A Vagina for a Face: The Monsters, Men and Women of Stranger Things Season 1

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Ridiculous, Epic Amounts of Analysis, Commentary and Questions, Just in Time for Season 2

I have a lot of thoughts on Eleven, the Upside Down monster, and the other female characters from Stranger Things, going in several different directions. I want to explore as many of them as possible, so this is going to be another rambley post that goes all over the place. (Like I ever write anything else.) I’ll throw in some character analysis of the boys as well, since not all of them fall into the monster category. ūüėė

 

Who Is El?

Before we get to El, let’s look at her nemesis, the Upside Down monster for a moment. The Upside Down monster turns out to have a lot in common with the Alien monster and the Thing. All are female and using human bodies to incubate their young. All three are unusual in that they have monstrous appearances, unlike most female monsters. All are relentless in their drive to kill humans, which is really a combination of survival instinct and the drive to reproduce that all species feel. The narrative never points this out with any of these monsters, even though you’d think a breeding mother would elicit some understanding.

El, the powerful counterpart to the Upside Down monster, is a prepubescent girl on the brink of womanhood/menstruation, discovering her power as a woman, feeling the hormones rise in her body. She bleeds every time she uses her powers to symbolize this, and because women are kept shackled in our society, so that they can’t turn on men or become too powerful.

Female superheroes are rarely intelligent, attractive, powerful, and emotionally well-adjusted all at once. There will always be at least one area in which they need men to guide and support them. Superman, Ironman, Captain America, and Batman all function fine without a woman, even though they each have flaws. But Buffy, Black Widow, the Scarlet Witch, Wonder Woman and Cat Woman are emotional messes, children or childlike, who need lovers, brothers and father figures to show them how to function in the world.

So El is weakened by the use of her powers, and kept ignorant of the world, leaving her easier to control and less likely to escape. In our culture, most men can’t handle watching women who are better than them and don’t need them. Since these shows are made by men, this says some interesting things about male psychology. A truly strong, confident man wouldn’t need to hold women, and even little girls like El, back, to make himself feel strong and necessary. Yet in show after show, we find women who are overtly powerful, but held back by excuses their male creators have made up to keep them tied to men long after a man would have become independent.

El is kept barefoot and in a hospital gown (as close to naked as the lab staff and TV network would probably be comfortable with) and given no bodily privacy, judging by how ready she was to get undressed in front of strangers. If she tried to escape she’d be exposed to the elements. This sends the message that she isn’t equal to the normal people in the lab, who are fully and normally clothed. She is part of the experiment, who lives at the facility like a lab animal, while everyone else goes home at night.

What were Brenner’s plans for El as she aged? Would she have truly turned into the Upside Down monster, looking to go out into a world she didn’t understand, very, very powerful, and ready to use her sexuality, but never having had the exposure to normal sexual culture that most people grow up immersed in? Would she have become an aggressive female monster, filled with sexual desire, who men feared? Vagina dentata, the vagina with teeth? The femme fatale/fatal attraction? Probably not, as written by the Duffers, since they are heavily influenced by Stephen King, and he rarely gives women that much sexual agency and power. When he does, it’s generally metaphorical.

El doesn’t even fully communicate verbally, though there were hints that she is telepathic. She knew things about Mike’s day at school that no one had told her, for example, and when they were feeling particularly close she spoke in complete sentences, like she was channeling his language ability. But even telepathy requires a baseline understanding of the culture being thought about, in order to be used effectively, which El didn’t have. She probably couldn’t make sense of what she was getting from the boys heads, most of the time.

The little girl or adolescent on the brink of womanhood with powers and emotions that she can’t control is a common movie monster. She takes many forms. She can be a firestarter, telekinetic, possessed by a demon, a child vampire, the ghost of a young girl, a demon who takes the form of a young girl, a zombie who eats her parents, a poltergeist. What they all have in common is that people both underestimate them and fear them. Society prefers to pretend girls and adolescent women are frivolous and weak, so it’s extra scary when it’s revealed that one of them is powerful and relentless.

That makes it extra interesting that the Duffers made El into both the scary little girl monster, and also The Giving Tree, the mother symbol that gives of itself until there’s nothing left of it but a stump, a creature that’s consumed, figuratively and literally, by her compulsion to fulfill the needs of others before taking care of herself.

El is quite literally the culmination of where female characters have been headed since the late 80s. On the one hand, she is the most powerful person in the show’s universe, and she knows it. She’s been taught it by her Papa. On the other hand, in every aspect of her life but the one that’s acceptable to her Papa, who is the very blunt symbol of the patriarchy, she has been kept ignorant, helpless, imprisoned, and enslaved. She doesn’t even have a real name, shoes, or clothing.

So, is El a symbol of oppression or empowerment? Or both? Or of the manipulation women are continuously exposed to that leaves us confused about our roles and what is acceptable for us?

I’ve noticed a trend developing of dressing lead female characters close to the way El is dressed: She’s in a hospital gown and barefoot. Elsa from Frozen now spends Act 2 of her musical in a filmy white shift and barefoot instead of in her slinky blue ice dress. Jennifer Lawrence wears a white shift and is barefoot in her horror movie, Mother! June spends a significant amount of time barefoot and wearing only a white slip in The Handmaid’s Tale. I’m sure there are more instances of this costuming, since I spotted those without searching for them. This style of dress is traditionally symbolic of a woman who is a victim and in danger, possibly about to be executed.

Why is it suddenly popular with TV and filmmakers, at the same time that we have increased misogyny from politicians and conservative media, right after we had a woman nearly become president? Not a coincidence. Women are being put in their place, reminded that powerful monsters will be put down, and only ‘good’ women, who follow the rules, will stay safe. Power must be suppressed or used for the purposes of others, not to fulfill the woman’s own desires.

El seems to be a combination of two character types. The first is Stephen King’s later women, who are frequently horrifically (often sexually) abused before they rise up and take control of their lives, resulting in violence and aggression. The second type is the Joss Whedon archetype of a self loathing but powerful badass with mental and emotional challenges that leave her emotionally dependent on male characters. Joss’s characters are usually at least older teens, so they’re allowed to be sexy, and he makes that one of their defining traits. Stephen King, as a horror writer, works with more marginal populations, who aren’t automatically defined by their sexiness. So, as a young adolescent in a Stephen Kingish storyline, for this season, El toyed with the symbolism of sexuality and femininity, but didn’t have to act on it beyond her first kiss. She probably won’t be granted a reprieve forever.

Though Stephen King has attempted to improve his portrayals of women, his female characters, like Whedon’s, are still punished for being women. Their lives still revolve around, even depend on, male characters. They are still sexual assault victims who aren’t allowed healthy sex lives. They still fit the Never a Self-Made Woman trope which defines virtually every strong female character of the last 25 years.

