!!SPOILERS! IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED THE SERIES YET! PROCEED WITH CAUTION!!
A friend of mine plans to open her own Online Magazine catered to women in their twenties. She kindly asked me if I liked to participate by contributing content/articles and since I haven’t written something in a very long time and it starts to tingle in my fingers; I decided I would come up with something. So here is my article as I wrote it without any control or editing from the Editor in Chief. Once the Online Magazine is out, I will link you to it.
Let me know in the comments if you watched the Series and what you think of Eleven? (Or if you haven’t watched it yet, and looked at this post anyways, do you plan on doing so?
I guess that by now everyone who uses Netflix has come across the series Stranger Things. For those of you in the unknown: It all plays out in a small town in Indiana in the year 1983 where it all starts with the missing of a boy called Will Byers (Noah Schnapp). The series then follows Will’s family, mother Joyce (Winona Ryder) and older brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) as they try, together with Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour), to find out what happened to the boy. Will’s 3 best friends, Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) and Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo), also launch themselves into their own investigation to figure out Will’s whereabouts but instead come across a peculiar little girl called Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) or El as they call her. It’s an absorbing as well as thrilling new Netflix Original Drama filled with enthralling suspense, skin crawling horror, supernatural occurrences and, in general, a whole lot of ‘strange things’. In short: a must-watch if you are into Stephen King! The series has finished its first 8-episode season with a huge success and the second season is already being anticipated with high hopes. Prepare to get hooked!
But on what I would like to focus is the character of Eleven. The portrayal of her is anything but stereotypical and has completely changed the game of what we are used to when we think of women or female characters in TV shows as well as on the big screen. Let’s start by her appearance: throughout the years femininity is expressed through beautiful, long, luscious hair. Women are expected to have long hair, best case straight with an artificial wave or curl in it, healthy, strong and shiny. However, many women on this planet do not have such hair and are often either shamed for it or ashamed of it because long, straight hair is a beauty standard that society has implemented in us.
Eleven has a buzz cut. Why this is so strikingly important to me is REPRESENTATION. Yes, I write it in all caps and bold because it is that important. Nowadays, many girls and adult women do not have long locks out of various reasons: biological (i.e. natural tight African curls are not considered pretty but that’s a story on its own), medical (cancer or alopecia), work (i.e. female soldiers are required to have short hair) or out of their own choice. But we rarely see female characters with shorter then shoulder length hair and also does it seem like nobody really cares about whether those women feel accepted and beautiful in our society. Also, whenever a woman happens to have a baldhead on screen, it usually is a Sci-Fi movie about a life that happens far away from our primitive civilisation; basically as long as it is not on planet Earth a woman can have a shaved head and still be considered desirable. Eleven’s buzz cut is surely not a result of her making that conscious decision, but rather for practical reasons and low maintenance for the experiments of Dr Brenner. But I still strongly believe that girls with either short hair or even a baldhead can relate to Eleven because for once there is somebody who looks like them. Finally a brave girl in a major/lead role in a series has a shaved head. They can finally identify with a hero on the screen and feel good about themselves and the way they look. Little things like that make a bigger change than we expect them to.
Eleven is not a typical girly girl but fierce! Sure, she has telekinetic powers and uses them quite well, but that is not what I am referring to here. Although we do not know this for certain I think we can safely assume that Eleven singlehandedly escaped from the Laboratories. Although she called Dr Brenner “Papa” and saw him as a Father figure who should protect her, she knew that all the experiments he did were not ok also did she not feel safe nor comfortable with them. So, Eleven took things into her own hands and showed herself out instead of waiting on someone to save her. Basically, she is the opposite of the “Damsel in Distress”.
Instead of being the weakling that needs saving and protection, Eleven is the one protecting the boys either from danger they do not realize immediately, like the Portal they were looking for so she manipulated their compasses to prevent them of finding it, or from the immediate dangers right in front of them, like the Monster that attacks them in the School. But most of all she fought Mike’s battle against his bullies when they verbally aggressed and threatened him after the Remembrance gathering for Will at their School. Eleven immobilised Troy with her powers and she even made him wet himself. Or later in a very iconic scene, where the bullies make Mike jump down a cliff (which looks like death is surely waiting for him at the end of it) in order to avoid them slicing Dustin’s throat open with a knife and Eleven, although the boys had a fight with her prior and she ran away, she appeared out of nowhere and saved the day by revealing her powers to the bullies while saving Mike mid-air jump as well as Dustin and freaking the bullies out to a point where they flee.
Another factor that I believe is important: although Eleven has not experienced true kindness or genuine love for as long as she can remember, she has not turned into a cold, heartless human being. I don’t know if I am the only one, but I think that since she is still a child and has been in the hands of Dr Brenner since she had been a toddler, it was easy to shape her personality and she could have turned out as a rather cruel persona. Instead, Eleven is a loveable character with a lot of heart and resenting the bad. She cares about others, especially the ones that do her good, like the boys and particularly Mike. She learns about friendship and what it means from them and protects them from evil as best as she can. It is also a big change for Eleven to see that the boys respect her will and decisions while in the laboratories she was always forced to do what was asked of her and was tricked or manipulated into joining Dr Brenner’s “little games”. Eleven also gets to experience a mother’s love when Joyce comforts her in the salt bath and tells her that she is there for her and will protect her. Eleven learns fast and knows whom she can trust within the people she meets. Related to her personality and her actual goodness is that she only uses her powers for good and most of the time in order to protect the ones she loves. It is true that she has a little telekinetic outburst or tantrum in the Supermarket after the fight with the boys, but it can also be related to the fact that she was upset and didn’t know how else to express it.
Eleven is the heroine we all love and root for. The glimpses of her past that we are shown throughout the series are frightening and especially for a child a shock on its own. Eleven has the power to make me want to protect her 24/7 from all harm as well as trigger my maternal instincts and at the same time let her be and watch how she can handle whatever life throws at her. She doesn’t need anybody’s pity and that is a factor of the series I enjoy highly. You could easily pity a person that has gone through what she had to go through, but despite all she turns out to be such a badass, that you cannot do anything else than just sit there and be all “You Go Girl!” She is physically a relatively fragile girl, but her personality and her powers make her so strong that you forget about her petite physique right away.
Eleven is the girl we all needed on TV; a heroine from whom we can all learn. I just hope that now the film industry has picked up on this portrayal of a girl or a woman and will go with it. Stranger Things was a huge success and I dare to say mainly because of Eleven, so it shows that strong, independent women are what we want to see. Let’s also hope that the writers of Stranger Things will not change their path when it comes to Eleven in future episodes or even seasons and keep her adroable and badass.
BONUS: Millie Bobby Brown raps Nicki Minaj’s verse from “Monster” to prove us just how cool she is!