Horror has always been a mixed bag when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation. From queer-coding monsters and villains to the outright damaging stereotypes of transgender people, you’re lucky if all you experience is homophobic jokes.
That’s why it’s crucial to understand not only the queer undertones of horror movies but the real-life stories that accompany them. One of the best places to begin is with Scream, Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street, a documentary on Mark Patton and the most (in)famous installment in the Nightmare on Elm Street series.
It’s a shame if you don’t know who Mark Patton is, although his name is usually known among specific circles: LGBTQ+ community, Horror buffs, and Broadway fans. His most famous role, for better or worse, is as Jesse Walsh, the lead in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge.
Sadly, that role also cost him his career.
Scream Queen reveals that flagrantly queer undertones throughout the movie led to backlash among fans and for some critics to label it as “the gayest horror movie ever made.” As a closeted gay actor during the height of the AIDS epidemic and homophobia in the ’80s, Patton’s career was at a crossroads.
Would he be typecast as the stereotypical gay man in future projects? Or would he abandon his dreams of being an actor?
As evidenced by how many people don’t know his name, Patton chose the latter, although it wasn’t much of a “choice.” Retiring from acting in 1987, after being offered nothing but gay roles, he led a quiet life in interior decorating that culminated in a near-death experience.
In 1999, Mark Patton discovered he was HIV positive and, between that and other health issues, ended up in the hospital. After recovering, he moved to Mexico, where he met his husband, and the two own Lalo Morales, an art gallery in Puerto Vallarta.
Patton remained relatively hidden from the public eye until 2010 when he was tracked down for the documentary, Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy. Once more, Mark Patton was in the spotlight, but this time he had a message.
Although Patton is a survivor and found a new life, Scream Queen clearly shows he was not pleased with how things went down with Freddy’s Revenge. He felt betrayed by those he worked alongside after the backlash from critics and claims of not-so-subtle queer subtext.
At the core were statements from writer David Chaskin, who spent years denying the gay undertones and instead blamed them on Patton’s performance. Chaskin refused to acknowledge the flagrant themes in his script (and constant rewrites) and instead chose to blame everything on Patton acting “too gay,” essentially outing and typecasting him.
The betrayal by Chaskin, who later admitted in 2010 he purposefully wrote the script that way, was too much. Combined with the homophobic backlash and the AIDS epidemic, the experience nearly destroyed Patton.
Patton has since joined the convention circuit and acted in independent films, but he has a new goal. He now uses his fame as a platform for LGBTQ+ rights and representation, especially in Hollywood.
Scream Queen is must-see viewing for anyone who wants to understand not only Mark Patton’s experiences, but also LGBTQ+ issues. Although Freddy’s Revenge has become a cult classic and Patton an icon in the LGBTQ+ community, we can’t become complacent and think “everything turns out right in the end.”
The culmination of the film, where Patton finally sits down with Chaskin, only drives the point even harder. Although Patton appears satisfied with the meeting, the writer’s apology felt shallow compared to everything the actor went through.
This documentary highlights how much work we still have to do and how much hurt still lingers (and occurs!) over the fight for equal rights and representation. Although this Pride Month is an excellent time to remember these lessons and salute a horror icon, let’s not forget Patton’s experiences, and all LGBTQ+ actors, don’t end the rest of the year.
To Mark Patton, thank you for telling your story and for hopefully bringing a new perspective to Freddy’s Revenge for viewers.
Scream Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street is available for online streaming and purchase as a DVD.
I give Scream Queen 5 finger-blades out of 5.