Stranger Danger

It took us a while, but we did finally get around to watching (and finishing) Stranger Things.  I'm sure it will come as exactly 0% of a surprise to find that we loved it.

There were many things that I appreciated about the show: from the pure aesthetic of the thing, to the craft involved in keeping it so perfectly 80s; from the gripping story-line to the outstanding performances; from the adorable rpg sequences to the commentary on the power of friendship.  And, of course, the wonderful things they did with the female characters, making it a truly feminist piece of art.  And yes, generally I would want to really dig down deep into the whole "here's how they treated the ladies like actual people," aspect of it:
Nancy has a best friend to save, and zero fucks to give about relationship drama.
but the truth is that it was not the stereotype-subversion of a female character that really made me stand up and cheer the loudest:
The hair you give your virginity to.
That's right, it was what they did with the obligatory 80's popular-douchebag-love-interest, Steve Harrington, that made me just respect the hell out of the creators of Stranger Things.

We all hated Steve at first sight, right?  We're supposed to.  He's that guy.  That arrogant jock guy the nerdy-yet-still-hot girl has to sleep with (or at least want to sleep with) before coming to her senses and falling in love with the sensitive-artist-best-friend-type-she's-been-overlooking-for-years.  And Steve does his best to live up to that stereotype, putting pressure on Nancy to skip studying for smoochin', breaking John's camera, and generally being a thoughtless dick.

But then (in an already wow-didn't-see-that-coming reversal) he gets his ass kicked by the sensitive artist.  Like, hard.  But what does he do?  Does he double-down on his dickishness with his dick friends, like we totally expect him to?

No, no he does not.  He realizes that hey- maybe he is the one with the problem.  And he starts to try to make things right the best he can.  And then?  Then he actually goes to John's house to apologize for being such a dick.

(Obviously his timing was absolute shit, but he did eventually stop his [understandable] freaking out and become genuinely useful.)

That made my chin hit my chest.

You see, it's pretty freaking easy to subvert young female stereotypes.  Just, like, make them not think about a boy for thirty seconds and you've done it.  Like shooting fish in a barrel, really.  And these days it's the cool thing to do, and everyone is doing it, and that is awesome, but not everyone is examining and combating the harmful male stereotypes (hello toxic masculinity), so I want to give props when I see it done, especially when it's done well.  Especially when the character in question is rewarded for acting like a person with a functioning brain and heart, and admitting their errors and working to redeem themselves.  He's not portrayed as weak or broken or any less attractive- he's just human, like the rest of us.

So yeah, lots and lots and lots to love about Stranger Things, including the arrogant jock.  Hells yeah, feminist television.

1 comment:

  1. That is a great point! I know a lot of people were disappointed that she was still with Steve at the end, but the truth is that he's a more complex character at that point then he is in our first impressions, even if most of us are reluctant to let people change (even for the better). Moreover, how feminist is it, really, to say "Nancy you're making the WRONG CHOICE WE KNOW BETTER." ...?

    I hope you'll have more posts on ST though... because among other things, we need to discuss El. And her role in this. Did she just discover the creature, or does she have a stronger connection to it? How is it that she navigates the Upside Down the way she does? Where is she now, or what to we think may have happened to her?