Stranger Things has taken the country by storm — with some interesting side effects. The nostalgic science fiction series has caused an upswing in popularity for things that have otherwise been kept out of mainstream culture, like museum dinosaur hoodies and Dungeons and Dragons. But does it go any deeper? Sure, it stars several spectacular female leads, but does Stranger Things pass the Bechdel test?
We’re counting TV shows and movies that pass the Bechdel test among other more intellectual interests like museum hoodies because, let’s face it, few films are up to snuff when measured against the terms of this test. Not familiar? We’ll give you a primer.
What’s the Bechdel test?
The Bechdel test, otherwise known as the Bechdel Rule or Mo Movie Measure, is essentially a quick way to measure a film’s adherence to Hollywood’s gender bias. All it asks of movies in order to pass is that, at some point by the end of the film, at least two female characters have to have a conversation that is not about a man. Easy right? Well, not so much.
In fact, films on the whole tend to be so bad at meeting this one requirement that it’s often broken down into three different segments: one, that there is more than one female character; two, that these two (at least) female characters actually talk to each other; and three, that the conversation they have with each other is not about a man — or boy, if we’re talking about Stranger Things.
So does Stranger Things pass the Bechdel test?
Well, if you’re asking specifically about the first installment of the series, the answer to the question does Stranger Things pass the Bechdel test is a big fat no. The only real female friendship portrayed is the one between Nancy and Barb, the later of which is taken out relatively early in the season. Even then, their conversations revolve around Steve.
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But what about season two? If we consider the newest batch of episodes, does Stranger Things pass the Bechdel test then? There are certainly more female characters — and strong ones for that matter. (We can only hope that Lucas’ little sister, Erica, will have a larger role in season three of the series.) But they really don’t play nice with one another.
Eleven is immediately pitted against Max because there seems to be room for only one girl in the group of friends. Both little girls are also set up within love triangles that keeps the dynamics of their actions and interactions with other characters about the boys. Moreover, the two independent powerhouses are kept from being friends with each other; their interaction with each other is a very tense introduction that barely counts as a conversation.
But what about Eleven and Eight, or Kali? They’re both girls, they both have powers, they’re both out in the world without their families — but men dominate their lives and conversations as well. Though there might be parts of their conversations that don’t mention men, Kali and Eleven are equally obsessed with Brenner. Discussions between the two girls naturally revolve around their mutual captor, and sometimes around his gang of cronies that helped keep Eleven and Eight locked away — we’ll let you guess the dominant gender of those characters.
But even if conversations between Eleven and Kali touch on topics other than men and boys, they’re almost always surrounded by Eight’s rogue gang of runaways, among whose members are a couple men. So many of their conversations are ruled out of the Bechdel test simply because the men are there, arguably, being part of the discussions taking place even if they’re only listeners.
The closest example of passing conversations in Stranger Things 2 were probably the short exchanges between Eleven and her aunt when she goes to meet her mother. Although most of the short dialogues probably touched on Brenner, since he’s the cause of her mother’s condition, there could have been a short back and forth that discussed her mother without referring to the diabolical doctor.
Will Stranger Things 3 pass the Bechdel test?
The Duffer brothers sure laid the groundwork for the show to not only pass but also exceed the Bechdel test if they want to take it there. If Max sticks around, she has more than proved that she’s capable of holding her own storyline independent of either of the boys, and perhaps now that it’s clear that she’s not a threat, she and Eleven can forge a friendship that exists apart from the gang.