The Halloween party I went to a month ago was FULL of characters from Stranger Things. The party games ended up heavily featuring things from the show and the costumes were so detailed that it was almost spoilers! It was really easy to tell who was who when I started watching.
I just finished the last episode about an hour ago and I’m feeling some kind of way about it.
Eleven. The directing is so smooth and crisp, the acting is small and nuanced with a few fireballs thrown in (executed perfectly imo), and shir definitely doesn’t need that wig! Are you kidding? I loved everything hir character did and said and felt and I’m really feeling some strong feelings of anger and hurt at how they sacrificed hir for everyone else.
THE BODY AND LIFE-FORCE OF FEMME PEOPLE DO NOT CONSTANTLY NEED TO BE SACRIFICED ON THE ALTAR OF MALE-CHARACTER-DEVELOPMENT
I actually got my hopes up a little! Around episode 6, I was thinking, y’know, I like this. It might even merit a second viewing. I was really looking forward to an inventive season finale and then episode 7 and 8 came along. Ugh.
It makes sense: The acting is good, the symbols are touching, the overall show gels and the audio is well placed. But for me, what happened to Eleven on that cliff, in that hallway, and in that lab… Miss me with it.
I hated that they brought in a romantic aspect to the relationship so that hir death would be all about him. “Oh! Look! A male character is now less naive and more wise! That girl’s life didn’t matter outside of what she could do for him.” I don’t know WHY I even hoped for a different ending! Once I knew where they were heading with it, my fury started to build; and even after hir sacrifice I finished out the episode hoping there would be some inkling of awareness and recognition of hir personhood outside of Mike. Hoping that this show would show me something Stranger than the boring old-hat nonsense that I’m familiar with.
The more we see of hir brokenness, the more the show implied she was expendable. Weak and tiny, raised from birth by a greedy narcissistic sociopath in isolation from all other relationships, experimented on, given awful tasks to perform, manipulated constantly. Clearly shir’s ruined like a piece of poisoned apple. Look at this terribleness. Eleven is like that wounded deer bleeding out – the best thing for hir is a bullet to end the suffering.
Oh wait! Don’t forget that Eleven’s mom is a drug vegetable at the hand of the government and she only comes into the story as a mute uterus and exits without any notice. F*ck Eleven’s feelings about it, right?
Oh, and! Once Mike kisses Eleven, hir arc is resolved! After that it’s only a matter of time before they figure out a heart wrenching way for Eleven to die. Isn’t it adorable how he went for it and she jumped away? He’s so great. WTF What about hir?
Oh, but! Don’t leave any mess behind when Eleven dies a gruesome and painful death, because that would be complicated for the male role opposite of hir. Clean up? Reminders of what shir sacrificed? Unnecessary! The boy’s club that sometimes was nice to hir is who we want to focus on; that’s who we identify with and Eleven’s part is over. I’m so sick of people like me ending up as window dressing and temporary set pieces who need to die to justify their existence.
Oh, plus! Eleven shows signs of healing when shir tries to tell hir Papa no. But that’s just a plot point on Eleven’s march to hir death. It’s from Mike’s perspective and Eleven’s role is to be carted around like a sack of potatoes. Dying, bleeding potatoes. Now we can kill hir off without any guilt or loose strings! I mean, what’s the point of hir anymore? If not a lab rat, hir story couldn’t possibly continue, right?
No, show runners. N O.
Look at what y’all are capable of:
Sci-Fi and Fantasy effects the 80s would call sorcery!
Complex characters and complicated series story arcs that keep getting more and more amazing!
Streaming movies and TV on the same wireless service!
Running a giant company that provides jobs to so many people!
Telling the stories of imaginary gods and devils!
Making movies and shows featuring white male leads in every possible situation (and many impossible ones) many times over!
…and you’re telling me that it’s BEYOND y’all to let femme characters live?
to hire people who will notice when you mix up “appropriation” and “tribute”?
to just treat all your characters as people? None of this bulls*t about some being more equal than others. Gender does not always have to decide a character’s motivations.
Are people with vaginas just considered disposable tools and toys in every universe you can imagine? WTF
to write a sic/fi series without someone’s uterus becoming a character?
to write a compelling ending without killing the damsel in distress/virginal child/femme-but-non-conforming person?
to know the difference between benevolent misogyny and actual support for womyn?
to cast leading womyn in roles that do not center on their role as a mother? (like, seriously, do you think being a mom is the only believable impetus for adult female characters? Really?!)
I DO think there were beautiful moments in the show and, surprising as it may seem, I actually decided that I like the show overall. (I mean, my girl Winona? Come on now. She is brilliant in this.) But I’m allowed to speak my piece on the trigger that cut deep:
The treatment of Eleven seemed to say to me:
“Womyn/vaginas/girls/anyone non-conforming who becomes too damaged by men/authority are too much trouble to survive. After the crisis has passed, it would be a hassle to deal with this traumatized person who will probably need help figuring out how to recover. It’s fitting to disappear any damaged goods into the Big Bad in a villain-cancels-out-hero situation. She’s the Monster! Isn’t that beautiful? Allowing life to continue for someone like that is too much trouble even in todays world. We don’t even take care of our own families very well! Why would we invent a story where female characters lives matter to our health as a community? Group bonds of care, sure, if they are male-centric. Womyn don’t fit into that tho. Their job is to sacrifice their bodies and minds for their community and then disappear.”
It makes me angry! I try so hard to want to live, y’all! How is this flippant treatment of people so easy to navigate for you? It feels intensely personal even though I know it’s not personal.
It makes me panic! I see the effects of these attitudes on me my whole life and the old absolute dread feels connected to today. It feels like I’m right back there all over again. I don’t want other people to go through this! I’m getting really panicky over this next bit:
My memories are surrounded by a pain buffer. Instead of thinking of my own recovery, my brain takes my bio-dad’s side and condemns me for my selfishness. Me? Live? Continue on trying to recover? Don’t I know how much that will cost the state/city/family/friends around me? And I think I’m worth all that? No. Sometimes, no! Sometimes I fall down that hole in my mind and I really wish I would die. In those moments I want to use my personhood in the only way it’s good for: sacrifice. Removability. It tricks me for a second into thinking that death is the only way to ensure my life will have an overall positive balance. It’s Internalized Misogyny at it’s most pure.
And it’s a constant in my life. Boring. Common. Unremarkable. Like an acquaintance you have to see Every. Day.
Show me something!
Show me something Strange.