Schnapp's character, Byers, goes through unfathomable trauma in the first few seasons of Stranger Things, including a stint in the Upside Down and demonic possession by Mind Slayer. But season 4 brings new, more typical challenges for Byers, including integrating into high school and struggling with his identity. Mike Wheeler, played by Finn Wolfhard, is Byers' best friend, and their brotherly love for each other is rarely, if ever, in question. But fans have long held the theory that Byers is gay and is secretly in love with Wheeler. The evidence is certainly there: season 1 makes mention of Byers' father using gay slurs against him, and Wheeler points out in a later season that Byers' doesn't seem to like girls.
Until Schnapp's recent interview confirming Byers' status, the show declined to confirm or deny Byers' sexual preference. But during a scene in episode 8 (Papa), Byers uses Wheeler's relationship with Eleven to discuss his own feelings for Wheeler. He is, essentially, trying to confess his own love for Wheeler and the fear he felt about being different. The scene uses a popular trope here, that of a young gay person in love with his heterosexual best friend. It most likely resonated with LGBTQ+ viewers, but it also skirted the issue of Byers being gay and pushed back against any kind of obvious coming-out scene.
Keep reading for more about what queerbaiting is and where the show goes from here.