Stranger Things: Late Watching and Why Nancy Wheeler Is Important

I waited a little while to watch Stranger Things, for a lot of reason, I wanted to wait until the hype died down, I wasn’t feeling well, and I didn’t have a lot of time, and I was a little worried about it freaking me out (it did, but in the good way.)

Once I finally dug myself out of the self imposed “One Tree Hill is the only thing I can watch, because I have doomed myself to a life of sadness” hole. (I am almost done with it though! I’m very excited!) I started watching an episode here and there and on Saturday I finally finished!

But since I was late to the party, I also missed a lot of the think pieces. Which makes me both sad and relieved. Anyway, I’m going to talk about Nancy Wheeler, the 16(?) year old sister of Mike Wheeler, our story’s hero, who sort of becomes a hero in her own right at one point.

Nancy begins the show in the early dating stages with a popular dick-bag named Steve, and in fact her best friend, Barb (poor Barb) is dragged into the Upside-Down and killed by the demi-gorgon while Nancy has sex with Steve at a party, thus abandoning her and beginning Nancy’s arc.

Nancy then teams up with Jonathan Byers to find his brother Will and Barb, (they find Will, but Barb is dead), and still, for reasons passing my understanding, ends up with Steve. Season 2, will, hopefully, repair this grave injustice. (I am not saying that I want Nancy with Jonathan…I mean, I kind of do, but not by default. I’d be perfectly OK with Nancy going to college and not being with some dude from high school…)

Anyway, this piece is about why I think Nancy is an important character for female representation. (As is Eleven, by the way, and Joyce) But Nancy is not the kind of character that you get to see in a teenage girl very often. Nancy is clearly popular, she’s a good student, she’s pretty, she’s girly, she has a crush on a less than worthy boy, and those things aren’t portrayed as making her shallow, unrelateable or incapable of being a hero.

Teen girl heroines, particularly in genre stories, are supposed to be strong, they’re supposed to be selfless, and most of all they are not supposed to be like those girls. You know the girls I mean. They’re not supposed to worry if the popular boy actually cares about them or is just trying to get into their pants. They’re supposed to be above even liking that popular boy. They’re not supposed to wear pastel cardigans, or peter pan collars or ballet slipper necklaces.

But Nancy Wheeler is one of those girls.

They’re not supposed to be simply avenging their friend, there must be a grand purpose to what they’re doing. They’re not supposed to get annoyed at their families, or get scared when confronting the monster, or not know what to say when they’re publicly humiliated.

But all of these things describe Nancy, but she’s still a hero. And I think that’s important and worth discussing.


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