How ‘Seed of Chucky’ Explores Non-Binary Identities
I first watched Child’s Play too early to appreciate it beyond its status as the film with the terrifying doll that swears a lot. It scared me so badly that I never dared to revisit the film or watch any of the follow-ups until last year. When I finally overcame my fears, Child’s Play and its sequels quickly became my favorite of the major horror franchises. The series is incredibly well written—with a cast that I adore—and features an inclusive narrative far more accepting than that of its peers. Whether you’re a woman, a person of color, a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, or someone living with a disability, there’s space for everyone in creator Don Mancini’s world.
And of the franchise, Seed of Chucky remains the film that’s most criminally overlooked; it rarely gets the credit it deserves for being so ahead of its time. One of the reasons I connect with this particular title so deeply is because Mancini explores non-binary identities in a way that’s both relatable and personal. Even now, non-binary representation in cinema is almost non-existent—but in Seed Of Chucky I actually saw myself acknowledged by characters on a screen.
Glen(da), Seed of Chucky
After a title sequence that resembles a high school health class video, we open on a scene that perfectly encapsulates the reasons it’s so vital for people to see themselves represented. It begins with a dream sequence in which Glen(da) (Billy Boyd)—utilizing many of the same tactics Chucky uses earlier in the series—kills a young girl’s family. However, the spree quickly morphs into a humiliating nightmare, and when Glen(da) wakes we discover they’re not a killer at all. In fact, they’re a warm and gentle soul that’s trapped in an abusive situation, and only dreams of having power over their circumstances.
They are imprisoned in a small cage, free only when their “owner” parades them around the stage to be exploited for his own gain. Everything feels hopeless until the night they see Chucky (Brad Dourif) being interviewed about his upcoming film on television. When Glen(da) notices the small “Made in Japan” mark on his wrist—identical to the one on their own—they put the pieces together and realize that Chucky is their long-lost parent. Glen(da), newly inspired by the realization that there are other people out there like them, takes the first opportunity to escape, traveling to the US to track Chucky down.
Glen(da)’s epiphany speaks directly to the importance of representation, specifically for people who are typically underrepresented in the media. Such a moment is vital when you’re trying to figure out who you are—it reassures the viewer that none of us are as alone as we might think. Like it does for Glen(da), this hope can give you the courage to take charge of your life and go after what you want. I know the minute I found out there were other people like me out there, I too began trying to escape the UK with sights set on US soil to be with them.
(Perhaps I’d have better luck if I was also a puppet hiding in someone else’s luggage.)
Glen(da) locates Chucky and Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly) in a prop room on the set of the slasher he’d been seen promoting. Using the amulet they’d left behind when they were killed in the previous film, Glen(da) brings their parents back to life, and neither of them is what the other had been expecting.
Chucky and Tiffany are both outspoken and abrasive; they’re openly violent and show that by killing a prop guy during their first interaction (to be fair he was trying to dismantle Tiffany). Afterward they’re both confused by the child in front of them, and they begin the debate that we have to endure throughout the entire film: Is Glen(da) a boy or a girl?
Chucky, Tiffany, and the Pain of Coming Out
Instead of asking Glen(da) how they feel, Chucky and Tiffany bicker about gender between themselves. This leads to a moment many people probably find funny, but it’s a moment that’s incredibly hard for me to watch. They pull down Glen(da)’s trousers to inspect their genitals. In my experience, cis people have always had an obsession with them—likely because they dangerously equate sex with gender. Many people feel they have a right to this information; I’ve found that this will often lead complete strangers to cross boundaries.
In the US there’s a law that’s recently been instituted that allows an adult to check a child’s genitals in schools if they’re even suspected of being trans. It’s claimed that this is done to prevent any harm coming to the cis children in those schools, and to keep kids from unfairly competing in sports. All it does is put trans kids—and even cis people that don’t present that way—in danger. The act of being inspected like this is invasive and dehumanizing; it’s something no one should be subjected to. Because this scene reflects so many of the painful realities of being trans, it will never read as comedy to me.
Chucky and Tiffany’s reaction, unfortunately, also feels very true to life. Chucky is adamant that Glen(da) is a boy, and Tiffany firmly believes they’re a girl, so they do something a lot of people think is okay and “agree to disagree.” Of course, they continue fighting about it later anyway, but this is something that a lot of people encounter when they come out (which they will likely have to do over and over again in their life). People often say something along the lines of, “I don’t understand, but we can agree to disagree,” or, “You know, it’s okay to have different opinions on some things.”
And while it may be fine to disagree on things that are subject to personal preference, another person’s identity and their access to basic human rights is never going to be a matter of opinion. Only someone with the privilege of their own ignorance would say this. It costs nothing to listen to someone when they tell you who they are.
