In spite of this being a terrifying monster story and a cautionary tale about messing with the very fabric of our time and space, Stranger Things 2 was far more life-affirming and by the end worlds less bleak than its predecessor.
When Stranger Things
was the breakout Netflix hit of 2016 it was with a great deal of criticism over its treatment of women as well as lack of diversity. A pointed Saturday Night Live sketch
poked fun at the fact that somehow the showrunners “forgot” to include scenes from the one young black character’s family. And many viewers pointed out the troubling male gaze
that drove the show as well as its sexist treatment
of its few female characters. This was not a production that even remotely passed the Bechdel test
Color me surprised when Stranger Things 2
came straight out the gate, immediately addressing all the critiques that had been leveled against it and doing the work to improve on their past flubs. From superpowered Kali/Eight (Linnea Berthelsen), skateboarding gamer and new girl Max (Sadie Sink), to Lucas’s little sister Erika (Priah Ferguson) and his awesome mom (Karen Seesay), the new women of Stranger Things
are each exercises in badassery and self-efficacy.
All of a sudden, whole episodes begin passing the Bechdel test, and the town of Hawkins feels more real than ever with so many new faces of color who play significant roles in the story throughout its telling. The effect is marvelous and a perfect example of how more diversity and inclusion only makes a narrative better. This is only the second time I’ve seen an 80s-inspired narrative with a South Asian woman, and my heart was so full watching Kali be amazing on-screen. I can’t wait to see all the Halloween costumes and cosplays inspired by this new queen, and I’ve never looked forward to news of a third season so much.
[caption id="attachment_48390" align="alignnone" width="920"]
Linnea Berthelsen as Kali.[/caption]
But the Duffer Brothers didn’t stop there. Where Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) was the only black character in season 1 and was often marginalized by his nastiness towards Eleven (Milllie Bobby Brown) and grating personality which had no context since we never met his family, Stranger Things 2
not only fleshes Lucas out better through his parents and amazing little sister, but the story shifts in an organic way to him being the romantic interest. In a narrative that is still dominated by white people and their stories, Lucas’s role this time around felt like a creative coup. I think the Duffers might have also taken cues from Issa Rae’s Insecure cinematographer on lighting darker skin tones
because Lucas wasn’t blending into the nightscapes like he was in season one. Thank you.
Proper representation and inclusion matters. So much.