Why M3GAN is destined to be a gay icon
In just a few short months, M3GAN, the titular robot doll villain in Gerard Johnstone’s horror comedy, has become one of the most instantly celebrated and talked-about characters among queer people in recent memory. Thanks to its viral trailer, M3GAN has driven significant interest among terminally online gay folks for its campy tone and absurd premise. In particular, Twitter users have produced an abundance of memes out of M3GAN’s wiggly, bizarre dancing, with some editing Beyoncé, Azealia Banks, and other artists over the trailer’s music.
Of course, M3GAN is more than just capable of busting a move apropos of nothing. She initially begins the film as a benevolent companion to Cady (Violet McGraw), the orphaned niece of M3GAN’s programmer Gemma (Allison Williams, another icon among internet gays). But as she quickly acquires an unsettling amount of self-awareness, M3GAN develops an uncontrollable desire to hurt or kill anyone who threatens Cady. In the trailer alone, she wields a knife while walking menacingly down a hallway, shoots someone’s hand with a nail gun, and chases a bully on all fours through a forest. In essence, M3GAN slays — literally and figuratively.
Even the creator of M3GAN acknowledged the character’s clear resonance with the LGBTQ+ community. In a recent interview with SFX Magazine, screenwriter Akela Cooper, who also wrote the beloved, batshit 2021 horror flick Malignant, explained that M3GAN’s presence in Cady’s life aligns with a theme of found family that gay audiences can identify with.
It’s a generous theory, because arguably most of the obsession around this uncanny, chestnut-wigged android is much simpler and sillier than that. Gay people really just love fundamentally stupid, preposterous media! We also love a character named Megan in general, and we especially love a chic femme fatale, be it Amy Dunne in Gone Girl or Jennifer in Jennifer’s Body. To quote that one tweet from comedian Adam Friedland, when M3GAN does some sociopathic shit, gay people will respond with “Honestly, work.”
Some have gone so far as to refute Cooper’s contention by mentioning that M3GAN is a gay icon because she’s mean, pretty, and able to dance, she sings an earnest rendition of “Titanium” by Sia, she’s a killer, and she’s a freak girl who flips and wears a Celine overcoat.
[Courtesy of Geoffrey Short/Universal Pictures]
Perhaps most importantly, she’s “mother,” a playful label gay people will assign to any woman in pop culture who embodies resilience, strength, ferocity, and beauty. While that designation is frequently used in jest, it’s a term that actually does apply to M3GAN, who acts as a sort of surrogate maternal figure for Cady, in addition to a friend.
She croons sweet lullabies to Cady, makes sure Cady flushes the toilet and washes her hands, and even helps Cady gradually accept the loss of her parents by gently, sweetly asking her about any good memories she has of them. Through her programming, she’s able to save a recording of Cady’s memory recollection forever.
M3GAN’s equally nurturing and calculating nature is one of the few characteristics that gay people have long fawned over and gravitated toward when it comes to cinematic depictions of powerful women. Seeing a creation like M3GAN weaponize her otherness in both deeply hilarious and haunting ways — from the transcendence of her initial programming to the unforgiving boldness of her bloodlust to the theatricality of her mannerisms — can be cathartic and fun for a community who historically love watching those types of personas assume control.
Considering the film ostensibly uses M3GAN as an avatar for growing anxieties around artificial intelligence’s omnipresence and technology’s function as outsourced parenting, it’s a bit funny that people are embracing M3GAN (however facetiously), rather than condemning or fearing her. But in an age of post-irony, that’s to be expected. In fact, it’s M3GAN’s total unironic commitment to its goofy conceit that makes it such a delightful viewing experience.
[Courtesy of Geoffrey Short/Universal Pictures]
Blumhouse’s effective marketing for M3GAN in particular played a huge role in persuading and securing the attention of a young gay audience. They’ve made videos of life-size M3GANs standing in the subway, dancing on top of the Empire State Building, and ordering Starbucks. On her Twitter account, she (or whoever the gay social media manager is who's running it) has published snarky posts rewording tweets that are critical of the film and dissing Chucky, another cherished killer doll with a strong LGBTQ+ following. And because of this clever online campaign and strong word-of-mouth, M3GAN became an instant commercial triumph, earning an impressive $45 million worldwide against a $12 million budget in its opening weekend.
Somehow, M3GAN tapped into the queer market in a way that other recent mainstream films catering to gay audiences have struggled to achieve. For instance, last year's Billy Eichner rom-com Bros heavily touted that it was the "first gay rom-com made by a major studio," despite the fact that Eichner admitted it was made with straight audiences in mind. Subsequently, it bombed at the box office. Relatedly, They/Them, a conversion camp slasher starring a predominantly queer cast, received a largely negative response from LGBTQ+ critics when it was released last summer. Even The Real Friends of WeHo, a new MTV reality series that’s really just Real Housewives but with rich gay men, sparked derisive reactions when its trailer dropped last week.
If anything, M3GAN has illuminated a growing disparity between what contemporary gay audiences want to see and what Hollywood thinks contemporary gay audiences want to see. M3GAN didn’t just become a gay icon because of her stylish American Girl Doll fashion, the fact that she plays Martika's “Toy Soldiers” on the piano, or the way she whirls and twirls before reigning hell on her victims. It was because she wasn’t trying to be. For a movie that highlights AI’s creepy ability to detect and anticipate our needs and behaviors, it’s ironic in the best way that M3GAN’s success among the gay community is something no one could’ve expected.