I, just like most of you, was obsessed with Netflix’s Stranger Things. This was and is a special piece of fiction, wearing its influences on its sleeve while also boldly carving its own path. The story about a group of innocent teens and pre-teens coming face to face with the supernatural – while stubborn adults obliviously ignore their children – has been seen many times before. E.T., Super 8, Stand By Me, Poltergeist, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Under the Skin, The Goonies… the list of films that Stranger Things pulls from is endless. The show evokes these films, but never outright references them. It’s nostalgic without shoving nostalgia itself down your throat (looking at you, Fuller House). It generates a mood and overall tone that has been absent in the mainstream for years, filling a void that many of us didn’t even realize existed. It’s a melting pot kind of show, mixing together many genres (horror, adventure, comedy, mystery, drama) to create something for just about everyone. Everyone, that is, except for Barbara Holland.
Barbara “Barb” Holland is Nancy’s best friend and immediately became everyone’s favorite character. She is instantly relatable as an outcast: she looks like a huge nerd (those awesome glasses) and is stuck in the position of third-wheel (fifth-wheel really at Steve’s pool party). She sees her friend’s personality start to change for a boy and tries to act as a voice of reason, with no success. We’ve all been there. When Nancy decides to go upstairs with Steve, leaving Barb alone by the pool, our hearts ache for her. We love Barb because we are Barb. We feel this way after only two episodes and then… WHERE IS BARB??
Barb disappears at the end of episode two. We see her briefly at the beginning of episode three where she comes face-to-face with the Demogorgon. This is cool, I thought, maybe Barb will be able to save Will and be the hero we deserve? She’ll kick some ass in the Upside Down, figure out a way to communicate more clearly with the people on Earth, and save the day. WRONG. What actually happened was nothing. After the beginning of episode three, I forgot about Barb. Watching the show, it seemed the characters (besides Nancy) forgot about Barb too. Once I became aware of this I was shocked. They set up Barb to be a main player only to side-step her entirely.
What makes this stranger is the treatment of Will. The town stops for Will. The middle school has an assembly, the police department (Chief Hopper especially) goes crazy looking for Will, and there is even a funeral for the kid. Barb is an afterthought. What’s even more head-scratchingly weird is that while Will’s older brother Jonathan is being a creep he snaps photos of Barb’s disappearance. We see the shape of the monster behind her at the pool. Then they really only use the photographic evidence in service of Will. Sure, Will and Barb are in the same place and locating one means also locating the other. But it’s the way they barely even mention her name that does her a disservice. Nancy seems to be the only person to notice she has disappeared. Where are Barb’s parents? Why does Hawkins PD believe Will is in another dimension, but Barb simply ran away? However, sadly, when Eleven finds Barb in the Upside Down, it sure looks like she’s dead…
Luckily, the real heroes here are the show’s creators, Matt and Ross Duffer. Speaking with IGN they say that while we shouldn’t expect to see Barb resurrected from the dead, we should expect “justice.” Matt elaborated, saying:
“…Barb will not be forgotten. We’ll make sure there’s some justice for Barb. People get very frustrated, understandably, that the town doesn’t seem to be really dealing with Barb. That stuff is all happening. We’re just not spending any screen time on it.”
Adding more clarity to the timeline of the series, Matt also said:
“It’s not like her parents are like ‘Oh Barb left. She died!’ Season One actually takes place over the course of six or seven days – it’s a really short period of time. So part of what we want to do with hypothetical Season 2 is to explore the repercussions of everything that happened.”
While this is certainly horrible news for fans of Barb, this seems like a very interesting direction to move the story forward. I hope that, no matter what comes next, there will be justice and Eggo waffles for all.
Although not officially confirmed by Netflix, a second season does appear to be on the horizon.