a world where the world basically tells you that you are not enough. And the end of the show is really a message for anyone feeling that. ” Dear Evan Hansen trafficking in stereotypes and homosexual experiences, using them for his own gain to make Evan as different as possible from his classmates (as different as a white man can be, that is). But to keep Evan accessible, that otherness doesn’t make him a nuanced queer character. Instead, to make him someone everyone can see themselves in, Evan has to be just another straight guy. LGBTQ fans are urged to find themselves in him, while internalized homophobia prevents the reverse situation, a straight audience member linked to a gay character, from being a reality the show considers. All we have left are cliché and close tropes, invented, definitely not gay male friendships. No wonder people think Evan Hansen is gay no matter how hard the musical might try to stop them from doing so.