IT Chapter Two‘s twist about Richie Tozier being gay was surprising because not only did it not happen in the book, but it also wasn’t hinted at in the first film. Adapted from the classic Stephen King novel of the same name, the first IT film was released in 2017 to great acclaim. Directed by Andrés Muschietti, the film starred Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) and Jack Dylan Grazer (Shazam!) as two members of The Losers’ Club, who find themselves tormented by a demonic entity (Bill Skarsgård). Where the book jumped back and forth between the past and present, the first film opted to merely explore the childhood encounters with the shapeshifting creature. Here’s how Richie from IT‘s sexuality was changed from the books.
Muschietti returned to direct the sequel, which, customary to Pennywise’s own pattern, picked up 27 years after IT Chapter One. Honoring a collective promise, the group returned to the town of Derry when it became clear that children were once again going missing. IT Chapter Two largely followed said adult versions of the characters as they sought to defeat once and for all an even more vicious and vengeful Pennywise. The film saw Bill Hader (Barry) and James Ransone as the adult versions of Richie and Eddie, respectively. Throughout IT Chapter Two, Pennywise’s method of tormenting Richie centered on a “secret” that he was keeping: that he’s gay.
That secret is revealed in a flashback featuring the homophobic Henry Bowers and then more overtly towards IT Chapter Two‘s ending. Following Eddie’s death, Richie from IT mournfully returned to a carving he’d previously etched. Although it had been partially glimpsed earlier, a new look revealed that, in full, it read “R+E”. Though the two had often been depicted as close, the carving, when coupled with the aforementioned secret, produced the connotation that Richie’s feelings for Eddie had been more romantic all along. But was that always the case, especially in King’s source material? Well, the simple answer would be an emphatic no. As was demonstrated in IT Chapter One, the pair were close in the book — with Richie even going on to kiss Eddie on the cheek following his sacrifice. However, there was nothing to imply that their dynamic was anything but a deep friendship.
Richie Wasn’t Gay In The Book
In the IT book, Richie does, indeed, center a lot of his attention on teasing Eddie — even calling him “cute” on many occasions. Given Eddie’s dysfunctional relationship with his mother, however, the IT book never conveyed it as anything more than the savage mockery that Richie became famous for. Similarly, the novel’s Richie has a number of failed relationships with women and had never married. Again, however, that is mostly rooted in his hyperactive nature than IT Chapter Two‘s depiction of closeted sexuality.
Even IT Chapter One does little to seed this ultimate revelation. Granted, Pennywise does assume the form of Eddie in order to lure Richie from IT into one of his nightmarish scenarios. But, again, that can be viewed as a result of friendship than romantic feelings, especially since the killer clown made no such mention of Richie’s secret at that point. Pennywise admittedly had to adapt his style of torment for the adults from the literal embodiment he used against children. Still, the secret would still have been an effective tool. After all, the 1980s, while being a far cry from the original 1950s setting of the book, was still an especially difficult time to be gay.
Whatever the case, it could be argued that the change makes for somewhat of a solid bookend. IT Chapter Two, after all, opened with a brutal homophobic attack. As such, concluding the film with one of the heroes who ultimately helped defeat the evils of the town being revealed as being gay certainly adds a level of thematic justice and catharsis. It’s also a change that King himself supports, telling Vanity Fair that Richie’s new subtext is “one of those things that’s kind of genius because it echoes the beginning. It comes full circle.”. Regardless, the treatment of Richie being gay has continued to be mixed, and fans will, of course, have their own thoughts on how successfully everything flowed and played out.
Richie’s Sexuality Added Depth To The Movie
Richie from IT may not have been gay in the books — but making him so in the movie added incredible depth to the sequel. In IT: Chapter 2, Richie’s sexuality is used as a weapon against him in the form of Pennywise transforming and chasing him as a giant Paul Bunyan statue, and singing “I know your secret, your dirty little secret.” This speaks to many in the LGBTQ+ community who have dealt with their sexuality being the topic of shame, leading many to remain closeted. The shame is then used as an object of terror, and it’s quite shocking that it hasn’t been used in a horror movie up until this point.
This makes Pennywise a far more terrifying villain, capable of using people’s secrets against them and using shame as an instrument of terror. Even though Richie from IT isn’t gay in the books, which were written during a time in which being LGTBQ+ was less permissible, it ultimately doesn’t matter, and the horror film handled this aspect of the character with aplomb. Being chased by a 20ft Paul Bunyan statue yelling “Give me a kiss, Richie!” would be terrifying for anyone, and it’s made more so by IT Chapter 2‘s Pennywise in its use of shame as a weapon.
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