Sadly, El is another victimized girl in this line up. I want very badly for her to stand alone, or with the other women of Stranger Things, and not need the male characters for her story to have value. But The Duffers are clearly proteg√©s of King’s, and rarely include girls unless the story requires that the character be a girl. Their women and girls require men for their very existence, rather than the other way around, as it is in reality. (Who gives birth to who? Which is why the Upside Down monster is the worst nightmare. She has ultimate control and isn’t male.)

The default character is male, and female characters depend on males to validate their existences. They have no story that isn’t in relation to the actions of a boy. There is no self-made girl in The Duffer’s world.

El focusses on “pretty” girls whenever she sees them, because that’s what the Duffers think girls think about, and what they think she would have been missing as she lay alone in her cell. They don’t think she would have dreamed about riding horses, or unicorns, or going to the moon, or becoming a famous actress, or swimming with dolphins, or saving the world, or finding her real family, or burning down the lab, like a real child would probably fantasize about. Even a child alone in a room has a fantasy life. Especially a child alone in a room.

They reduce this intelligent, complicated young woman to a pink dress, a blonde wig, and the word “pretty,” while we find out that Will is a sensitive artist who liked the Clash, tried to get along with his neglectful father, looked up to his brother, told the truth, was a good student, took care of his friends, liked X-men comics, played Dungeons and Dragons, and on and on.

The difference is perfectly symbolized by the drawings that Will and El make. We are shown dozens of Will’s drawings, we see him making them, their significance is discussed. We see one stick figure drawing made by El, and it’s only discussed long enough to determine that it’s not Will’s. That’s girls in this world. They are not-boys.

If El has nothing to do in her cell but draw and think, wouldn’t she do more than draw stick figures? Wouldn’t her drawings have deep significance?

Who is El? I’ll talk more about her as an individual in a moment, but, according to the writers, the most important things you need to know about El are these: She’s Not-Will, she’s Not a Normal Girl, and she’s a Monster.

No wonder El finds ways to obscure her face or disappear herself multiple times throughout the season. Even out in the real world, it’s made clear to her that her only potential long term value is to suppress her power and become a normal girl, which is impossible for her.

Even the boys inadvertently and overtly drive this home. She’s The Weirdo. She’s an object of fascination and a useful tool, who can do neat tricks and save their friend. She’s a sex object and potential love interest who needs to be trained in how to present her body and to wait for suitors to come to her. She’s told that she’s allowed to be anything but a person with her own personality, needs and desires.

It would make anyone feel rejected, hopeless and confused. Between the time spent alone and the strict rules for behavior, sometimes she probably feels like it’s not that different from the lab.

 


 

Mythological Associations of the Main Female Characters

El¬†is The Giving Tree’, making one heroic sacrifice after another until she has nothing left to give, as I discussed in my S1 Ep8 post.

If we use the triple goddess concept of maiden, mother, and crone to look at the three females who are most associated with the Upside Down, El is the maiden, the beautiful, young woman entering her sexual prime, with budding breasts, soft skin and not much adult hair yet, a favorite age for pedophiles and horror movies.

She is somewhere between the innocence of a child and the maturity of an adult, an overly powerful but overly sheltered child who is unpredictable because of it, in the way that pubescent girls are stereotypically considered unpredictable and irrational because of their hormones.

She is kept physically vulnerable, alone, and with as little knowledge of the world as possible. Her beauty is masked. She is reduced to only the portions of her power that the men lab staff find valuable. The show’s creators have hobbled her by making the use of her powers weaken and drain her, in ways that male character’s powers almost never do.

They have made her a symbolic prostitute and virgin sacrifice by having the scientists, her pimps, force her to use hers powers for evil purposes while nearly naked. We see her onscreen, alone with the men she’s listening in on, a tiny Mata Hari¬†(who was a real person, but whose story is largely myth), not really the Femme Fatale Spy she’s portrayed as, but powerful, nonetheless. She’s forced into spying and (symbolic) prostitution, just like Mata Hari and many women before her.

So far, she’s only escaped being used in the outside world through the kindness of a few boys (mostly just 2, Dustin and Mike), hiding alone in the woods, and fighting fiercely to protect herself.

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Eleven, Maiden, Mata Hari, Persephone, Virgin Sacrifice

She’s also Persephone, the maiden goddess who was abducted to the Underworld by Hades, Lord of the Underworld. Eventually Zeus forced Hades to release her, but, since she’d eaten some pomegranate while she was there, she still spends the winter months in the Underworld. Persephone is the daughter Demeter, goddess of the harvest. Demeter became distraught while Persephone was missing, and the Earth stopped producing. Terry Ives becoming nonfunctional is a direct correlation to Demeter. Like El, Persephone is associated with death, nature, food, and rebirth.

The Upside Down Monster is the vagina without a face, the fully mature adult woman reduced to nothing but her sexual reproductive capabilities and her drive to protect her young. She is the powerful sexually mature woman who has become a mother and has more to think about than pleasing a man.

She is Vagina Dentata, the vagina with teeth, but no face. The wife who has become a mother and a shrew, a woman who the husband no longer recognizes as the sweet maiden he married. A woman who, in the eyes of society, has been stripped of all personality, and all identity, but motherhood.

The iconic mother who can be destructive and fierce, or nurturing and protective. She is Sheela Na Gig, the dark mother, whose vagina is the channel that leads to both birth and death. But Sheela Na Gig (1) traditionally has a face, with her vagina in the proper place. She is a fully female goddess, not a caricature of femininity, reduced to her most minimal characteristics and used to exploit men’s fears, as the physicality of the Upside Down Monster is.

But the Upside Down Monster is fully alive, as we see her hunting and eating to fulfill her own bodily needs, not just to take care of her children. She is also intelligent, having learned how to make do and survive in a Through the Looking Glass version of her own reality, and showing resourcefulness as she finds different ways to search for Will.

Despite the attempt to turn her into something less, she’s still a woman and a character. If she were the father who was trying to avenge or protect his family in a strange new world in any number of ultraviolent action films, she’d be admired and cheered at every turn for her actions against a hostile alien species. Since the alien species is our own, and she is female, she’s reviled.

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Upside Down Monster, Mother, Sheela Na Gig, Vagina Dentata

Which leaves Barb, who is smart, strong, and sensible, but only human. She is not considered attractive or interesting by any of the men in any of the social spheres of the show, including the creators, so she is disposable. She fights with everything she has to escape the monster, and cries for help, but her one ally, Nancy, is forced to choose between the seductive world of popularity and the isolated world of her best friend.

In the moment, not realizing the finality of the choice, or even that she’s making it, Nancy chooses the normal world and Barb is left to live with the monsters. She is sent to the underworld Upside Down and erased from the narrative by both the town and the creators.

In life, Barb is able to withstand social pressures and speak the truth. She is the crone in this dynamic, even though she is physically young, not old.

