Stranger Things is one of my favorite shows ever. I am just so invested in all of it, and I’m super mad we waited two years for only eight episodes that I watched in one day, and now I have to wait another year to see more. Ugh. But in addition to being a love letter to ’80s sci-fi and horror movies, Stranger Things season 3 really does such a great job writing female characters. Especially considering the show’s creators are men. Normally, women in movies and TV are depicted as love interests, almost exclusively. It’s so bad that we have things like the Bechdel test to determine whether women were accurately represented in fiction as more than just objects of desire for men. A movie passes the Bechdel test if it has at least two women who talk to each other about something other than men. That’s it. And amazingly, tons of movies fail this test.
FYI? There are literally zero (0) movies that would fail if the test was graded on two men talking to each other about something other than women. Men in fiction are allowed to have interesting, complex lives, whereas women are often seen as motivators for men and nothing more. It. Is. Gross.
On that note, there are even fewer movies/shows that depict women in science, so Stranger Things is super important. Not only because it’s badass, and the writing is great, but because it’s one of the best shows that not only shows strong women, but especially strong girls, and in a male-dominated genre. And with that, here is a ranking of the 10 best feminist moments from Stranger Things season 3. It honestly was hard to just pick 10. In case you did not understand the title, THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS.
You realizing that you need to go finish the season before reading this:
10. Nancy’s Mom Being Supportive
You would hope that parents are always supportive, but as we’ve seen in the past, Mrs. Wheeler consistently drops the ball. She’s completely out of touch with what’s going on in her kids’ lives. Her interests include leading Billy on, ignoring her family, and purchasing neon swimwear. But in Stranger Things season 3, Mrs. Wheeler actually did something that was pretty cool.
When Nancy got fired from the paper for investigating a story she believed in, she confessed to her mom that her boyfriend didn’t believe in her/was angry at her, and that she’s been bullied extensively by the men in the office. Instead of being angry at Nancy for getting fired, Mrs. Wheeler stepped up and told Nancy that those men are “sh*theads, and that if she believed in the story, she just needs to do it herself. Go to a bigger newspaper, and all those men can shove it when she’s a success. It was a great moment between them and let us know that although Mrs. Wheeler seems super out of touch, even she knows that a girl’s got to stand up for herself in this male-dominated world.
9. Joyce Figuring Out Everything
Joyce is so hilarious, but even though she’s quirky and her approach is a little off, she was really the first to know (except for maybe Will) that something was seriously wrong in the universe. I loved when she was yelling at Alexei (RIP, you cherry slurpee king) about “WHY MAGNETS ARE FALLING OFF THE GODDAMN FRIDGE!” Joyce kept getting cut down by Hopper, who didn’t take her concerns seriously because he was too busy trying to get into her pants. (I’m not giving Hop an RIP because I’m convinced he lived. We never saw the body and there was that whole American thing in the Russian prison.)
But Joyce didn’t allow Hop’s agenda to distract her from her goal, and not only was she totally right, it was thanks to her that they were able to help stop the Russians and save the kids. Oh and NBD, she was the one who turned the keys to stop the Mind Flayer and close the door. Even though it meant killing someone she loved (I mean, theoretically, because I won’t accept this). She’s tough as nails.
8. Everyone Yelling At Mike
Mike is a total douchebag, I’m just going to say it. But he’s a super typical 14-year-old boy. And 18-year-old boy. And 30-year-old boy…seriously, at what age do men stop acting like this?? Mike, being male, insisted that he knew what was best for Eleven and what her limits were. I think his worry came from a good place—he didn’t want her to get hurt. But the entire group, guys and girls included, piled on him for not trusting Eleven to know her own strength. I loved that they all stuck up for her and put Mike in his place.
7. Nancy Standing Up To Old, White, Male America
Nancy’s internship really sucked. Yes, it was her job to get coffee, but the men in the office treated her like garbage and made fun of her suggestions any time she tried to help. When she discovered that there was something seriously wrong with the rats in Hawkins, they laughed in her face and called her “Nancy Drew.” They even forbade her from doing further research. But Nancy didn’t let them dissuade her, even when her boyfriend Jonathan essentially told her to back off and take it. (Which, I understand his reasoning, but also, no, f*ck off.)
She stood up to all of them and did what she knew was right, even when it resulted in her firing. And then she continued to pursue the story, which ultimately helped save the world from the Mind Flayer. I repeat: SAVE THE WORLD FROM THE MIND FLAYER. They didn’t show it, but I really hope she does pitch her story to a big Indiana newspaper and those Hawkins jackasses eat their words.
