Many good things have come from the last season of Strange thingsbut the way fans deal with its female cast isn’t one of them.
There is no escaping the hype surrounding the fourth season of Strange things – Love it or hate it, the most recent series has taken the internet by storm with its emotional rollercoaster ride (Netflix experienced literally 13,000 outages when fans tried to tune in at 8am on July 1). But beneath the surface of their fanaticism lurks a seedy underbelly, centered around the actresses and their looks.
Naturally, with any TV show, and especially one where the vast majority of its characters are unbelievably handsome, looks will be mentioned. We’ve all seen Steve Harrington’s memes about looking respectfully at his chest without his shirt on. However, while comments on attractive actors are expected, it is the comparison aspect that should not be accepted.
You don’t have to look far online to see fan threads asking who is more handsome, A or B. However, the reason this comparison is so troubling is because it is primarily aimed at the female cast, specifically Millie. Bobby Brown. and Sadie Sink. In fact, one of Google’s top suggestions when you type their names is “Millie Bobby Brown or Sadie Sink.” And once you click on that, you enter a rabbit hole that leads to some seriously NSFW places.
The show has won countless awards and has some of the best performances many of us have seen in years, so are we seriously saying that these women have nothing but their looks?
Rather than discuss his talents, of which there are many, we engage in comparison wars; both cannot be beautiful, apparently one has to triumph over the other. Comments like “she’s the prettiest girl in the cast” or “she’s really pretty but Millie is gorgeous” abound, along with YouTube videos asking who wore it best. Before long, the comments begin to dig in, sexualizing parts of her body, like her lips and hair, to take the comparison to new levels of toxicity.
Some fans even jump into other fan communities just to cause trouble, posting things like “Sadie Sink is always pretty” accompanied by a series of photos to back up their statement. Why is Sadie Sink being talked about on a Millie Bobby Brown fan page? It is not necessary, and only serves to generate more comparisons of the two. It reeks of childish fights over whether Barbie is better than Sindy.
Why is women against women still the norm? You don’t see it for the show’s male actors: Joe Keery (who plays Steve) and Joseph Quinn (who plays Eddie) haven’t been subjected to this demeaning game of who’s fitter. They are treated like two attractive men, neither of whom is better than the other. Google “Eddie or Steve Stranger Things” and not only does he try to correct his wording to “Eddie and Steve”, but every post is about his “bromance”. Where are the threads that dissect their gazes? They are almost non-existent.
Our culture continues to pit women against each other, and our appearance is used as the primary currency. If society sees something they like about you, they defend it, but if they see something they don’t, they shoot it down by pointing out that someone has the desirable part that you lack.
For Sink, much of the obsessive adulation has to do with her hair and “natural beauty,” and those who idolize her are quick to criticize Brown for wearing too much makeup in an attempt to make her point. We can’t just give a compliment without insulting someone else.
Even when we’re not comparing, looks are still valued over talent, and virtually every comment about either of these two powerhouse actors follows the same pattern: “She’s beautiful and…” first. However, if they were considered bad actors, they would be criticized for getting airtime just for her looks, similar to the criticism Megan Fox has experienced for the vast majority of her career.
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It’s ironic that we continue to do this to celebrities, particularly famous women, and then wonder why society has such a huge self-esteem problem on its hands. It shouldn’t surprise us that the way we obsess over attractiveness facilitates harsher critiques of appearance above anything else. The number of comments I see say that Brown shouldn’t use Facetuning and filters on selfies, that she should embrace her natural beauty, but at the same time they say that Sink is much more attractive.
These young women, and I want to emphasize that because age does count here, they are being singled out for simply trying to navigate growing up under an enormously harsh spotlight. We seem to forget that they have feelings, or that they probably see these comments and feel the need to punish themselves for not being exactly like someone else. You know, just like most of us. Fame doesn’t stop insecurities from happening; It’s arguably a better breeding ground for it, because you’re a constant topic of conversation.
Women are not commodities. Our value does not lie in our appearance or our status, we are only worthy. Period. In a world where we worry about the impact toxic beauty standards have on our children and society in general, shouldn’t we start practicing what we preach?