After co-writing an episode for the debut season of Two Sentence Horror Stories in 2019, Guatemalan-American screenwriter and poet Stephanie Adams-Santos returns to pen her own episode for the show’s second season, which debuts tonight (Jan. 12) on The CW.
In Elliot, Adams-Santos tells the story of a transgender teenager, who is harassed at school by classmates and administrators. When he meets a strange custodian, Elliot (trans actor James Goldman) is given a chance to instill the same kind of emotional pain and fear into his bullies that he feels when they treat him badly. But at what cost?
Adams-Santos says a narrative like Elliot started from the horror stories that many trans friends and family members have shared with her and other writers about having to use a public bathroom. In one scene, Elliot is accosted by the principal for using the men’s bathroom.
“The story began there, considering that particular fear from a trans perspective, and then also looking at middle school as a kind of primordial place of universal vulnerability and savagery,” Adams-Santos told Remezcla. “Writing [that] scene…made my blood boil. It reveals the truly twisted ugliness that’s behind the spirit of anti-trans bathroom bills.”
Because “emotional pain is largely invisible,” Adams-Santos says, “horror provides a way to dramatize what is unseen.” That’s why Elliot, which she considers a dark fairytale, works so well in a “visceral” genre like horror. Adams-Santos was inspired by one of her favorite films, Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, while writing the episode.
“The inner world can feel so surreal, so mythic,” Adams-Santos says.
“It felt like the right choice to explore Elliot’s pain and anxiety from that place of braided harsh reality and horror fantasy in this way that included beauty and magic.”
For young trans people who watch Elliot, she hopes the story makes them feel like they are “seen and cared for.”
“I hope it offers a message of survival and growth,” she says, “despite the very real dangers and bigotries that are well alive in society.”
Elliot airs tonight (Jan. 12) at 8 p.m. EST and will be available to stream on The CW’s website and app.