Top 10 Moments of Women’s Empowerment in ‘Stranger Things’

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One of the most refreshing aspects of Netflix original series “Stranger Things” is that it was never meant to follow in the historically male-dominated footsteps of science fiction hits.

In fact, there are almost an equivalent amount of women to men, and Millie Bobbie Brown’s Eleven is the definition of a strong female lead. The show’s women leave quite an impact on not only the men, but each other.

Without further ado, here are ten empowering moments from the women of “Stranger Things.”

1. Max becomes a part of the party as their “zoomer.”

Max arrived in true tomboy fashion in season two, quite literally rolling into Hawkins on her ever-present skateboard. While she was initially reluctant to engage with anyone, some of the boys — namely Lucas and Dustin — saw her potential in the group.

After she tells Lucas to prove that the upside down’s monsters exists, she finds herself in a pickle when her stepbrother comes looking for her. After he discovers where she is and who she’s with, and attempts to disarm Steve Harrington in a brutal fight, Max is the one to step up and stop him. In a very bold move, she grabs the keys from her sedated brother, tells the boys to grab Steve and proceeds to drive them to the entrance to the upside down. Racing through the streets of Hawkins, Max not only enforces her role as the “zoomer” of the party, but proves to herself just how powerful she is in the process.

2. Kali helps Eleven discover the full potential of her powers.

There is a very clear divide among fans on feelings toward season two’s seventh episode, “Sisters.”

On the one hand, many believe it ruined the flow of the season, and that the characters that Eleven ran into while discovering another lab rat where tropes of actual people who existed during the ’80s era.

On the other, many fully believe that Eleven would have never been able to utilize the full scope of her powers had she not found the experienced Kali, number Eight.

In the latter camp, Kali did an excellent job showing the link between their powers and their emotions. Some would even argue that the events that ended season two would not have occurred without this episode because Eleven’s use of her powers were still so untapped.  She allowed Eleven to fully experience her anger at her abysmal upbringing at the hands of Hawkins Lab and Dr. Brenner in order to transform her pain into her greatest weapon — herself.

3. Max shares her upbringing with Lucas.

Since Max was such a new character, there were a lot of unknowns. As such a strong asset to the group, she spent more time acquiring information about her new friends and their background than she did sharing any of her own. The decision for Max to share how she arrived in Hawkins from California was such a beautifully subtle way to show how Max’s vulnerability was a gift. She was able to trust her intuition enough to know that Lucas was a decent person and able to follow through by exposing her fears and failures to him. Ultimately, Max’s intimate moment with Lucas allows her to admit that she intends to be a better person.

4. Joyce throws Lonnie out after Will’s alleged death.

Joyce and Lonnie, her ex, have seemingly always had a rocky relationship from the very first season. When Will goes missing, Lonnie does not assist in finding him. When Will’s body is finally found in the quarry, Lonnie comes running under the pretense of getting back together with Joyce and helping his family during a dark time.

Joyce, being the observant person that she is, realizes that Lonnie only returned in order to collect on their child’s death, and that he still knows nothing about the children. In a very direct and demanding way, Joyce forces Lonnie to once again leave her and her children’s lives, reminding him that she successfully raised them completely on her own.

5. Eleven closes the gate.

Imagine that you have telekinetic powers that become so intensified while you use them that you literally levitate.

When Eleven closes the gate to another dimension that she unintentionally opened during season one, she reaches a powerful peak. Not only does she manage to return prior to closing the gate and protect everyone from the demodogs surrounding the Byers’ home, but she saves everyone by sealing the gate, cutting off the interdemensional demodogs and allowing Will to return to the closest semblance of his former self without the Mind Flayer having control of his body. Had it not been for Eleven, Hawkins may have easily been overrun by both the Mind Flayer and his minions in short order.

6. Nancy pitches a story despite her toxic workplace.

Nancy, if nothing else, has always been persistent in her beliefs. When Barb goes missing, it’s Nancy who never stops looking for her. Once Barb’s corpse is discovered, it’s Nancy that never stops seeking for ways to get the truth about her death revealed. In the latest season, Nancy is working for Hawkins Post, the local newspaper, as an intern. She and Jonathan are both in the same role, but the toxic masculinity of the newsroom reveals its ugly head to Nancy multiple times. Nancy is basically an errand girl, while Jonathan gets to be a staff photographer. While many would have dealt with the role, Nancy never stops reminding the men that she is a force to be reckoned with, including pitching an idea for a big story. The information she receives when pursuing the story leads to the party’s awareness of the Mind Flayer’s return, allowing the party to craft a plan to destroy him once again.

7. Karen Wheeler has a heart-to-heart with Nancy.

Being a stay-at-home mom, Karen Wheeler rarely gets taken seriously. There are glimpses of her power, however. When the captors of Hawkins Lab come looking for Eleven, it’s Karen who senses their dangerous disposition. When Nancy is questioned by the police, it’s also Karen who quickly becomes aware of her daughter’s sexual activity. Karen’s strength is partially in her beauty, but mostly in the fact that she’s aware she’s raised very strong-willed children. In season three, when Nancy decides to actually share with her mother that she was fired from Hawkins Post, her response is highly appropriate. She tells her daughter to keep her stubborn streak, and allows Nancy’s resilience to grow as a result.

8. Max and Eleven go to Starcourt Mall together.

Max and Eleven had a rough beginning to their relationship. After seeing Max and Mike hanging in Hawkin’s Middle gym, Eleven misinterprets their relationship and becomes jealous. Eleven carries her grudge from season two into season three until she has a crisis with Mike. When her boyfriend ditches a date, she turns to the only other girl she knows. Max, being the good friend she is, listens and advises her friend on how to proceed with her relationship. But knowing that sometimes retail therapy is highly effective, Max and Eleven head to Startcourt and embark on one of the highlights of season three. Max allows Eleven to express herself through her clothing. While this seems shallow, it’s actually a special moment where Eleven realizes she’s more than what the men in her life make her out to be.

9. Eleven dumps Mike after realizing his dishonesty.

Mike and Eleven are considered the main characters of “Stranger Things.” As such, their relationship is one of the big reasons why people watch the series. So when it begins to unravel, it is a refreshing surprise that it is Eleven who initiates the split. After Hopper becomes frustrated with their make-out sessions in his home, he gives Mike an ultimatum. Instead of simply telling her this, Mike decides to lie about his Nana being ill, stating this is the reason he stands her up. After she and Max spot Mike at the mall, she gives Mike one more chance to be up front with her. When he maintains his lie, she dumps him in dramatic fashion with the infamous line, “I dump your a**.”

10. Joyce returns to the lab on a hunch.

Joyce is reeling from the loss of Bob in season two, but agrees to go on a dinner date with Hopper. However, she ends up not showing up to the date, instead spending her evening with Mr. Clarke, the party’s popular science teacher, in hopes to explain the mysterious case of her magnets falling off of her refrigerator. This leads to the discovery that something sinister is happening at Hawkins Lab.

Lauren Dixon

Lauren is a self-proclaimed word nerd, and quite proud of it. She studied Applied Linguistics & Communication at Georgia State University. Lauren has taught English to non-native speakers for over six years. She is a currently a freelance bilingual English/Spanish Instructor and writer for HERS.

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