She dies and is entombed in the Upside Down Monster’s nest, acting as a symbol of death and foreboding for the rest of the season. She becomes the Queen of the Dead. Perhaps she’s Badb, one of the three sisters who make up the Morr√≠gan, Irish goddess of war and death, the Phantom Queen who appears as a warning of the deaths that are to come. The Morr√≠gan is associated with crows and with Lilith, who was Adam’s original, rejected companion before Eve.

Since Barb’s body is presumably gestating baby monsters, just like Will, she’s also a symbol of the cycle of death and rebirth, and of hope (at least if you’re an Upside Down Monster). The Morr√≠gan also has some association with protection and fertility.

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Barb Holland, Queen of the Dead, Crone, Lilith, Badb, the Morigan

[There are no true crones in Stranger Things. There are no old women. None of the adults has a mother or mother figure. Even Terry Ives has a sister as a caretaker instead of a mother. The closest things we get to old women are Brenner’s FBI henchwoman, Agent Frazier, who acts as Mother Death, as she metes it out to people who threaten her, and who is an underling of the Lord of the Underworld, and, the sheriff’s secretary, Florence, who occasionally tries to get him to take care of himself. The two probably have 10 minutes of screen time between them.]

Then we have Karen and Joyce, presented to us as the good and bad mother in a modern¬†Madonna/Whore dichotomy. Karen is presented to us as the perfect, respectable wife and mother, who lives in the right part of town, keeps her house and her body in good shape, and never causes trouble. Joyce is seen by the town as disreputable, a divorced woman with a tenuous hold on sanity, who lives in the wrong part of town, doesn’t dress to please men, and isn’t under the protection of a respected man.

The reality of what goes on inside of each house doesn’t matter. Midway through the season, this flips and becomes confused, since blind rule following doesn’t always help save you and yours in a crisis. Monster-fighting requires thinking outside the box. But, Joyce gets a monster-infested son back from the Upside Down, while Karen’s children come back unscathed. There are consequences for female independence.

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Karen Wheeler, Madonna, Gaia, Force of Nature, Nuturer of Those in Need

Karen is also Gaia, the Greek Mother Earth. Gaia had a lousy husband, many children, a complicated family life, hidden children, and was a fundamental element that earthly life is dependent on. Karen, the √ľber homemaker who always has dinner on the table, food in the cupboards, clean clothes in the closets, and a casserole ready for a neighbor, is one of those forces of nature. She makes the rest of the family’s adventures possible in ways they don’t even realize.

At the same time, she’s juggling children of multiple ages and personalities, including a toddler who won’t swallow her food. Finding out that a girl who can destroy things with her mind has been living in her house, without Karen noticing, is a harsh blow, and brings up all of her suppressed worry for her kids.

Joyce is another force of nature, but homemaking isn’t her strength. She is Artemis, Greek warrior goddess of light and protector of the vulnerable. She is an untamed spirit, a caretaker of children, and a fearless hunter who lives independent of men.

 

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Joyce Byers, Artemis, Madonna, Bringer of Light, Hunter of Monsters, Protector of Children

Nancy’s story revolves around learning to stand up and fight her battles with confidence, and becoming in tune with her environment so that she can strategize and understand her opponents. Meanwhile, she’s deciding which boy will ultimately be worthy of being her boyfriend, as is usual for 21st century teen heroines.

She is a¬†¬†warrior princess,¬†specifically¬†Diana, goddess of the hunt, associated with animals (especially deer), woodlands, and the moon, and champion of the lower classes and slaves. (And the Roman counterpart to Artemis. Nancy and Joyce have being warriors in common.)¬†Diana’s twin brother is important to her, mirroring Nancy’s relationship with Mike.¬†

Nancy¬†is also Eve, as her story is closely tied to her male companions (2).¬†Since this is a retro 80s story, she reverts back to a normal girl at the end of the story and chooses Steve, the normal boy, rather than Jonathan, the quirky, creative, outsider boy she won her battles with. The 80s were all about normal. Our era is becoming a time of ultimate self-segregation, so maybe Nancy choosing the boy who fits her parents’ lifestyle the most closely does make the most sense after all.

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Nancy Wheeler, American Girl, Warrior Princess, Diana, Eve

 


 

The Dangers of the Female Gaze

In her essay “When the Woman Looks,” (3) Linda Williams explores the work of Linda Mulvey, who first discussed the male gaze in horror movies, and its corresponding effect on women and the female gaze. In classic cinema, seeing equals desire and knowledge. “Good” female characters were often figuratively or literally blind, which allowed the male characters to gaze upon them at will, and effectively squashed the female gaze, and therefore the female’s sexuality and desire.

“Bad” girls, or “Vamps” (short for vampire, a monster who sucks the life out of men and transforms them into a monster) are often allowed to look, but they are eventually punished for it. Good girls also occasionally look, but they are punished even more swiftly and decisively. Only passivity is allowable in the face of male sexual desire, allowing the man to look his fill. The echoes of this trope still reverberate in modern day works, though the blindness is almost always metaphorical nowadays.

Further, since we’re talking about horror, Williams posits that the monster and the woman are two sides of the same coin, mirror images of each other in a patriarchal society which deems them both distorted and inferior. When the monster and the female gaze at each other, there is recognition as much as horror.

We see this recognition between El¬†and the Upside Down monster in the science lab when they face off in the last episode. El walks toward her slowly, and they stare at each other. El tells the monster, “No more.” She uses her powers on the monster, but disappears herself at the same moment.

She’s known all along that she’s a monster, just like the Upside Down monster, and now she’s face to face with her counterpart. Their outward physical characteristics are meaningless in this context. They’ve both taken forbidden looks at the other’s dimension, they’ve both used their power for their own reasons, they’ve both put boys at risk, therefore they both need to be punished. They are the bad girl and they are the monster.

El has internalized the messages she was raised with, so no external punishment is needed. She punishes herself along with vanquishing the monster she sees as an enemy as well as a kindred spirit. She is a triumph for the methods of the patriarchy.

The Upside Down monster is the sightless trope taken to the extreme. She is sexless in her appearance and manner and lacking sexual desire to the extreme as well. All of her desires have been reduced to survival, reproducing, and protecting her young. She is a mother who is no longer directing her gaze toward men, rendering her symbolically, or, in this case, physically, blind. This means that men lose the competition for center of attention in the woman’s life, which is unacceptable to some men, to the point of phobia and turning the woman into a monster.

Barb wears glasses to improve her sight and sits in the dark before being taken and losing her glasses. She was a good girl, associated with obscured physical vision, but also, like the Upside Down monster, too far to the extreme for men to be comfortable with her.

She goes from being the one woman who questioned the male dominance of the teenage group to a mere vessel for reproduction, quickly forgotten by everyone but Nancy.¬† She saw too much of the truth, she tempted Nancy with the truth about Steve and his crowd, and she didn’t desire the men, nor did they desire her, so she was not only punished, but disposable.

