“Stranger Things” and Learning Gender Stereotypes

Laura and Mary from Little House on the Prairie and Eleven from Stranger Things focus on representations of “gender” in clothing, activities, and mannerism within their actions throughout their book or show. These separate characters and pieces of entertainment are aimed at separate audiences but reflect the same themes and lessons in different ways. Little House on the Prairie is aimed more at the younger children who are learning from their family and their peers what it means to be a girl, while Stranger Things is aimed at an older audience who can handle a little bit of fear and understand what the ‘typical’ girl looks like.

Little House on the Prairie shows the meaning of gender through Laura and Mary’s mannerism and activities. These activities include taking care of their little sister, washing clothes and dishes, and setting up the house for them to live in. These actions follow in society’s idea that women or girls should be the caretakers for children and clean around the house. Many young children, mainly girls, read this book and pick up the subtle ques of gender roles laid out within its pages. Stranger Things mainly focuses on clothing and looks to distinguish Eleven, one of the main characters, as a girl. In the beginning, Eleven is seen with short hair in a yellow t-shirt and multiple characters view her as a boy or boy-like causing the viewer to question her gender until we hear her voice. Later, throughout the show, Eleven’s guy friends bring her to school and to make her look more “normal”, they put a blond curly wig and a pink dress on her. Although the show conforms to societal thoughts about clothing, it does not conform to society’s view on mannerism and how a girl should act in public. In many scenes throughout Stranger Things Eleven becomes the protector and is much wiser than the boys within the show. This portrayal is much different than society’s ‘males are the stronger, more dominate species’ outlook. These forms of entertainment, although aimed at a different age groups, show the everyday ways in which a society portrays gender and how children and adults to this day still are learning about an ways to challenge gender and gender stereotypes.


3 thoughts on ““Stranger Things” and Learning Gender Stereotypes”

  1. I also watched Stranger Things, and I also think the representation of Eleven is an interesting juxtaposition to the traditional ideas about her gender which are represented in Little House on the Prairie. Your post made me think about how her powers not only awe the young boys she spends time with, but time and time again overpowers and outsmarts adult men using her mind and her powers. Her power defies traditional notions of women, and especially traditional notions of young girls.

  2. It is interesting to see your connection between clothing of Stranger Things and Little House. Through clothing, you bring up a good point in the fact that the boys make Eleven wear a dress and put on a wig. This enforced the fact that she was a female, which honestly, at the beginning of the show I wasn’t completely sure what gender she was. Another point you brought up was Eleven’s role as the wise and protector. This is definitely true throughout the show, especially because Eleven does whatever she wants to do, even if that’s not what the boys want her to do. Considering the typical gender stereotypes, the roles do seem reversed in this show, which is something that I never really realized until now. Laura also had her strong opinions, whether or not she shared them out with her parents. Do we think Laura’s thoughts or actions would be different had she had a brother around her age?

  3. I also watched Stranger Things and at first I thought Eleven was a boy. This was solely based on her clothing and haircut. The boys eventually dressed her in what a people generally think of when they think of girl’s clothing. This show is set in the 1980s and gender roles during this period is a lot different than they are now. Eleven’s role definitely challenged the typical gender roles of the time and in some ways still do. The boys are very surprised at the power Eleven possesses and are apprehensive to trust her. Do you think the boys’ response to Eleven would be different had she been a boy? Do you think the creators of the show purposely created Eleven as a girl to challenge normal gender stereotypes?

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