Just when we needed one more excuse come camp the end in former of the AC, Netflix gifted us the man Hughes–meets–Drive fear thriller Stranger Things. Parallel universes, throwback parkas, synthesizers — what else do you need for a weekend TV bender?

If you're a feminist, you require a little more. And also at an initial blush, the Duffer Brothers' Stranger Things appears to deliver. In the pilot alone, we fulfill the brave and determined solitary mom, Joyce Byers, who is sustaining two sons on grocery store clerk wages. Us watch an androgynous telekinetic girl escape the man using her body because that experiments (played by a skeezy Matthew Modine, who provides her contact him "Papa"). And also we're presented to script-flipper (and great shot) Nancy Wheeler, that breaks padlocks v rocks and also takes zero shit.

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The show additionally throws quite a few middle finger up in ~ the society of violent masculinity. The males who prevail in Stranger Things space not Hollywood's idea of "manly." Jonathan Byers cried because that a week once his deadbeat dad made that shoot a rabbit. Mike & Co. Beat Dungeons & Dragons. The dweeby science teacher, Mr. Clark, has a hot date to clock sci-fi through on a Saturday night. Us see means more mind than brawn here — also Modine's character is more evil genius 보다 brute. We spend many of our time through the misfits that Hawkins, calculation the jocks and also bullies basic, pathetic, and also ultimately forgettable.

Sounds like it has actually all the makings of a self-aware, gender-conscious riff, yet when it involves the Bechdel Test, Stranger Things barely scrapes by. If you're unfamiliar, this check was developed by cartoonist Alison Bechdel (of Fun Home fame) and also requires the a movie 1) function at least two called female personalities who 2) communicate in conversation around 3) something other than a man. Held up against the test's rubric, Stranger Things's qualities are probably much more akin come Tommy H. And also Carol's than, say, Nancy Wheeler's.



The show is peppered with almost-passes — Nancy and also her mom talk summary (about the assembly because that Will, or her antics v Steve). Joyce and Karen Wheeler satisfy for missing-kid casserole, yet talk only around their sons. Nancy calls Barb's mother to inquire around her daughter's whereabouts, but we never discover this woman's name. Prior to Eleven it s okay in the makeshift sensory deprivation tank, Joyce and also Nancy both give thanks to her, however El's muteness keeps the from conversation status. The the next the show concerns passing is as soon as Nancy asks her classmate Ally about Barb. Us only know this person's name due to the fact that Nancy supplies it to acquire her attention, and also this is Ally's only three seconds of display screen time in the series.

Adding humiliation to injury, the show likewise features zero non-straight people; the bullies gay-shame Will and slut-shame Nancy; and the ineffectual cops engage in part hokey commodification of every other's wives. Which isn't even to cite the way our beloved Barb's loss is treated an ext like a lost iPhone than a absent person. Taken together, these things stand to leaving a pernicious affect on the city hall audience. Yet do castle obscure what the show does right? as soon as it pertains to measuring patriarchal culpability, is it possible the check alone is not enough?

Plenty of films pass it, yet still manage to failure marginalized people (Sex and the City 2's lurid social ignorance comes to mind). The Die Hard and also Sin City franchises pass, regardless of treating both male and also female bodies as ornaments. And also although they it seems ~ to provide positive role models, all but one the the Harry Potter movies and the three OG Star Wars fail, at some point reducing women to tokens who sole objective is come prop up masculine story arcs.



The females of Stranger Things, on the various other hand, carry out the show's central story arcs (save for will certainly Byers, that is right on the screen). Eleven is, arguably, the many compelling and memorable character on the show. Joyce is sincere, implacable, and also complex. Her emotional unraveling is real, relatable, and unapologetic — she refuses to let anyone acquire away with calling she crazy or a negative mother, and also even in her absence, the authors ensure the Hopper and Jonathan defend her against misogynistic detractors.

And Nancy. Nancy who seems the the very least likely come buck gender stereotypes as soon as we very first glimpse the Easter egg palette that is her bedroom. That takes a couple of episodes to notice Nancy's willful and also decisive nature — as soon as Steve is pushy in the bathroom at college or throughout their examine sesh, she pole to she convictions and also he backs down. When they carry out sleep together, she provides the very first move. She decides as soon as it's time for her and also Jonathan to seek the monster.

Choosing Steve is no a hit on she character, either. This girl likes Toto and Top Gun, not Evil Dead and brand-new Order! For whatever reason, Steve does it for Nancy. And when friend tease the out, the Steve choice is powerful. Throughout the show, we view Nancy act things since she wants to, amid a chorus of human being telling she what she ought to do. Both Barb and also Jonathan apply this push ("This isn't you," says Barb. "I witnessed a girl pretending to be someone she's not," states Jonathan). Steve, despite flawed, seems fine with whatever person Nancy desires to it is in — whether that's cramming for a test or shotgunning beers.

The Duffer brothers have likewise pointed the end that it to be probably difficult for Nancy come be about Jonathan ~ they found Will — the two were united by their common stake in the Upside Down, however Jonathan acquired what that was looking for; Nancy walk not. The girl's best friend just died! She is no doubt wrestling through a whole meatloaf of anger, guilt, and bitterness. Steve's obsequiousness is no doubt soothing. At some point the many feminist treatment we can offer this relationship an option is to respect and also honor it, not assume we understand what's ideal for her. In ~ the end of the monster hunt, it's Nancy's selection to make.


The existence of these 3 women in one season of television seems choose a conscious effort at unseating gendered power, especially in 2016, when less than fifty percent of released films are happen the test. However can every one of the show's victories be meaningful, presented together they are in the wishful-thinking setting of fantasy? In a truth where just 43 percent that the top 100 sci-fi movies pass Bechdel's criteria, ns think the price is yes. Two guys making a fantasy film has not, in the past, supposed that young boys through speech impediments, people of color, and also fully-clothed women acquire to it is in the heroes — in fact, it usually way the opposite. It seems like directors who prospered up LARP-ing are an ext likely to usage their films to live vicariously through tough guys who slay the villain and get the girl than to take under normalized gendered violence. Through Stranger Things, the D&D-obsessed Duffer brothers aren't making use of the present to live prefer the various other side, however to say you don't also have to it is in on the side to conserve the day. I beg your pardon is a win in itself because that anyone societally Other.

Unfortunately, these newcomer directors seem as well distracted paying your Spielbergian due diligence to offer things favor latent sexism much thought here. If the present gets picked up for season 2 (which seems prefer a preposterous unknown in ~ this suggest — there are whole think pieces dedicated to Barb, whose display time is tantamount to the Eggo brand), it would certainly be basic for castle to appropriate some of this wrongs and ace the Bechdel ~ above the next go around. Perhaps Nancy have the right to make them some flash cards.

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Season one's problems are not minor: It's a actual shame the it falls short to light a light on the multigenerational menagerie of solid women at its core by offering them the radical permission to interact. It's likewise tough to stomach the misogynistic habits flying around. But a lot of that habits serves to situate the present in that is time period — and also not in the method that apologists protect in "historically accurate" (read: sexist) projects. Here, there is sexism that the ladies (and men) push ago against. The personalities call that out. In the way, Stranger Things is in stride with The force Awakens, v Rey admonishing Fin for repeatedly taking she hand. The patriarchy persists in Hawkins, together it go in our contemporary world, however these instances of ladies laughing in the challenge of that do make an affect — currently if just they can laugh around it in the exact same room.