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.