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


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. 😘


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.

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Stranger Things Chapter 3: Holly, Jolly Recap


We get two of my favorite things this episode, an epic amount of Christmas lights and new information. The show is done with pleasant introductions, and ready to dive in deep, starting with wherever Barb is- possibly a metaphysical mirror image of the pool she was sitting next to, possibly the monster’s lair. Either way, she doesn’t seem to get out alive. Barb fighting for her life, as she screams for Nancy to help her, is intercut with Nancy and Douchey Steve getting to second base. It’s disturbing on several levels.

Nancy hesitates with Steve a few times, as if she might almost hear Nancy, or she could just be having second thoughts about what she’s doing with Steve. Steve continues to be a douche, and falls asleep when they’re done. Nancy is left to walk home alone in the dark through the neighborhood with the missing kid. At least she’s not a babysitter, or she’d surely never make it back to her house alive, given the horror movie tropes we’re working with. But she does make it home alive, and is met by her very worried mother.

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