Written by Rachael Cheeseman
Okay, I know, sometimes it's like I'm trying to wind you guys up, but just listen. Nancy, is the worst. I'm not saying she should have been different. Her character played an important part and was necessary for the development of the plot and relationships of other characters. But that doesn't change the fact that she was the one character I genuinely wanted to slap. I wanted to slap her in her conceited, naive, selfish, self-important face. She was the one that had me tutting and huffing and grumbling at the TV and regularly failing to resist the urge to give her a piece of my mind. Nancy was the biggest insult to women Stranger Things had to offer. Joyce was the fighter, Eleven was the badass, Max was the girl who learnt how to find her place and stand up for something. All Nancy does is look down her nose and put other people in danger. Let me explain.
If you haven't watched Seasons 1 and 2 in their entirety I suggest you stop reading now, this will be your one and only spoiler alert.
1. She's a lousy friend
I think we can all agree that poor old Barb got dealt a rough hand in Stranger Things. She became Demogorgan chow faster than it takes Dr. Brenner to steal a newborn baby. But her mistreatment started long before her one-way trip to The Upside Down. It started with her unfortunate friendship with one Miss Nancy Wheeler.
Now, I went to an all girls school so believe me when I tell you the Barb/Nancy friendship is an all too familiar story. The pretty girl with a not so pretty friend, who's good for killing time with and making you feel better about yourself, but who ultimately you're willing to ditch in a heartbeat the moment the popular kids are interested or a boy comes on the scene. You know you can pick up a friend like Barb if your new found popularity falls apart because you assume she has no better options and she will just be grateful for you to grace her with your presence again. Seriously, it's a story all us girls have seen played out countless times. And sadly most of us know what it's like to be the Barb in that scenario. It sucks. It sucks so much. But Nancy takes being a bad friend to a whole new level.
She has the audacity to use the same peer pressure crap that Tommy and Carol used to make her feel so uncomfortable on Barb, and then acts like Barb is embarrassing her when she tries to stand up for herself. Then she kicks Barb to the curb so she can loose her virginity in a cliché only one below a drunken fumble on prom night. Classy! And to top it all off she's so "concerned" for her friend's welfare she literally waits until she has no other options to alert people that something has happened. If Barb had been abducted instead of taken by the Demogorgan those precious hours she wasted could have been the difference between life and death. And, no, it doesn't redeem her that she eventually attempts to avenge Barb because it's a decision only made from the weight of having a guilty conscience.
2. She Treats Steve like Crap
I'm not saying Steve is a great guy who deserved to get the girl. He has his own flaws and pitfalls and takes a journey that is arguably one of the most satisfying character arcs the series has to offer. But no one deserves to be belittled and mocked by their so-called partner. If her opinion of him is so low, Nancy should walk away. And even though she eventually does leave him, she spends a good long while making sure Steve knows she has no respect for him first.
Lets face it, even when she's meant to be smitten with the guy she basically makes a catchphrase of saying "you're an idiot, Steve Harrington." I don't know about you but I think that goes beyond a little affectionate teasing. Imagine it had been a guy saying that to a girl. The Internet would have been up in arms so fast it would have dislocated its metaphorical shoulders.
Not to mention how she openly laughs at his college application, or how she loses her temper with him for trying to keep them safe from the government agency that have proven themselves more than happy to murder and torture whomever they please. By the end of season 1 and into season 2, Steve proves himself to be a good guy. He tries to protect Nancy and do right by her and she continually throws it back in his face.
3. She Looks Down on Everyone
Literally everyone. I'm not even exaggerating. Whether she's slamming the door in Dustin's face and mocking her brother's friends, or judging her mother for choosing security over passion, or calling Johnathan a "pretentious creep" just because he has the nerve not to like her boyfriend, or telling government scientists how to do their jobs, or just full on proclaiming everyone and everything to be "bullshit", she never stops acting like she has the right to judge everyone else. Even when she does something uncharacteristically nice she behaves like it's some great act of charity and people should be grateful for her attention. She deigns to talk to Jonathan when Tommy and Carol are busy making fun of him, like saying "sorry your little brother is missing" makes her a flipping saint, rather than someone just showing a modicum of human decency. She dances with Dustin because she believes herself to be such a catch that it'll make his night and he'll forget all about his previous rejection. Jeez Nancy, how will he ever repay you?
4. She thinks she's a Rebel but she's just a Cliché
Johnathan Byers hits the nail on the head in his argument with Nancy when they're out hunting the Demogorgan. He tells her she's "just another suburban girl who thinks she's a rebel." And that right there is the core of Nancy's whole persona. She wants to be seen as a rebel, to believe she won't become the boring suburban housewife she believes her mother to be. But she isn't a rebel. She's sheltered and naive and believes that losing her virginity at a house party, or getting sloppy drunk (something she does more than you probably realise) or sneaking a boy into her bedroom makes her rebellious. It doesn't. She isn't a strong, powerful young woman when she disrespects other girls; whether that's by calling carol a slut, or her mother boring or Barb embarrassing or the girls at snow ball idiots. And she isn't a rebel when she caves under peer pressure or when she throws tantrums because things don't go her way. Yes, tantrums. If she feels insulted or slighted she doesn't deal with it like a strong, rational adult but rather like a petulant child. The real rebels are the girls who are true to themselves regardless of what other people think or say about them. I won't pretend Nancy doesn't have some pretty kickass moments because she does, but these moments are usually as a result of her being impetuous and reckless.
Phew, that was a lot of ranting. Luckily, for my sanity, Nancy does show glimmers of redeeming qualities and I have some hope for her in future seasons. I also want to reiterate that I don't think her character should be different. Nancy, for all her flaws, feels real. She's a teenager who hasn't quite worked out who she is or what she wants and she doesn't really know what she's doing. It's refreshing and damn good writing. I just don't think anyone should be seeing her as a feminist icon or role model because there are far better ones to be found. Maybe when she grows up a bit Nancy will have something more to offer. We will just have to wait and see.