In season two of Stranger Things, it seemed as though women were physically incapable of talking to one another. Every major female character—Eleven, Joyce, Nancy, and Max—was in a love triangle, and because Eleven saw Max flirt with Mike at one point, she was cold and standoffish towards her. However, it seems as though the Duffer Brothers have heard our complaints and fixed the Max and Eleven problem for season three.
The first trailer for Stranger Things 3 dropped this morning, with enough trademark mystery to remind us that the series is a Stephen King-inspired romp but with enough focus on character growth to remind us all of why we keep tuning in. Friendships are highlighted—though it would be nice to see Nancy and Joyce exist beyond “lovestruck teen” and “traumatized mother”—and one such friendship is Eleven and Max.
We see the two girls hanging out in a photo booth, enjoying time together with their friends, and also hanging out in one of their bedrooms just being teenagers. It’s such a welcome respite from Eleven’s dismissal of Max’s offer of friendship in season two that I can hardly believe it. Stranger Things is not particularly friendly to women not named Eleven, so to see Eleven get a female friend her own age is a delight.
The first season of Stranger Things played with Eleven being “one of the boys,” as she was the only female character her age. Season two saw her on a similarly isolated journey, though she had the chance to meet her sister and try to develop a relationship there. (Say what you will, but I loved that episode.) Max, on the other hand, either faced rudeness from Mike or was the object of Lucas’s and Dustin’s affections; she didn’t really have a chance to grow on her own.
This is not to say that I dislike Stranger Things. It’s one of my favorite bingeable shows, but it has some issues that need to be addressed, and I hope to see them addressed in the coming season. It would be great if both Nancy and Joyce got friends as well, or at the very least moved beyond their relationships to the men in their lives.
This is not a solo Stranger Things problem either. Too often, women are just one of the boys when it comes to major genre projects—emphasis on the “one.” The Avengers (at least, the original lineup of Avengers) and the DCEU’s Justice League both featured only one woman on their teams. Women who are “one of the boys” are prioritized over others in a way that’s not really positive. While things are changing, the more female friendships we see in genre TV, the better things will be.
The third season of Stranger Things looks just as intriguing as the previous two, but the addition of strong friendships between all the teen characters really makes me happy. I hope Max and Eleven get to bond a great deal, and that their friendship becomes as key to the show as Mike and Will’s friendship, or Steve being Dustin’s older brother/babysitter.
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