WARNING: SPOILER ALERTS! Do not read if you have not seen Season 1 and don’t want anything spoiled.
For those that don’t know, Stranger Things is a mixture of mystery, Sci-Fi/fantasy, and thriller – keeping you on your toes and dreading the arrival of the creepiest monster ever: the Demogorgon. The second season is coming soon (October 27!) so we’re celebrating Eleven, one of the lead characters, and the crucial role she plays in the series.
We find out later in Season 1 that Eleven, the name given to her in the form of a number tattooed on her arm, is actually Jane Ives. Her mother, Terry Ives, participated in the controversial government-funded program MKUltra, undergoing sensory deprivation and taking a lot of psychedelic drugs while (unbeknownst to her) pregnant with Jane. The experiments resulted in her daughter receiving special psychokinetic powers (cool, huh?). After Jane was born, she was taken away from Terry, renamed “011” and “raised” by Dr. Martin Brenner in Hawkins National Laboratory, where he continued to experiment on her, hoping to turn her into a military weapon.
Since she was raised as an experiment, it comes as no surprise that Eleven has trouble interacting with the other characters in the series. While trapped in the lab, she is forced to use her powers in various experiments to develop them further, including one where she is asked to kill a cat. Like any good experiment, Eleven’s hair is cut short and she wears a hospital gown, giving her that test-subject-in-a-lab look. After she escapes, and with the help of her new friends, she disguises herself in a pink dress and blonde wig. She can be found munching on a box of stolen Eggo waffles.
El, as her friends call her, is loyal to those she trusts, kind-hearted but damaged. She confronts her fears but relies on the people around her to handle the more social aspects of being a person.
RELEVANCE TO PLOT
In one of the experiments, El meets the Demogorgon in the “Upside Down” world – an alternate dimension running parallel to ours – the monster freaks her out and causes her to accidentally use her powers to open a hole between the Upside Down and the real world, allowing the creature to travel between the two. This sets the rest of the series in motion.
The main conflict of the show centers around the disappearance of Will Byers, who encountered the escaped Demogorgon and was taken to the Upside Down. When the creature breaks free of the Upside Down world, Eleven uses the opportunity to escape the laboratory and eventually meets and befriends Will’s friends. Because El is the key to getting to the Upside Down world – and thus the only way to save Will – she’s central to the main plotline. Additionally, Eleven is the one piece that brings the other two large plotlines – Cooper’s battle against a shady government organization and Nancy’s epic but ultimately impossible quest to save Barb – together. Without her, there is no Stranger Things.
We see Eleven change from constantly being scared and untrusting to being brave and fighting a creepy af monster to help her friends. When she first appears, it’s survival mode – stealing food from a diner she comes across after her escape. Assuming she was an abused runaway, the diner owner calls social services and then feeds her while they wait for someone to come.
Of course, the do-gooder, unfortunately, meets a deadly end, sending Eleven’s path to Mike Wheeler and his friends (minus Will, of course). Mike takes her in when the boys find her out in a storm during their search for Will, and from there a friendship begins. El learns to trust them and even defends them from school bullies. At one point, their search for Will takes them close to the Hawkins Laboratory and El, knowing all too well about the dangers within, begins to withdraw and hesitates in getting Will back, causing conflict within the group. Eventually, she overcomes the fear of the lab in order to help, even using her powers despite disastrous physical effects to her health. But it’s not about her anymore – she has people who need her.
WHY SHE NEEDS TO BE CELEBRATED
This is one of the bravest and most loyal characters of all time. She risks her freedom by standing up to the staff of the laboratory and puts her life on the line by facing the Demogorgon, just to protect her friends. Despite being a child with a lot thrown onto her, Eleven does what she thinks is right in spite of the dangers involved.
WHAT WRITERS CAN LEARN
Actions speak louder than words with this character. Eleven says very little, but you learn a lot about her from what little she says and by her actions and body language. This is a clear result of someone who has undergone a lot of trauma but still remains strong, even at a young age. Her silence allows her to be observant, and when she senses danger, she evaluates the situation. This shows you don’t need too much dialogue to make a story progress, and it’s a good way to see a certain situation (like being a test subject) and the mental impact it has on a character.
I can’t wait to see what Season 2 brings!