Good girls who look/seek knowledge will end up punished. She was also taken to the monster’s lair and turned into a monster herself. The monster recognized Barb as one of her own.

Nancy is made symbolically blind by Steve as he gets in her face and blocks her view over and over again. This directly leads to Barb being taken. Jonathan spends the rest of the season helping her regain her sight, knowledge and power, since his camera gives him more visual insight than others.

But she fails in regaining Barb, because this is still a male dominated culture and a show made by men, about male fears and desires, so she’s punished for her knowledge and independence. And she ends up with Steve, who has been a dubious character that is an enforcer of the oppressive status quo, making us wonder how open her eyes have stayed.

Possibly she avoids death by making the bargain that she’ll go back to her pre-knowledge state and follow the rules from now on, rendering her willfully blind like her mother, Karen. She is Eve agreeing to give up the knowledge she gained from the apple, in exchange for re-entry into Eden. Except that trope never works out well, because once someone has seen, they can’t unsee, so her knowledge will catch up to her eventually.

Eleven is kept blind by Brenner, uneducated and in a cell most of the time. She escapes and opens her own eyes, but she is punished for her sight, as are the people around her. She even punishes herself.

Eleven also punishes the Upside Down monster for going too far in her attempts to survive and breed, even though any human would do the same thing if stranded in a strange place. No attempt to understand, help or communicate with the Upside Down monster is made. El and the monster remain islands, always trying to see the world they’re shut out of.

Karen stays willfully blind, listening to the urging of her husband and ignoring the many warning signs from her children. She is presented to us as the ‘ideal’ mother from the start, and ends up being willing to sacrifice her children rather than upset the male-dominated social order. She is the only woman who does what she’s told, keeps herself conventionally attractive, and is rewarded for her loyalty, as the only one who doesn’t suffer any loss.

Her lack of sight is impressive, as she doesn’t notice El living in her house or wandering through the next room, and completely misses Steve noisily climbing into Nancy’s room whenever he wants, not to mention all the times both kids sneak out of the house or skip school. That takes some hardcore blindness from a supposedly attentive mom.

Joyce is the one woman who insists on keeping her eyes open, no matter what resistance she meets. She works so hard to see that she hangs literal lights all over her house. Unlike the Upside Down monster, she is known and somewhat accepted by male authority figures in the town, who agree to help her, like the sheriff and her boss. This helps her avoid drastic punishment.

She also has little to lose as far as reputation and status go, unlike Karen, which leaves her free to do whatever is necessary to get Will back, even if it makes her seem crazy to the rest of the town and risks further disapproval. She has closed her eyes and attempted to return to normalcy by the end of the season, so as not to push the town any further toward turning on her. Consequently, she misses what’s happening to Will after his rescue from the Upside Down, her punishment for looking and seeking knowledge in the first place.

 


 

The Real Monsters

The true monsters are the failed aspects of society that allowed the injustices of the story to develop, and the characters who represent those aspects of society.

Hopper,¬†as the sheriff, represents the local government and community. The entire police force is part of his monster gang, especially his two sidekicks, Powell and Callahan. The town itself, as a group entity, has chosen to ignore the suspicious activities of the lab for decades, and downplay other suspicious happenings, so that they can keep their record as a safe little town. How many times does Hopper quote statistics citing how long it’s been since anything bad happened there? Is that true, or have they just been ignoring earlier disappearances, writing them off as runaways, like Barb? Terry Ives story suggests that there’s a rotten underbelly in Hawkins.

Hopper, like the townspeople, has compassion and the ability to help unravel the town’s ongoing mysteries, but in season 1 he’s too focussed on his own personal problems to bother, and only wakes up enough to help Joyce and try to stop the monster in the short term. Stopping the larger problem is way beyond his ability to focus outside of himself, since he’s busy being an alcoholic and pill addict. He becomes a monster when he loses sight of the greater good, which means that he doesn’t protect the townspeople equally, as the sheriff should. He’s severely depressed, self-absorbed, addicted, and biased, all dangerous qualities for the chief law enforcement agent of a town under siege. He’s also the only monster that’s currently looking for redemption.

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Jim Hopper, Chief of Police, Lando Calrissian, Mystery Man of Intrigue and Romance

Brenner, as a scientist in a federal Dept. of Energy lab, represents the federal government, and scientific experimentation done without regard to the morality of the experiments. The entire staff of Hawkins National Laboratory is culpable for the actions of the lab. FBI Agent Frazier also represents federal law enforcement agencies, and overstepping authority figures in general. Both Brenner and Frazier fail to see others as human beings with rights. They’re obsessed with their own desires and ambitions, and they’ve been granted enough power and independence by the federal government to get away with treating humans like obstacles to be disposed of as needed. Their greed, pride, and ambition consume them, make them numb to human suffering, and turn them into monsters.

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Dr Brenner, Mad Scientist, Hades, Lord of the Underworld

Lonnie and Ted represent absent, neglectful and abusive families. Ted also represents people who listen to authority figures without question, even if it puts their loved ones and lifestyle at risk. They both choose themselves and the path of least resistance over their kids, whenever possible. They’re driven by laziness, selfishness, materialism, complacency, and avarice.

Troy, Tommy, Carol, the other schoolyard bullies, and the school staff, other than Mr Clarke, represent the failure of the public schools to protect or properly socialize children. The bullies are products of their environment, responding to pressure from the system around them. The school system fails to support students who are marginal, as we can see with Jonathan, Barb, Will, El, Dustin, Mike, and Lucas, to greater and lesser degrees. We see most of them get physically bullied at school, out in the open, and no staff members intervene (which is realistic for the time period). We know that Will was bullied as well. We also see Barb ostracized and mocked by Steve and his crowd, and her disappearance ignored by the school, the police, and the entire community. Even Mr Clarke, who is otherwise amazing, ignores the warning signs that surround El when he meets her in the school corridor. The school creates a school-wide assembly to address Will’s “death,” but fails to identify and help the individuals who were closest to him. The school system is filled with complacency and willful ignorance, leading to violence, aggression, and bullying.

There is still time for the kids to avoid becoming adult monsters, but the community has to do its job for that to happen.

 


 

Character Analysis

Eleven is a lab experiment. She’s severely culturally deprived and has been emotionally and physically abused and neglected for her entire life. She has no idea what normal is, or how to navigate in the world, yet she’s a powerful telekinetic and telepath who can read minds over long distances. She’s a young woman who’s been raised to be a weapon and a spy, and has been used as both.

She’s innocent and naive, and dangerous and volatile. She has control of her powers, but doesn’t always understand the situations she finds herself in, so she can’t necessarily make good decisions about when to use them. Of course, an 11 or 12 year old shouldn’t really have to make those decisions. She’s been left without a responsible adult guardian, so she’s forced to take care of herself, and do the best she can at making her own decisions with her limited understanding.

