While the internet is busy mourning a bit character, this Stranger Things detail has flown under the radar.
Nostalgia heavy Netflix original series Stranger Things is a phenomenon and deservedly so. The show is terrific. But with popularity comes rabid fandom, which sometimes chooses to latch on to curious things. Just look at how the internet is fawning over the barely referential bit character Barbara Holland (SPOILERS from her on, folks):
Shut up, eHarmony, you’re trying too hard!
To put things in perspective, Barb only had a total of three minutes (three!), qualifying her as one of the least featured characters on the show. She even had less screen time than Will Byers, whom spent the vast majority of the series missing. One can only assume the #JusticeforBarb movement stems from modern disdain of the Woman in the Refrigerator trope which the character embodies. In a society sensitive to feminist values it may have struck a nerve to feature a female character that existed for the sole purpose of getting murdered by an inter-dimensional nightmare beast and moving the plot forward. It’s an understandable grievance. There’s just a couple of problems.
First off, Barb ain’t all that great. She does absolutely nothing worth mentioning other than grossing us out in the final episode. Her death was swept under the rug by the Department of Energy (or whatever they were) far more cleanly than the rest of their blunders and other characters had a good incentive for keeping their mouths shut about her supposed disappearance. Win some, lose some. I recon the source of her popularity is mainly due to her uncanny resemblance to slightly overweight modern day hipster girls you can find anywhere in a moderate to large sized American city.
Second, a far more egregious story development took place and has gotten zero attention.
Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer), dear Barb’s best friend, spent the early portion of the series being wooed by
Johnny Lawrence Steve Harrington (played by Joe Keery). Displaying all the trademark personality quirks of a date rapist, the very sight of Steve should’ve sent Nancy running. However, she eventually succumbed to his machismo and perfectly coiffed Johnny Depp hair-do and slept with him (all while poor Barb was being hauled off to the Upside Down by the Demogorgon).
What followed was the volatile spiral of their relationship only a person with a functioning pair of eyes could have seen coming. Nancy bonded with skittish weirdo Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton) as they searched for the missing Barbara and Will. Suspicious of Nancy’s behavior, Steve did what any reasonable young man would do and stalked her, eventually finding her in bed with Jonathan while the two were scared witless after an encounter with the Demogorgon.
Certain she was now hooking up with his favorite punching bag, Steve exacted his revenge by defacing the town’s movie theater, alluding that a sex film starring Nancy would be playing there. His exploits were quickly discovered by Nancy and Jonathan, whom defended her honor by beating the living shit out of Steve. We know how the story goes from here. Nancy and Jonathan continue to bond while battling monsters, resulting in them falling in love and becoming a charming, if unlikely couple.
Only that never happens.
As it turned out, Steve wasn’t quite the shit-stain everyone thought him to be. You see, getting your face caved in brings a certain form of enlightenment. The newly humbled Steve personally cleaned up the theater marquee he defaced and when it came time to throw down with the Demogorgon, he bravely rushed to fight it, defending both Nancy and Jonathan. As season one ended we saw that not only were the three on friendly terms, but (surprise, surprise) Nancy and Steve were back together.
So, while fans are wrapped up in seeking resolution for the show’s least meaningful character (seriously a D&D set had more plot involvement), no one has managed to get #DumpSteve trending. The most poplar show around, streaming or otherwise, just taught us if we like a girl we should just weasel our way into her pants, then act like a complete douchebag the minute we even think her heart may rightfully be elsewhere. Where is the nu-feminist outrage when we need it the most? It’s clearly a twist on our expectations crafted by the Duffer brothers and it’s an effective one. When we see how awkward the friendship between Nancy and Jonathan has become it hurts. Every longing gaze they hold is a stab in the heart.
To make matters worse we can’t even fully hate Steve because he was, in actuality, a decent kid with some emotional problems. His turn from villain to hero didn’t feel forced because you understood he did love Nancy in his own weird, seriously twisted way. But still, when Nancy’s choices were to get with Jonathan, be own her independent woman, or go back to the dude that humiliated her in front of the entire town, making her choose the worst option of the three just doesn’t feel right; especially since the character had a fairly satisfying arc that saw her break out of her goody-two-shoes shell as she became a pistol-wielding badass. The ending basically hit the reset button on her development and everyone is too busy poking at Barb’s sticky corpse to give a damn.
I don’t fault the Duffers. This will undoubtedly be a major plot point for season two and will get proper resolution, but I am losing my mind that everyone is focused one ginger’s completely necessary demise. It’s like the entire fanbase is lost in a dank netherworld more horrible than anything found in the Upside Down, a dimension where the lives of glorified extras matter and love triangle tropes go un-dissected. The whole thing feels as manufactured as Will’s floating corpse.