115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

"Walking the Tightrope": Nostalgia, Monstrosity, and Gender in the Netflix Original Series Stranger Things

Madison Choi, Chaminade University of Honolulu

Stranger Things tells the supernatural tale of a number of young characters, including Eleven, a pre-pubescent girl possessing telekinetic powers. Eleven's rejection of normative gender and sexuality, coupled with her unconventional past and telekinetic powers, places her in the role of monster. But Eleven fails to fit the common profile of monsters in the science fiction and horror genres, as outlined by scholars such as Carol Clover and Jeffery Cohen.

Proposal: 

Set in the year 1983, Stranger Things is set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana. In the series, young Will Byers goes missing. His family, friends, and the Hawkins police chief embark on a mission to find the boy, only to discover he was captured by the Demogorgan, an otherworldly creature that inhabits an alternate universe called the Upside Down. Linked to the disappearance of Will is a corrupt government agency conducting human experiments, the product of which is Eleven, a pre-pubescent girl possessing telekinetic powers.

Eleven, the young female protagonist in Stranger Things, proves to be a character worth analyzing due to the ideas offered through her gender ambiguity and implied monstrosity. Failing to conform to societal norms, Eleven first appears to audiences in a gender neutral hospital gown with a shaved head. Despite the efforts of Will's male friends to feminize Eleven, she remains fluid, possessing the ability to occupy a liminal space. Eleven's rejection of normative gender and sexuality, coupled with her unconventional past and telekinetic powers, produces fear and uncertainty within the other characters in the series, placing her in the role of monster.

My analysis of Eleven will include a discussion of how she fails to fit into the common profiles of monsters in the science fiction and horror genres, as outlined by scholars such as Carol Clover and Jeffery Cohen.

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