6. Eleven Dumping Mike
Eleven and Mike go through teenage romance problems, including Mike being a little bitch and lying to her. After Max’s guidance on how womankind should expect to be treated, Eleven confirms Mike’s lies, and in a scene that is nothing short of iconic, she dumps his ass—by loudly shrieking “I DUMP YOUR ASS,” which is really the only acceptable thing to say to a man who treats you as less than. It doesn’t matter that he essentially rescued her, and that they’ve saved the world together several times, even Eleven knows that lying is unacceptable in a relationship. We could all learn a lesson from her (and Max) about how to deal with f*ckboys.
5. Max Teaching Eleven The Importance Of Female Friendship
When Eleven realizes Mike is lying to her—and very poorly, I might add—she’s devastated. She turns to Max for advice, who immediately launches into action. We didn’t get to see these two interact very much last season, so it was super cool to watch them bond. Max teaches El that men ain’t sh*t, and that she’s dumped Lucas five times already for bad behavior. You go, girl. She also shows El how important it is to have female friends and to do things together that don’t involve men.
4. Robin Cracking The Code
This season, we were introduced to Robin, aka Maya Hawke, aka the child of Uma Therman and Ethan Hawke. In addition to shaming Steve Harrington for being 1) a douche, and 2) friends with A LOT of children, Robin showed up both Dustin and Steve by cracking the Russians’ code without their help. Hey, she speaks four languages! It was really cool to see her take over and get credit for such a big win, although it got her involved in a lot of unnecessary danger when she could have just been scooping ice cream all summer with no knowledge of any of this sh*t.
3. Everything About Erica
Erica is hands down my favorite character. She is so sassy and hilarious, and just happens to be a genius. It was awesome to see her run sh*t this season by being absolutely essential to the Scoops Troop’s plan. She was the only one small enough to get into the vent! In addition, though, we saw a very cool side to her: that she may very well be secretly a nerd. Her intelligence and bravery helped save the group more than once, and she was awesome at navigating the labyrinth of tunnels in the lab. Remember: you can’t spell America without Erica.
2. Robin Coming Out
EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS. You never see a hot teenage girl with a potential male lead love interest without it turning into something by the end. And it almost, almost went that way. We were led to believe that Robin had a secret crush on Steve. After their adventure together, Steve tells her he was starting to have feelings for her. An American dream story. And given that Steve didn’t have a love interest this season, it was pretty obvious it was going to be her. BUT THEN. Robin clarifies that she watched Steve in their classes because the girl she liked watched Steve, and she couldn’t figure it out because he was stupid and always dropping bagel crumbs all over the place.
It was iconic. You almost never see LGTBQ characters on TV without it being a gimmick or part of the story. It’s never like, “hey, this is a complete complex person who happens to also be gay.” She and Steve had become platonic friends who she trusted to share this with. Their friendship continued afterwards, which was so cool to see, when she helped him get a job at the video store. More of this, please.
1. Eleven Carrying The Team
Every f*cking time, Eleven saves all of their asses from everything—monsters, bullies, Billy, and more monsters. This show would be lost without Eleven, which is a really interesting plot twist, btw, that she’s now lost her powers. I’m excited to see what they do with this next season. But no matter how bleak it looks, or what a rough spot they’re in, Eleven comes through and rescues all the boys, every single time. She’s a badass, and we rarely see such a strong female character who doesn’t expect a man to save her. Although I will mention that this last time, Billy did throw himself in front of her to the Mind Flayer, but as that was essential to his character arc, I’ll forgive it. And really, it was Joyce that turned off the machine and stopped the attack.
Honorable Mention: Suzie
This was such a small thing but ESSENTIAL to saving the world and stopping the Mind Flayer. Suzie—Dustin’s girlfriend from camp who we all believed was fictional—does actually exist! She is the only one out of this group of science nerds, particularly an actual adult male scientist, that knows Planck’s Constant by heart, which is the password needed to save the day. Good job, Suzie. I appreciated how she also took time to bitch Dustin out for not calling her until he needed something, and shamed him because he should know the number himself. I did not, however, appreciate the way-too-awkwardly-long musical number. There is a time and a place, people.
LMK in the comments what your favorite moments were from this season. I’m gonna go watch it again about 20 more times.
