Stranger Things and Nerd Culture
The Stranger Things kids, The Losers Club, The Goonies... what do all of these groups have in common? They're nerds. Nerds and outcasts who have come together to support one another in a world where we often struggle to find our place.
Nerds have faced judgement and ridicule since the word became popularized as a slur by the "cool kids" as a way to reference and offend the less popular. When you google the definition of the word "Nerd" you get:
Even Merriam-Webster is using Nerd as a derogatory term which certainly feels a little bit like the kettle calling the pot black to me. The point is, despite the growing popularity of Nerd Culture, these stigmas still exist and the "Nerd" is often still bullied. This is why shows like Stranger Things are SO important for us to pay attention to.
Stranger Things takes aim at these real and unfortunate cliches and challenges us to break them. Take the arc of Steve Harrington for example; we need more Steven Harrington's in the world. In Season 1 he was a meat-head jerk who treated Jonathon like garbage because he was a "freak." He also made the day to day lives of the "Nerd friendly" characters (like Nancy) a little difficult to further his point. When he realized the error of his ways he stood up to his friends and tried to make things right. I won't spoil Season 2 for anyone but Steve continues on this arc and may very well be my favorite character.
Season 2 introduces us to a few new characters, most notably the new member of the party: Max. Max is a tough, out of place, gamer who the boys discover at the local arcade after she moves to Hawkins from California. She's a skater girl and somewhat of a loner who doesn't seem to know anybody in town. This rare combination of Nerdy traits and fresh personality quickly get the boys attention. So when Dustin and Lucas take a particular interest in her, she puts up a front. Max comes off as guarded and hesitant though it's obvious she is interested in seeking that companionship that us Nerds often want and need. Some people are quicker than others to accept this kind of olive branch, which is ok, but once you're part of the party. (ONCE YOU'RE PART OF THE PARTY WHAT)
This brings us to one of the most important characters of all; The "Party" themselves! They are protective, supportive, and fiercely loyal to each other. Again, without spoiling the climax of Season 2, certain events challenge the comradery of this group yet this only strengthens their bond. They rally together to help one of their "party" no matter what the consequences might be. It is KNOWN that they will do anything, including risking their lives to help one another when required. It's a touching scene that makes me well up just thinking about it. I'm ready to re-binge season 2 already.
This fiercely loyal bond is not expressly unique to nerds of course. Soldiers, sports teams, families and many friends in general create this strong bond as well. But in many cases, these nerds CAN struggle socially. We're often seen as a lesser group on most social hierarchy ladders so the bond is that much stronger and more important to us.
I have personally been involved in various sports organizations, sharing a strong bond through tough times, yet at times also feeling like an outcast and banding together with others for strength. Those of you who know me probably see me as supremely confident and social but inside, I often struggle with social situations and can struggle to maintain that level of confidence. I'm not one to typically start a conversation with a stranger. I know who I am and i'm unapologetic about it, but I DEFINITELY have utilized strong bonds with very close friends in order to get through hard times and social awkwardness.
We can all learn lessons from this common theme of outcasts banding together. We should lean on each other for support. We should do what's right even if it means standing up to (and for) our friends. We should always be there for our friends and others.
These ideals are why I'm proud to consider myself a Nerd and enjoy being part of a community of Nerds. Please remember to be thoughtful and support each other in this crazy world, like our friends in Hawkins, IN