She’s a good judge of people, so she ends up with a gang of other kids that she can trust. There’s still the issue of her limited verbal communication skills. It’s hard to understand why her language isn’t more developed, given her high intelligence level. The details of how she was raised, and why she’s the way she is, are still largely a mystery.

She’s heroic, compassionate and self-sacrificing. She refuses to hurt the cat in the lab, and does everything she can to help Will, even though she doesn’t know him and it threatens her own safety. She’s also decisive and ruthless when necessary to protect herself or the ones she cares about. She’s willing to kill or seriously injure, if that’s what it takes.

She has a complicated relationship with Brenner, who she calls Papa and who appears to be the only person to have had regular direct contact with her in the lab. He touches her gently, and speaks in a kind voice, but makes her do things that terrify her, without offering any comfort or alternatives. He manipulates her, and treats her like a beloved pet or an infant, rather than a nearly grown person. But he’s all she has, and possibly all she’s known, so she can’t help but cling to him.

Because of the experiments that she’s forced to participate in, she opens up the gate to the Upside Down and sets loose the monster. El identifies with the monster, and removes herself from the lives of her friends at the same time that she defeats the monster. At the end of the season, she’s back to being treated like an animal, this time by herself and by Hopper, who feeds her using a box in the woods.

She experiments with thinking of herself as a girl, and knows girls are supposed to be pretty, but she can’t even consistently think of herself as human. The only adult who knows who she is, and treats her as a person, is Joyce, earth mother to everyone. Otherwise, she’s forgotten, betrayed, used, ignored, exploited and overlooked by adults. She’s the forgotten little girl, who’s quiet, so no one notices her quietly falling apart and desperately in need of help. Instead, the boys with the more overtly dramatic situations get the attention, and she becomes lost, literally and metaphorically.

Mike is the leader of the preteens. He’s intelligent, articulate, strategic, organized and fair-minded. He gives everyone a chance to prove themselves before judging them. He’s intuitive, optimistic and enthusiastic, but practical and patient with his friends most of the time. He can also be determined and stubborn, leading him to clash with Lucas and the bullies. He has a strong sense of right and wrong, and the confidence to act on his beliefs.

He’s the most mature of the gang. We didn’t get to see him interact much with Will this season, but I bet they normally function like King Arthur and Merlin, with Will as his chief advisor. Mike is devoted to his friends, and willing to do whatever it takes to help them, to the point of sacrificing himself. He’d probably do the same for his family.

Mike and El have an immediate connection, which neither of them quite know what to do with. They slowly admit that it’s romantic, and share a kiss and fantasies of a first date. But, those traditional romantic aspects are really irrelevant to their relationship. It’s clear from the beginning that they’re on the same wavelength, with a deep, intuitive understanding of each other, and fundamentally in agreement, for the most part, about how to approach the world together. Whether this is because El is psychic and basically imprints on Mike, besides having a crush on him, or it’s a true, lasting connection, remains to be seen. Either way, their connection sustained them both through the events of season 1, and that’s something.

I’m rooting for it to be real and lasting, because the chemistry between those two talented child actors is something you don’t see everyday, and I want to watch them grow up acting together. Their characters both benefit from the relationship, since their previous life experiences and personalities are opposites. There’s endless storylines to mine for them.

Dustin is probably my favorite hobbit ever, after Frodo and Samwise Gamgee. He’s a sweet, good-natured, imaginative, plucky, warm, caring Hufflepuff. He’s loyal to the core, protective, a peacemaker, and a natural diplomat. He’ll make sure you have fun at your birthday party, bring you soup when you’re sick, and cast a protection spell when you’re in danger. He’s the caretaker of the gang, and the lovable comic relief. He’s not afraid to use his charm to get what he needs, but he’s also very perceptive about other people.

He moved to Hawkins in 4th grade, so he’s a little insecure about his place in the gang, but Mike reassures him that he’s an equal member. He lives closer to Will than to Lucas and Mike, near the lab, which suggests his family has a modest income. Other than that, we know nothing about his home life.

My headcanon is that his family moved to Hawkins because one of his parents got a job at the lab. He’s so selfless that in S1 he didn’t even bring up how an evil lab that’s killing employees would affect him personally. He may not have been able to bring himself to think about it, and have hoped that his parent worked in another part of the lab.

Lucas is the practical, disciplined warrior to Dustin’s laid back hobbit. He’s a man of action, always ready for adventure. He’s quick thinking, determined and good in a crisis. He’s a loyal, forgiving friend, dedicated to truth and justice.

He has a fiery personality, which sometimes leads him to be impatient, angry or jump to conclusions too quickly, but he moves past those feelings just as quickly. He’s cautious about accepting and trusting new people, as a way of protecting himself and the people he cares about.

He has gear from Vietnam, presumably from his father having fought in the war, but we don’t know for sure. He doesn’t have the same last name as Hopper’s black sidekick, even though a cop would be a perfect candidate for a Vietnam vet. (Powell could turn out to be his stepfather.) He lives next door to Mike, so his family is probably doing well financially. He’s known Mike and Will their whole lives. We don’t know anything else about his family life. He’s one of the few African-Americans in Hawkins, so he probably faces racism without a strong cultural community to back him up, adding to the chip on his shoulder.

Will is the heart of the preteen gang. He’s the wizard and prophet, who sees the truth and is honest about it. He’s a sweet, sensitive, good, artistic kid, but that’s not the same as being innocent or naive. He usually acts for the good of the group, after careful contemplation of the right choice. He’s young and still coming into his power, so he doesn’t always make the right choice.

But he’s very good at escaping and hiding, which makes up for his mistakes. He’s resourceful in a crisis. He knows how to ask for help and is a good communicator. He inherits some of these talents from his mom, who also knows how to think outside the box and communicate in difficult situations.

He has a neglectful, emotionally abusive father, and he’s young enough that he still doesn’t understand that the problem is with Lonnie, not him. Jonathan is trying to teach him to ignore his father’s manipulations and insults, but it’s hard for a young boy to get to that point, especially one as sincere as Will.

Will is a serious artist who constantly draws. He uses his art to express his imagination and interpretation of the world, in contrast to Jonathan whose photos show the world as it really is, with Jonathan’s framing and processing telling the story behind the photo.

Will spent almost the entire season in the Upside Down, hiding from and then captured by the monster. He seemed subdued in the last episode, but trying to hide it, which is to be expected, especially since he’s flashing back to the Upside Down and coughing up larvae.

Jonathan is the hero child in his family, trying so hard to help his mom and make up for his dad’s absence that he’s not letting himself have an adolescence. He’s not sure that he deserves or wants a normal adolescence, anyway, because his father’s behavior has left him worried that he’ll turn out like Lonnie. He does everything he can to make himself into the opposite of his father.

