Hey, hey you, Joyce Byers is a fantastic mom, pass it on
By Rachel Poe
Yeah, I was one of those people that watched the second season of Stranger Things within the first day of its release and I’m not ashamed of it. The first season set a high bar which the second season easily lived up to. The writing is fantastic, the aesthetic is everything I strive to be, and the show is just fun- or as fun as a show about a shadow demon tormenting a sleepy town in Indiana can be. But if I’m going to pick my favorite thing about Stranger Things, it might have to be the women. Unique, well rounded, and badass in their own ways, the women of Stranger Things are forces to be reckoned with. They surpass their archetypes to something fresh and unexpected, much like the rest of Stranger Things.
Let’s start with Joyce Byers. Joyce is a woman on a mission, a single mom trying her best to give the best life for her two sons that she can. As someone who has grown up with a single mom, Joyce deserves all the credit in the world. She loves her boys, Will’s disappearance almost destroys her and when she gets him back, she tries to make sure that he gets the best care he can. And she always supports her boys; I can’t stress how important this is. She never asks her boys to be something they’re not, and that’s what makes her such a great mom and an even better character.
Then there’s Nancy Wheeler. She’s probably my favorite character in the show. Her transformation from being that girl who tries to please everyone to a gun-slinging badass seems natural, based in her fierce determination to find her best friend Barbara. Nancy, like all the women of Stranger Things, still maintains her emotional depth besides her status as a badass. In season 2, we see her trying to reconcile with her immense guilt for Barb’s death as her perfect façade starts to crumble down. It’s her motivation that really makes Nancy stand out amidst the sea of goody-two-shoes on a rebellious streak.
Season 2 introduces the new character Max or Mad Max. Max comes in to, again, push against age-old tropes. She’s definitely a tomboy, one who likes to skateboard and has the high score on the boy’s favorite game at the arcade, but she’s intriguingly mysterious and I found myself almost desperate to know more about her backstory. Luckily, throughout the season, you learn that her snarky bravado is a coping mechanism against her abusive stepbrother. I won’t spoil too much but she gets her just deserts and it might be the most satisfying arc conclusion this season. Still, from a surface level perspective, Max looks like Eleven’s replacement, a necessary addition to the boy’s party for gender diversity. But the beauty of Max is that she is in no way replacing Eleven despite Mike’s hesitations. She brings her own abilities to the table as the party’s Zoomer. In all actuality, she wants to know more about Eleven and when she finally meets her, Max is super excited. It’s cute.
It wouldn’t be an article about Stranger Things if I didn’t talk about Eleven. She’s the glue of the show and her absence from Hawkins is noticeable. At this point, it’s almost redundant to point out how groundbreaking Eleven’s character is but this season we dive more into her psyche as we learn more about her past. Then there’s her relationship with Hopper. Both are lonely and lost and a little pathetic, but their relationship grows into a reluctant father/daughter dynamic that they’re both deserving of.
The women of Stranger Things are badasses who don’t shy away from their emotions, a concept that most of Hollywood can’t seem to understand. They’re setting a new standard for female characters, especially destroying the idea that being emotional and being a badass are two exclusive traits. All that’s left to do is to bring in some more racial diversity and Stranger Things will be good to go.