Images: Courtesy of Netflix; Giphy (9)
Halloweekend 2017 is coming up, and we all know what that means…sweatpants, a bottle of wine, and 48 hours of Stranger Things. Stranger Things season 2 is coming to Netflix on Friday (Oct 27), so if you haven’t watched season one yet, I recommend just going home now and telling your boss you have food poisoning or something—this show is the perfect cozy-creepy fall binge, and the internet is going to completely ruin season two for you by like, Monday at 6am, if you don’t watch it first (TV writers don’t tend to have raging social lives, trust me).
Anyway, in honor of the show that made us all wonder if we should rock a bald cap this Halloween, here’s a breakdown of Stranger Things’ female leads and their respective levels of betchiness.
There’s not much to say about Karen; she’s pretty much your standard “Mom in a movie mostly about children” character aka your typical Karen. She goes around doing neighborly check-ups on the parents of missing children; tells her kids to stay in the house until the recent child-snatchings have been cleared up (never understand why there’s so much pushback on this very sensible boundary); and is definitely hard on Nancy at times, but it all seems to be in a “I remember my ho-ing days and would like to protect you” fashion. Minus points for her deathly boring husband, but plus points for telling her son they can rent an R-rated movie after Will’s body is found.
Mike: My best friend has been murdered.
Karen: Would some on-screen boobies cheer you up?
I have complicated feelings about Nancy Wheeler. She starts out the show as a classic nice girl, with her handwritten flash cards and lukewarm resistance to banging the school heartthrob (side note: I am glad that high school heartthrobs are now expected to look more like Zac Efron, and less like Steve). But during her nicegirl phase, she’s also kind of a try-hard and a shitty friend, insisting that Barb come along to a party that she’s clearly not invited to, and then immediately distancing herself to seem cool by chugging beer (rarely a great tactic, FYI). BUT, Nancy is also a regulation hottie and legitimately a good person, and by the end of this show, she’s proven herself to be equally fearless when shutting down slut-shaming assholes and fighting literal monsters. Would Nancy be my first-choice pick for a Friday night hang? Prob not, but I would certainly hit her up in any apocalyptic scenarios.
It’s a little hard to judge Joyce fairly here, since we only see her for about three minutes, before she realizes her child has gone missing and is thrown into a (fully understandable) mental breakdown for the rest of the show. Between the chain-smoking, voice-wavering, and Santa-on-crack interior decorating, it’s not exactly textbook betch, but given the circumstances, this happens to be exactly what getting shit done looks like. Despite the whole “are you sure this isn’t your anxiety” spiel that I
get from every doctor I’ve ever seen everyone in town tries to sell her, she sticks to her convictions and is ultimately proven right. Also, she immediately discards any faux-politeness or semblance of chill in this situation, from kicking out Nancy’s casserole-toting mom early on to leveraging her whole missing-son situation into a paycheck advance and/or cigarette allowance. Season one’s circumstances prevented her from being her peak betch self; I’m looking forward to seeing what a slightly more stable but equally ballsy Joyce Byers has to offer.
I think you would be hard-pressed to find an area in which Eleven is not cooler, better, and more useful than you. Terrifying psychokinetic powers and a thousand-yard stare that would shut down the cheeriest Monday morning co-worker? Check. Stealth heartbreaker with a mid-season makeover? Check. Ability to eat whatever she wants without gaining weight? Well, probably more rooted in the fact that she was held in a lab and tortured for most of her life thus far, and I imagine the dining accommodations were not fantastic, but technically, check. Also, let’s just all agree that whatever your daddy issues are, Eleven makes them look stupid in comparison. If Eleven ever gets the chance to grow up with her new pals, I’d be thrilled to see post-pubescent, fully developed El start Girl With the Dragon Tattoo-ing her way through those who have wronged her, delivering violent justice and excellent bone structure across Indiana. Eleven can definitely sit with us, but TBH I’m not sure we could sit with her.
Dishonorable Mention: Barb Holland
I will never understand the cult following for Barb sparked by this show, which is my way of saying that I’m unwilling to sift through Tumblr and learn about it/figure it out. Her glasses are bad, her outfits are worse, and she shames Nancy for upping her lingerie game. Barb sitting out by the pool pretending to be thinking about anything other than the fact that her best friend is getting boned in the house behind her truly bums me out, and I think her constant “looking out for Nancy” was really just a way to keep Nancy down, so she wouldn’t lose her only friend. Firmly not Team Barb.
For those of you lame enough to still do the whole “costume and party” tradition for Halloween, I’ll see you on the other side. For everyone else: stay hydrated, don’t pace yourselves, and feel free to shush your drunk loser roommates when they interrupt your round one TV binge stumbling home at 3am.