Jonathan buries himself in his music, photography, school, job, and family. He dreams of escaping Indiana, and going to NYC, where he can start over as himself, without the prejudices of a small town weighing him down. Until then, he watches other people, and takes photographs, turning their stories into art.

He’s a sensitive, perceptive, cynical, artistic, loyal, hardworking guy, who tells Nancy he hates everyone. But he clearly has a soft spot for her, along with his mother and brother. He suffers through bullying at school from kids who’ve had much easier lives than him. He uses an expensive camera that he likely worked to pay for himself.

He lives in a small, run down house on the edge of town. His family is always struggling to make ends meet. Jonathan functions as the second adult in the house, and it’s clear that he has for some time. He has a job to help his mother with the family finances, and helps with the cooking and taking care of Will.

He and his mother are close. She still acts as his mother, and counsels and tries to take care of him emotionally, even though she also appreciates the help he gives her. He and Will are close as well, and he tries to be a good big brother while also trying to make up for Lonnie’s absence in Will’s life. Overall, he seems pretty well-adjusted and responsible.

Nancy started out as a typical American teenage girl from a middle class suburban family, doing well in school, excited about her new boyfriend, gossiping with her best friend. She was kind to Jonathan, the outsider, and showed some determination and spunk, but that was about it. After Barb goes missing, she begins to come into her own. When no one will take Barb’s disappearance seriously, she investigates his disappearance herself, with Jonathan’s help. She becomes confident in her own body, learning to use a gun and to escape dangerous situations. She uses her intelligence to piece together clues that everyone else misses, then to figure out the habits and weaknesses of the Upside Down monster, eventually setting up traps to try to catch and kill it.

She goes through several stages in her relationship with Steve, starting out in a very typical dynamic for the time, with Steve calling most of the shots. Then she ignores him and is annoyed with him because he’s not taking her worry about Barb seriously. She spends more time with Jonathan for a while. Eventually, Steve realizes he’s going to lose he if he doesn’t shape up, and tries to make amends. She takes him back, and they seem to have a more equal and honest, if ultimately still traditional, relationship.

Nancy and her mother become closer over the course of the season, as Nancy realizes that she needs help dealing with Barb’s disappearance, and Karen finally insists that Nancy come clean with her about her relationship with Steve and her worries about Barb. This is the one time that we see a close mother-daughter bond in the entire season, other than Karen being attentive to little Holly, so it’s nice to have the few heart-to-hearts that we get between them.

Steve is the overbearing, mainstream, douchey, borderline bully and psychopath boyfriend to Nancy who unrealistically comes to his senses and turns into a decent, understanding, humble guy. He ditches his lifelong bullying, psychopathic friends so that his girlfriend of maybe a week will still want him, and tries to make up for his terrible mistakes and the people he’s hurt. I have never, ever heard of a guy doing this while in high school in real life, though media loves to show it.

But, that’s the way he’s written, so let’s play pretend.

Steve starts out a rich, narcissistic, spoiled, borderline sociopath who’s interested in getting into Nancy’s pants. He’s aggressive in his attempts, becoming coercive each time, whether it’s a make out session in the school bathroom, going further in her bedroom, or going all the way in his bedroom. She says no or asks to take a break each time, but he presses the situation. Because this is a TV show, which takes place in the 80s, made by creators who don’t seem too terribly aware of issues surrounding sexual assault, it’s not clear whether Nancy’s supposed to be “playing hard to get,” or is actually coerced by Steve into doing things she didn’t want to do, and accepts this as part of dating. I find it deeply uncomfortable, either way. (Most male commenters I’ve seen don’t even notice that he’s doing anything that might upset the girl, and brush off the offensiveness when it’s pointed out. But that’s another whole essay.)

Steve doesn’t seem interested in much else other than sex and mocking people for the first few episodes. Eventually, he starts to feel Nancy drifting away, since he’s dismissed her fears about Barb’s disappearance and focussed only on how talking to the police or parents would get him in trouble. Nancy turns to Jonathan, who’s trying to find his brother Will. Steve gets jealous, and allows Tommy and Carol to paint nasty sexual graffiti about Nancy in extremely public places. Jonathan and Steve get in a fight. This somehow leads to Steve’s change of heart. Jonathan literally pounded some sense into him.

He starts doing community service, making the apology rounds, ditches his old, bad, friends and has a personality transplant. He shows up for the Jonathan stop on his apology tour just as Jonathan and Nancy are luring the monster into the traps they’ve set in Jonathan’s house. Now he becomes the damsel in distress, who learns monster fighting on the fly.

When the monster battle is over, the three have bonded and are friends for life. Steve will never bully or mock anyone again. He’s practically a saint. He gets the girl, free and clear of any challenges from Jonathan, as his reward for the difficult personality transplant. I won’t bother with a trope or archetype name for this, though I could find several. He’s the current culture-wide default male character and love interest. Almost every new show on TV this season has a main character that fits this type. Undeserving guy who’s a supposedly lovable jerk gets the job/girl/prize over someone more deserving, and the people who deserved it are forced to be happy for him and help him grow into the job/ relationship/ responsibility. It’s so popular that some voted it president.

Welcome to the US. I’m profoundly over it. If the teens arc were the whole show, I wouldn’t watch it, between the treatment of Barb, Steve, and Jonathan.

Barb is Nancy’s best friend. She’s mature for her age, supportive, smart, independent, brave and a good friend. She fights hard for her life (4), proving her strength, determination, and ability to keep going in a crisis. She would have done something amazing with her life, had she been allowed to live. She deserved better than to serve as a warning that the monster was willing to kill people, only to then be tossed aside and forgotten by the town in favor of worrying about the lost boy.

Barb is so compelling that in the real world, she’s become one of the most popular characters, with fans rallying around her cause, demanding #Justice for Barb.

Joyce becomes the √ľber mother over the course of the season, the mama bear who will stop at nothing to keep her children, and the children of the town, safe. She takes El under her wing and is the only adult who knows El’s true story to treat El with respect and like a normal child.

She’s a divorced single mother who’s determined to make it work without the help of a man, other than her sons, who she’s devoted to. She has an idiot for an ex husband, who causes trouble rather than helping out. She works at the local drugstore, and is always on the edge of not having enough money.

She’s lived in Hawkins for a long time, if not her whole life, and the townspeople know her and her reputation. Despite having a reputation, she’s a reliable employee, maintains her home, and has two well-behaved boys who are doing well in school.

She’s a fighter, who questions authority, even if it will make her look bad to do so. She values family, justice and the truth much more than fitting into middle class stereotypes. She doubts herself sometimes or is nearly overwhelmed by fear and anxiety, but she pushes those aside in order to get the job at hand done.

