Stranger Things: Why We Love Nancy Wheeler

(Warning: There are spoilers.)

Stranger Things has been a cultural phenomenon. Very rarely does television reach pique epicness where everyone you know is still talking about the show, even a month after its release date. The commercial and critical success has pleased most, if not all, audiences and we’re frothing at the mouth just speaking about it – like an Upside Down worm of excitement crawling out of our orifices. Yes….plural.

Elevating into the golden collection of fantastic television shows, Stranger Things is yet another success for video on demand service Netflix which includes Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Jessica Jones, Orange is the New Black, and Narcos. Yet, somehow, it feels as though they struck better gold with this science fiction romp from The Duffy Brothers.

For those who haven’t seen it (I’ll assume you’ve spent your time in Upside Down world and I’ll forgive you,) Stranger Things echoes eighties adventure films whilst unravelling a spectacularly tense mystery as the young Will Buyers disappears. Three friends, two teenagers, and two adults try to separately solve the disappearance which becomes entangled when a girl imbued with powers arrives in the town of Hawkins.

What worked best for the show is its focus on the emotionality and growth of the characters. From nerdy heroes led by a dungeon master to the powerful but abused Eleven, each role was written with astute and intellectual knowing. Even side character Barbara “Why the hell would you kill her off?” Holland (affectionately called Barb) had excellent moments that has helped secure her, and actress Shannon Purser with a cult following and even a Barbie doll.

In fact, the response to the relatable, sassy, unpopular girl warmed our hearts. Especially considering that we are all pretty much Barb. That being said, we can’t help but feel her bestie – Nancy Wheeler – has been eschewed by the audience despite having the most realistic arc. Confident and ultimate Barb champion, Nancy is one of the best written teenaged characters that as graced the television screen.

Senior Nancy Wheeler is the older sister of Michael. The ever intellectual, studying hard to pass her exams and get out of her town, flirts with popularity and bouffant-haired Steve, upsetting her position and putting strain on her relationship with Barb. Whilst many see this as callousness, it is portrayed in a realistic manner, all the while mirroring tropes from the eighties. However, Nancy is far more than a cliché: Her studious disposition plus hormonal exploration sparks the beginning of a character going through puberty motions and ultimately growing because of it. The party scene shows this in a magnificent way. Though she seemingly throws Barb away due to her attraction with Steve, this isn’t unlike any teenager or friend you’ve ever known.

However, having sex with Steve sees Nancy flourish. Breaking the mould of “You Fuck, You Die,” Nancy actually changes. The shift in emotive patterns after the night before is so wonderfully depicted as though a step into adulthood has been taken. Fantastically astute and embellished with sensitivity, in this moment, Nancy really shines.

After Barb’s disappearance, Nancy springs immediately into action, being the only soul in Hawkins who believes a graver fate has bestowed her bestie. With the fall out of her evening with Steve as well as the bullying from him and his friends, Nancy has the weight of the world on her shoulders. Yet she still joins forces with Jonathan Buyers to get to the truth of the disappearances and ventures into the beyond in pursuit of her friend. Tackling the upset and embarrassment as rumours fly and she is verbally attacked, Nancy stays defiant and strong, caring wholly for Barb as well as dealing with the guilt of leaving her alone. Helping her brother and his friends too, Nancy may have showed hotheadness in an attempt to be cool but she grows with the story and in Stranger Things, she becomes a multi-faceted character and it makes our hearts swell.

OH! And she’s the only character to enter Upside Down and get herself out without scientific equipment AND comes up with a way to lure the monster to try and destroy it. Nancy Wheeler is a realistic, bad-ass, and poignant character which has a glorious arc. Played defiantly by Natalia Dyer, she is an accomplished character and a blossoming, head-strong young woman who’ll do anything for the people she loves.

And that’s why we love Nancy Wheeler.


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