Chucky represents people who are comfortable in their ignorance and sometimes their outright bigotry. Tiffany tries to understand, and begins making decisions based on what she thinks will be best for her kid in the long run. She does her best to support Glen(da) even though she doesn’t really get it, and Tiffany even decides to give up killing aka “get sober.” Chucky, however, doesn’t try to understand or fight his addiction at all—he continues to feed it in secret and even drags Glen(da) into committing murder with him.
Glen(da)’s Act of Acceptance
Tiffany eventually finds out and it leads to an argument between the two parents where she says that they were going to stop killing. Chucky quickly points out that actually she was the one who decided that, just like she decided their kid was a girl, and that he shouldn’t be ashamed of being the way he is. Like many, Chucky is unaware of the irony of him demanding acceptance he refuses to give others. But it starts up the gender argument again until Glen(da), with tears running down their cheeks, cuts them off with a monologue so relatable that I cried the first time I heard it.
“You’re tearing me apart! What about what I want? Doesn’t what I want mean anything at all? I think I want to be a boy. But being a girl would be nice too. Not sure, but sometimes I feel like a boy, sometimes I feel like a girl. Can’t I be both?”
I deeply relate to the experience of having my identity debated in front of me. Too often people will discuss the validity of my gender as if I wasn’t even there, and this scene perfectly captures the way it hurts when people continuously refuse to respect you on such a base level.
Throughout Seed Of Chucky we watch as Glen(da) struggles, not only with their gender, but also their morality, and whether or not they’ll end up a killer like their parents. As a child of an addict, I found that aspect of their struggle painfully familiar too. During the climax of the film, Glen(da) makes a grand entrance, mistaken for Tiffany at first because of their dress and wig, and takes it upon themselves to kill someone for the first time. When Chucky sees this he actually addresses them by “Glenda” and uses femme pronouns.
This does not feel like a moment of true acceptance. Instead, it reflects the way trans people are expected to perform their gender a certain way. And when we don’t—because we’re not a monolith—we can be seen as less valid or deserving of understanding. As a non-binary person, I’ve personally found a lot of people expect a certain brand of androgyny from me, and anything deviating from that can be viewed as binary. But it’s so much more complicated than that, and most importantly, there’s no one right way to be non-binary. Everyone’s experience with gender is completely different, and therefore how they present that will be too.
It’s Glen(da)’s external changes that make Chucky see them differently, but it’s their choices and internal changes that alter how Tiffany sees them. She looks at Glen(da) as though she doesn’t recognize them, and even switches to he/him pronouns for the first time. With no tact at all, she slaps them and they wake as if they’d been in a daze. Tears begin to run down their cheeks and they ask, “What am I?”
I understand how Glen(da) feels in this moment: the internal battle between who they think they should be based on the expectations of others, versus trying to figure out who they really are beneath it all. It’s confusing and painful, but connecting with other people who are going through the same thing, even if it’s on television, can make it a little easier.
I don’t think any of these issues are less genuine simply because the film also has jokes, or that the characters aren’t occupying human bodies. This is reminiscent of the way trans people have been portrayed in the media forever, whether it’s actual people or made-up characters. We’re almost always being othered in some way. Often it’s subtextual, taking the form of a villain or monster that everyone’s afraid of. But a lot of the time we’re the joke everyone laughs at. Almost every sitcom out there has a scene where trans people are the punchlines and it teaches people to react to just the sight of us that way. It makes it easier to ignore the ways we struggle, both with our own identity and gender, and with our place in a world that works against us. Simply, if people don’t take us seriously then they don’t have to take our stories seriously either.
However, in Seed of Chucky I never once felt like Glen(da) was the one being laughed at. We’re rooting for them right from the beginning and we want them to get their happy ending. And if we ignore the jump scare right at the end that sets up another movie, that’s exactly what happens. Tiffany and Glen(da) have their own home for the first time in their lives. She’s successful and they get to be both a boy and a girl at the same time, in a very literal sense. The two of them are celebrating their lives, surrounded by people and love, and that’s the reason this film holds such a special place in my heart. Because a non-binary character simply existing in a story is rare. Seeing one not only survive, but flourish the way Glen(da) does is a groundbreaking achievement.
I can’t imagine the ways it would have helped me to see this as a kid. But I know that seeing it as a newly out trans person was life-changing. People need to see more than the tragedy and pain associated with their identity. They need to know that queer joy is possible too; while it was sometimes painful to feel so seen by this film, it was also the first time I’d seen someone like me get a happy ending. We all want to be seen by someone like us who helps us realize it’s okay to exist the way that we do.