She’s resourceful, and used to having to live within her means. As far as we know, she’s not an artist like her sons, but they got their creative minds and observant artist’s eye from her. Raising her children under less than ideal circumstances is her art, and she appears to have done well with it.

She faces the challenges of Will’s disappearance with a keen, open mind, ready to work with whatever strange situation is thrown at her. She finds creative solutions and makes the right connections long before anyone else has even picked up the phone. She’s the glue that holds the search for Will together across groups, since she keeps Will going, keeps El going, gives Jonathan enough knowledge to believe Nancy when she tells him her story, and helps Hopper fill in the details of his investigation.

She’s the biggest d*mn hero of this story, from figuring out that flashing lights are her son communicating with her, to getting out of her car and going back in to face the monster in her wall alone if that’s what it takes to save her boy, to insisting to the coroner that the fake body isn’t Will’s, to going into the Upside Down to rescue him. No one else is as smart or as stalwart as Joyce Byers, or as unafraid of the opinions of others.

Hopper¬†is the current sheriff of Hawkins. After growing up in Hawkins, he left for the big city and became a cop. He married and had a daughter while living there. His daughter tragically died of cancer a few years ago, which lead to the end of his marriage. Hopper grew depressed, became a barely functional alcoholic, and grew addicted to Tuinal, a sedative/anti-anxiety drug that was discontinued in 1991. It was a barbiturate that was highly addictive and widely abused as a recreational drug (and also used by a character in Stephen King’s Pet Sematary).

Hopper moved back to Hawkins so that he could work at a less stressful job and escape the memories of his daughter. Will’s disappearance and the evidence of El’s mistreatment at the lab are bringing up all kind of unwanted feelings in Hopper. They make his alcoholism and pill addiction worse, at first.

As time goes on, and he delves deeper into the case, he tries to lessen the impact of the substance abuse on his system so that he can think more clearly. Hopper throws himself into the investigation, as if saving this child (usually Will, but sometimes El) is the key to redeeming himself and moving past his daughter’s loss.

But he gets too personally involved in the case, and ends up identifying too much with Joyce, and the loss of Will. He forgets that there is more than one victim, more than one family in need, and only protects the child and mother who are both in front of him.

Dustin names him Lando Calrissian, the friend of Han Solo’s who betrays the heroes to the Empire in order to protect his own interests. This turns out to be true of Hopper. Lando does eventually redeem himself and become a hero.

Hopper is left with guilt again, over the betrayal of El, a little girl who has no family, and no adults to protect her. He wants to redeem himself, and see El reunited with her family. But we haven’t reached that part of the story yet.

He’s a bit of a mysterious figure in his own right, since there are many details of his life that we don’t know yet. He’s a skilled investigator, which suggests that he may have been more than just a regular cop (5) in the big city, especially since he’s fairly young to already be the police chief. There are hints that he could be working undercover for a government agency in Hawkins.

He and Joyce had a past together in high school that wasn’t explored this season. We know almost nothing about his marriage and ex-wife. He somehow ends up feeding El in the woods at the end of the season, but we don’t know how they found each other.

He’s a good cop, who is trying to protect the town. He doggedly investigates Will’s disappearance once he starts to take it seriously. He’s brave, and walks into dangerous situations without a second thought. Like Lando Calrissian, he’s a good man overall who’s fallen into a dark place in his life.

Karen¬†is the seemingly perfect, relentlessly normal 80s supermom. Like her husband, she tends not to see the things that don’t fit her version of reality. She’s caring, compassionate, and attentive to her kids, her home, her neighborhood and community, but she doesn’t look below the surface. She gives great advice and is a great listener, as long as you’re having a typical problem, within the realm of “normal” to her experience. She’s only unusual in her supermom perfection at the role. Few women could pull off even the appearance of being so normal and together with three kids and an “out of it” husband.

But, when things that are far outside the boundaries of normal start happening, she can’t keep up. She continues to react with “normal” parental responses, like curfews and crying, rather than treating this like an emergency that she needs to be personally involved in.

She starts to allow Mike to quietly become the family leader. She’s unable to change gears and do what needs to be done to help keep the family safe, as Joyce, Nancy and Hopper do. Even Lonnie, and Barb’s parents, respond with more appropriate energy to what Brenner and the police tell them. Karen lets herself be led down a garden path by Brenner and Ted (who’s shockingly lazy about his own missing children, making me wonder if he’ll turn out to be one of the pod people in season 2, if ST goes that way).

She didn’t have much direct contact with Mike before he ran off to rescue El, which partially explains her failure to take the situation more seriously. She spent most of her in-person mothering time with Holly, and the rest counseling a troubled Nancy.

We don’t see her having any after effects from the near miss of losing two of her children, either. At the end, she’s happily chatting and baking cookies as if nothing ever happened. It would be good to see her having nightmares during season 2, or an aversion to certain spots around town where the events of season 1 happened, or becoming more fearfully strict with her children as a way of trying to cope with her exposure to Nancy and Mike’s traumatic experiences.

Ted¬†is the checked-out, numb, traditional family man of the Post-War era. He gets up, goes to work, comes home, watches TV, and goes to bed. Everything else is his wife’s problem. He’s probably a functional alcoholic. He may be having a boring affair with his secretary. I count him as a C level monster, the oozy kind that creeps up your leg and eats your flesh, taking off a leg slowly over the course of a day without you feeling it. Before you know it, he’s destroyed your life, but you’re not really sure how.

It’s through his passivity. It grinds down the people around him, forcing them to make all of the decisions, take all of the action, pay all of the consequences, while listening to him whisper blame in their ears. All the while they vaguely know that things could have gone better if they’d had the help they had the right to expect from him, but they can’t find any concrete wrongdoing to accuse him of.

But, hey, what did he do? He didn’t do anything wrong! He just kept everything to himself: his energy, his time, his compassion, his money (beyond the essential amount to support the family), his attention. He’s a closed up person who pretends to be a decent family man.

Brenner is¬†the head of Hawkins lab and its illegal experiments, going back decades. He’s complex, brilliant, unscrupulous, ambitious, manipulative, charismatic, a mad scientist, a liar, and willing to sacrifice anyone and anything for his work.

He looks at least a little, if not completely, thrilled and excited every single time he sees the results of El’s use of her powers, whether she’s crushed a Coke can, destroyed a building or killed several people. El calls him Papa, and he may or may not be her biological father. He’s the closest thing to a parent that she knows. He exploits this ruthlessly, but he also seems to truly care about her, in his own twisted way.

He may have powers of his own. He seems to run Hawkins lab independently, with little oversight, and the entire staff takes on dangerous, immoral jobs for him. That’s a lot of corruption going unnoticed in a small town. It could be that he has mind control powers, or it could be that he has friends in high places, and the lab pays really well.

We know little of his background, beyond Terry Ives’ accusations that he stole her baby. The photos from the articles about the lawsuit showed him with multiple young women in hospital gowns. Did he have sex with multiple test subjects? Did multiple women give birth to his powered children?

