Who is Eleven?
Abducted at a young age by the CIA and forced to be subject to psychokinetic skills tests, Eleven is not your typical girl. She was ripped from her mother and home to participate in Project MKUltra with Dr. Martin Brenner in Hawkins, Indiana. Brenner is the man to which Eleven came to know as “Papa” as she has to connection with her parents and believes this man is her father. Eleven goes through tests and trainings conducted at the Hawkins Laboratory in order to hone in on her skills and essentially become a weapon for espionage for the CIA to use in order to connect with other dimensions. Eleven has the ability that once placed in a sensory deprivation tank to transport to these other dimensions and on November 6th, 1983, she made contact with the dimension containing the monster that was going to turn her world even more upside down than it already was (pun intended). The dimension she made contact with is indeed called the “Upside Down” which is an alternate universe in which everything is the same except it is desolate, dark, and covered in a thick layer of grime. This is the dimension in which the creature lives. When Eleven made this initial contact with the creature, it opened a gate between the two dimensions and the creature was able to enter the human world at leisure. It was then that Eleven realized the danger she was in and fled from the laboratory. She then ran into the other main characters of the story: Mike Wheeler, Lucas Sinclair and Dustin Henderson. These boys had recently discovered that their friend, Will Buyers, had gone missing and they were on a mission to find him, a mission that Eleven joined without hesitation. The caveat being that Eleven has a limited vocabulary so when she is found by the boys, she is unable to explain who she is or where she is from. The boys take her under their wing and they all band together to find Will. The boys soon realize Eleven’s powers and understand that she may be the key to find their friend as they begin to understand that supernatural forces are at play. It is when the boys, teamed up with local police officer and other members of the community, create a makeshift sensory deprivation tank out of a bathtub that Eleven confirms that Will is in the Upside Down and she comes up with a plan as to how to save him. It all comes down to Eleven sacrificing herself to the creature in order to bring Will back from the Upside Down. As this series is only in its first season, it is unclear if Eleven is alive in the human world or if she is stuck in the Upside Down.
Feminist criticism is the framework dealing with the ways in which women are oppressed through different aspects of our culture. Often this criticism points out male misogyny in media and other different social, political and economic ways in which females are not on the same level as men. Typical tropes showing this include the damsel in distress, the princess needing the prince to save her, or the overly sexualized super human woman in tight spandex outfits and thigh high boots.
Eleven takes this framework and shatters it upon the ground. From her short cut hair, to the plain gown that she escaped the laboratory in, Eleven is not your typical looking, or acting, young girl. She is mentally and physically strong, enduring so much in her short life. Abuse, abduction, psychological testing, she has endured things in which no young female should ever encounter in her lifetime. There is no point at which Eleven self declares herself a feminist, but the audience of the show has placed her on this pedestal as she is a great fit for the role. Eleven is unsure even to what the concept of being a female even is until the boys help her don a wig and dress so they can take her to school, in a way showing the feminist criticism, that the boys think that she needs to look a certain way in order to be accepted. Eleven proves to be a strong role model to other young girls showing that it doesn’t matter what you look like or the past in which you have had, you can still be a strong body and minded person who can fend for themselves as well as make strong friendships along the way. The Chicago Tribune hits the nail on the head with an article headline of, “‘Stranger Things’ isn’t for kids, but Eleven is the feminist role model young girls need”. The article goes on to say how most of the media that young girls are shown includes them being the weakest character or always worrying about appearance. Instead, Eleven colors outside the lines of this typical female role and instead is a character that both males and females can look up to: a mentally strong badass who can blow monsters up with her mind and can demonstrates that you can conquer hardships and fight for yourself. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/redeye/redeye-stranger-things-eleven-feminist-role-model-little-girls-need-20160815-story.html)
Another framework in which Eleven can be analyzed through would be post-humanism. This framework consists of what would be considered to be “beyond human”. This idea continues to say that humanity can be molded and formed around technological advances in the evolutionary process. Within this framework, there are seven different ideas. The idea that Eleven fits most closely is transhumanism. This idea furthers on developing the normal human’s intellectual, psychical and psychological capacities with the goal to achieve a “posthuman future”.
Eleven is a cyborg, defined as “a transitional figured that is defined by its body boundary issues.” (Wright, 3). She has capabilities that surpass those of humans that allow her to participate in life in ways that others cannot. She has the ability to snap people’s arms in half with the flick of her neck, the ability to teleport to other dimensions, and the ability to defeat out of our world creature with the powers of her mind. Eleven is in all senses “beyond human” as she is able to access the recesses of her mind that others don’t even know exist. The CIA lab involved with her testing used her in order to communicate with “beyond human” worlds in order to establish connections that could help them in world wars to come. Eleven brings the supernatural into the natural world, creating a gate that allows the impossible to become possible.