How “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” Inspired the Queer Romance in “The New Mutants”

The new superhero movie "really changes the game for queer representation," says star Blu Hunt.

The New Mutants opens with Blu Hunt’s Dani Moonstar being evacuated from her home. It’s an intense, chaotic scene with loud explosions that ends with Dani waking up in a hospital bed.

The rest of the movie, before all hell breaks loose, is fairly muted but in a way that gives the characters room to grow. The film has a fairly small cast for a superhero movie: Hunt’s Dani is joined by Anya Taylor-Joy’s Illyana, Charlie Heaton’s Sam, Henry Zaga’s Roberto, Maisie Williams’s Rahne, and our reluctant villain, Alice Braga’s Dr. Reyes. They are secluded in a very large, abandoned institution—aside from the monsters haunting them, that is.

Twentieth Century Fox Film

The New Mutants marks Hunt’s first appearance in a feature film. “I feel like I was honestly nervous the whole time until it came out,” the Native-American actress told NewNowNext over a Zoom call one morning in October. “The audition process took forever. From the initial audition to the last audition, I think it was almost a six-month process.”

The movie itself also took forever to come out. The release was originally slated for April 2018. The team finished filming in September 2017, which Zaga celebrated with an Instagram post. The movie was pushed back until August 2019 so it wouldn’t conflict with the releases of Deadpool 2 and X-Men: Dark Phoenix. Disney then bought Fox and pushed the release to 2020… when the pandemic, which we are currently still living through, hit. The New Mutants was delayed a few months but eventually released in whatever theaters were open this past August.

“It was really weird for me. I mean, because I really took the pandemic seriously, and I think COVID really, really affected Native Americans and reservations more than they affected a lot of other places,” Hunt said. “I had been going through my own things, like being quarantined alone for a lot of it. And then [to] just suddenly start doing Zoom promotions for this movie I made three years ago—the whole thing just felt so absurd, but I think I was mostly just happy for it to be coming out. I think it was a little sad I didn’t get to promote it like a normal movie, but nothing about this movie has ever been normal, so I guess it kind of fit.”

Twentieth Century Fox

While most of us didn’t have to jump on Zoom calls to promote our big-screen debuts during the height of quarantine, Hunt still fit in time to do what a lot of us were doing: binge-watch TV shows. “I’ve been rewatching a bunch of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I watched a ton of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Real Housewives. I’ve seriously watched everything. I watched all of The Sopranos.”

The New Mutants might be based on the X-Men comic book of the same name, but is definitely more heavily horror-influenced than superhero-influenced. Which, to be fair, is true to the Demon Bear story arc from the comics, which the movie takes from. “I went and got the Demon Bear comic book really soon after the audition, once I realized kind of what it was,” Hunt recalled. “And I ended up getting any comic book I could find that had Dani on the cover or in it.”

The movie also had another big influence: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The cast is depicted watching the show in the rec room more than once, and the DVDs on their shelf are Buffy DVDs.

Dani’s first interaction with her love interest is when she walks into group therapy and locks eyes with Williams’s Rahne. The scene is shot in the exact same way iconic lesbian witches Willow and Tara first meet in Buffy. “That was on purpose because Josh, the director, loves Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So he was like, ‘I want it to be like Buffy the Vampire Slayer,'” Hunt explained. “I think it’s so cute. That’s one of my favorite parts of the whole movie.”

Twentieth Century Fox

The film’s main romance is a queer one between Dani and Rahne. It’s done well and handled with such care—the characters never come out, but slowly fall in love and even kiss on screen. It’s a far cry from our unnamed gay character in Captain America’s group therapy scene in Avengers: Endgame.

“I think it really changes the game for queer representation, that these kinds of relationships can really be in any kind of movie in any kind of way,” Hunt added. “If a movie like X-Men, the main romance can be between two women and also, and… they don’t necessarily have to come out to anyone, which I think is something, coming out is something that people are rethinking nowadays, that coming out is an ongoing process. So I think the movie does a really good job representing that, and I think more movies will follow this trend—not trend, but this representation.”

The movie was planned as a series but still has a strong ending. The cast never gets the X-uniforms, but they do at least get a semi-happy ending. Thankfully, no gays are buried.

“I think it would have just been really nice to continue on [Dani’s] relationship with Rahne,” Hunt said. “I would have liked to have seen her in a superhero costume and to see her really get a handle on her powers and for her relationship with Rahne to evolve.”

The New Mutants is available November 17 on digital and Blu-ray. Check out an exclusive behind-the-scenes featurette below.
 

Ian Carlos Crawford is a writer and podcaster from New Jersey. His work has appeared on sites like Geeks Out, BuzzFeed, NewNowNext, and he co-hosts a podcast about "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" called Slayerfest 98.
@ianxcarlos