He was taken by the Upside Down Monster at the end of the season and is presumed dead, but I don’t believe it. (6) In mythological terms, he’s Hades, the Lord of the Underworld who abducted Persephone. The Upside Down monster has taken him to the Underworld, his natural realm, where he can fully become his true self, the King of the Dead. Hades lives among the dead, but he is immortal. He also has a house full of souls that he guards jealously. We’ll have to wait until S2 to see exactly what that means.

Mr Clarke¬†is the best father figure in town. He’s there for the kids every time he knows they need him, going above and beyond what’s required of him. He’s a good guy, and a bit innocent and naive about the bad people in the world. He’s kind, compassionate, intelligent, reliable, quick-thinking, generous, fun, sensible, and just a tiny bit oblivious. He should be let in on the secret in S2. Hopper could use his expertise and guidance, both as a surrogate dad and on scientific issues. You know Mr Clarke would be as excited as Dustin to chase real monsters.

There is an off chance that he’s some kind of monster himself, since he’s too good to be true. He was overly helpful all season, but also turned the kids in to the lab. He may have some hidden agenda of his own, either because he’s a pod person or because he’s investigating the lab undercover. The chances of either seem equally likely.

In the meantime, he’s also got game in the romance department. He showed his date a horror movie so she’d cuddle up next to him, then explained to her how the effects were done, simultaneously making himself look geeky cool and smart, and keeping her from becoming so terrified that the romance couldn’t progress into the boudoir after the movie. He also took a few minutes out of the date to help his student when Dustin called, showing that he’s a dedicated, knowledgable, gainfully employed teacher, and that he’ll make a good father someday. Bravo, Mr Clarke! (7)


 

Questions

Why is there a fleshy membrane between the Upside Down and our world within the walls of the Byers house? Is the entire Upside Down part of one living being?

What is the Upside Down? Is it another dimension or verse, an alternate time stream, or part of our verse that we’ve been previously unaware of?

Is Terry Ives El’s mother? Who is El’s father? Dr Brenner? Another test subject?¬† Why does El have 011 tattooed on her? Were there ten failed child test subjects before her? Are there ten children somewhere else in the lab facility?

Why didn’t El ever learn to speak proper English? She appears to have been around people. Certainly they’d have had to physically maintain her. You’d think the staff would have chatted with the cute little girl during meals and baths and such. We see some stick figure drawings in her cell. Why not more? How did she spend the bulk of her time? Does she mostly communicate telepathically?

Is Brenner a telepath? Does he have other powers? Can he Push/coerce people with his mind when he stares into their eyes? Was he one of the original test subjects at the lab?

What else lives in the Upside Down? Why is it a mirror of our world? Did El somehow create it or has it always existed? Is the Upside Down monster somehow a manifestation of El’s negative female energy?

Did Sarah Hopper really die, or was her death faked? Is she in hiding because of Hopper’s undercover work, or is she an experimental test subject? She supposedly had a cutting edge treatment for her illness, which could mean that she was part of an experiment before her supposed death. Was/is there an experiment that tries to bring out the psychic and self-healing abilities of dying children?

How does Hopper know El is out in the woods? How did he start feeding her? Did she communicate with him over his police radio? Or telepathically?

What’s up with the eel babies that Will’s coughing up? Will they try to recover Barb’s body? Will Troy have PTSD from wetting himself in front of the entire school?

How will Will be changed from his time in the Upside Down and the monster’s nest? Will El ever get to sleep in a real bed in a real bedroom, and wear clothes of her own? Can we find a way to bring Shannon Purser back, at least for a flashback?

What happened to Brenner? Is he now the Bride of Frankenstein, instead of Dr Frankenstein? Will we meet other inhabitants of the Upside Down? Will Brenner have an eel baby in his head, controlling him, like the Goa’uld?

Will the town/lab try to close all of the gates between worlds, invade the Upside Down to look for things to use/steal, or start a war? What will the Upside Down pick, out of those same choices? Which side is stronger and more advanced? Who has more resources? Is there any chance of cooperation? Will someone try to hire Nancy or Joyce as guides to take them into the Upside Down?

[Spoilers] Joyce is getting Samwise Gamgee, himself, as her new boyfriend, the lucky girl. She’s definitely earned a decent, reliable man. What about the other potential romances? Will Hopper and Lonnie give up on Joyce? Will Jonathan move on from Nancy and find a nice recurring character to settle down with? Will Mike and El go on a date and stare longingly into each others eyes while completing each others sentences? Will Lucas and Dustin fight over the new girl? Will Mr Clarke and his movie night date settle down together? Will Brenner mate with the Upside Down monster, simply become a vessel for her larvae, or will they decide to just be friends?

Who will turn out to be the new Persephone, Brenner or Will, or both? This is the real question.


Notes

(1) Very long article with detailed history of Sheela Na Gigs in Celtic countries

(2) Arguments for the redemption of Eve: Eve Is No Temptress  Eve Was Framed

(3) When the Woman Looks, by Linda Williams, from The Dread of Difference, ed. by Barry Keith Grant, 1996

(4) So hard that she got nominated for an Emmy.

(5) From Reddit Q&A with David Harbour [Potential spoilers]:

Here are my questions: Are any of the cast members similar to the characters they play in the show?

Do you think there is more to Hop than we initially learned about him from him this season? Maybe some sort of dark past?

 

DavidHarbourAMAVerified Cast Member[S] 

we are all kinda close to our roles i think, except millie who in life is much sillier than 11. I’m kinda silly too but deep down i am very jim hopper

much more to hop, much more to conspiracies he’s lived thru…more to be revealed…

At another point in the Q&A, David Harbour also implies that his daughter died of a specific illness that’s important and that her death will come into play during season 2.

 

(6) SPOILERS BELOW:

From an uproxx.com interview with The Duffers

When last we see Dr. Brenner, the monster is leaping onto him, but then you cut away quickly, despite being very comfortable with gore. Did you want to leave his fate ambiguous, or was that meant to be his death?

Ross Duffer: We wanted to purposely leave it ambiguous.

Matt Duffer: I will say, if we were going to kill him, we would have really killed him. That’s a very anti-climactic death, if that’s his death. If I was a viewer and that was his death, I would be upset about it.

(7) Mr Clarke is definitely the crushworthy marriage material of the grown ups in my book, even though Hopper is the broody, needy boy we all want to save and Brenner is the dirty little secret and boy on the side. So, in a game of f*ck, marry, kill, I’d marry Clarke, f*ck Brenner, and take Hopper to rehab for 6 months to a year. Unless Clarke turns out to be an alien, as I’ve speculated occasionally. Then I’ll cheat and throw Samwise in as my marriage choice.

Who am I kidding, I’d always marry the mayor of the Shire.

 

 

 

 

 

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