OH MY GOD SPOILERS PEOPLE.
I’m an average gal. Average height (EDIT: Just discovered the average height for women is 5’4. I’m 5’7. So i’m above average in height. Yay?), weight, shoe size, pant size, intellect, looks, etc. The whole average shebang. Were I transported to a cinematic universe, I would absolutely suffer an average fate: Swept out by meteor tsunami, turned into plant zombie, massacred by rabid werewolves, enslaved by haughty aliens, and so on. Average is my wheelhouse. Thus, I naturally gravitate to secondary and background characters in all mediums. Dorky friend in high school sitcom? I see you baby. Yuppie coworker in cable drama? I got you girl. Streaming face punch lawyer? You and I are one.
When a show or movie or streaming cultural phenomenon features a whole lot of exceptional people in extraordinary situations, us normals often get overlooked. Or murdered. Gruesomely. By other-dimensional D&D ultra-demons. Because sometimes, being normal is just way too fucking dangerous.
It took me a week to finish season 2 of Stranger Things, because binge watching for 9 hours does the show an extreme disservice. Stranger Things should be savored, like a once weekly steak dinner with truffle fries. (Eating steak and truffle shit solidly for 9 hours will explode your colon, so please don’t do that.) Season one gave us the immediately relatable and beautiful Barb, supportive best friend of the unnecessarily attractive and charming Nancy. Barb’s average teen standing within the fantastical Stranger Things ‘verse doomed her from the start, handing her over to a Demogorgon while Nancy played sheet monster fun time with Steve “hair heard round the world” Harrington.
#Justice4Barb became a thing. A totally deserved thing for what was initially considered a disposable character. Barb’s plight as “Best friend with death benefits” struck a cord with so many of us who suffered from ‘forgotten-friend’ syndrome, especially when boys were involved. Hell, I once walked home because my friends wanted to stay and watch the boys practice football and I was all “but my mom thinks I’m in this other place and she is going to worry so I should just go home and probably cry because I can’t process this”. This was before cell phones, guys.
In Barb I saw myself in middle school- the sorta cool but not really friend to super cool gals. I more often than not sat back while my cooler, more attractive friends made good with all the boys. Eventually, I caught up (always been a late bloomer), but the damage was already done. Staying true to ones self is hard as fuck when hormones rule the wild west that is High School. Or middle school. Or literally any teenage situation.
Bob is the grown version of Barb, but, you know, male. And a Radio Shack employee. Bob lived through the bullying days, embraced his puzzle solving ingenuity, and still managed to leave room in his open mind for both the fantastic AND love. Bob was Joyce’s tether to the normal world, and a normal life. And Bob died a normal, stand up dude. He used his abilities to protect and save the ones he loved, and perished when the outlandish realities plaguing Hawkins literally ate him alive. His reward for the pursuit of an average life, full of love and security and computer parts, was death. Being normal killed him, the same way it killed Barb.
My mind on Barb and Bob finds a striking awareness regarding the risk of playing it safe. I’ve always longed for a life less ordinary. An existence the opposite of normal. No perceived plan. No expectations. But I still allowed myself to settle within a mediocre existence. I’ve Barbed and Bobed without the death or love. I managed to find a way to limit myself both with and without outside stressors. I’ve bled for friends without the life-threatening circumstances. I’ve loved knowing it would end in abandonment; not because I gave up, or was murderized by hell demons, but because I wasn’t enough. Because I chose to be average, instead of being myself.
Settling is a slow death. A creeping terror. A way of committing suicide without pulling the trigger. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be a Barb. Shit, I’m a Barb. And a Bob. Hell, I’ve even been a Steve (the new and improved Soccer Mom Steve, that is). What I’m saying is…fuck, man. Get in there. Be brave and participate in all that shit that scares you. Talk to that guy at work that makes you spaz out on the rare occasion you share space with him (not speaking from experience hahaha CHANGE THE SUBJECT). Take all the risks. Feel all the feels. Don’t let that stupid, piece of shit fear take hold. Barb and Bob both died standing up for the ones they cared most for. Bravery beyond measure. Be the brave Barb, speaking her truth knowing she’ll get shit for it. And be the Bob who exists with his heart on his sleeve, exposed and vulnerable and dedicated to the cause.
I’m okay with being a normal, average gal. I’m not okay with hiding behind perceived normality in order to justify settling in life. All us Barbs and Bobs must reach for that elusive “structure within madness”, because we owe all the other Barbs and Bobs who give up and give in. We must take our desire for normalcy and push it into all the radical and rebellious cookie shapes. Just, fuckin, shove it in there.
So let’s do that. Let’s force our average, not famous bodies into extraordinary shapes and situations, and save the fucking day. We are all Barb and Bob.
We are the normals, and we are legion.