Life Lessons from a Geek: The Last 15 Minutes of Stranger Things 2
Warning the following contains spoilers.
I can't help it. I'm a teacher. I ruin fun for a living.
The last 15 minutes of Stranger Things 2 ? That seems awfully specific.
If you read my previous post, you will understand that I purposely let my son have Stranger Things all to himself... except the very last 15 minutes of the most recent season. Therefore, I will not be covering the plethora of examples of heroism, friendship, loyalty, love, faith and courage contained in the other 16 3/4 episodes. But those last 15 minutes... I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to "teacher" the heck out of that last quarter hour!
Those 900 seconds open with a shot of a crayon drawing of Bob Newby as a super hero. Perhaps some day, good old Bob will get his own post for his heroism demonstrated by his loving a struggling single mom and caring for her two extremely troubled sons. I might even mention his other heroic act of ... (I can't spoil everything).
Samwise the Brave. I want to hear more about Sam.
But this was my 12 year old son Timmy's show. These life lessons needed to focus on the kids.
From the middle of season one onward, Steve Harrington broke out of his cliche role as the good looking jerk featured in nearly every John Hughes movie. He has a change of heart and becomes a really good guy. This continues throughout all of season 2. Although there are plenty of obvious chances for Steve to be a physical hero, I wanted my son to see a teenager performing heroic actions that also happened to be realistic. Throughout this season, Steve acts as the protector and big brother of the Hawkins gang.
There is no greater example of him fulfilling this role of caring big brother than when he drives Dustin to the big Snow Ball dance. If this were any other show, when I saw this scene I would say, "Yeah right. The popular High School stud is going to drive some random kid to a dance? No way." But this is no ordinary show. The writers established that Steve would realistically do this for an awkward thirteen-year-old. Dustin does not appear to have a father in his life. He does not have a dad to give him advice about fashion, hair or girls. Steve steps up and does that for him.
You used the Farrah Fawcett spray right?
As he is dropping off Dustin at the dance, Steve gives the younger boy advice and boosts his self confidence with a reassuring, "You look great". He also makes sure to tell Dustin to avoid growling. This is the kind of real and helpful advice an older brother would give.
I wanted my son to see that positive interaction. My son Timmy has a little sister. Although I don't think he should ever tell her how to pick up boys, there will be a time when she needs advice and a confidence boost. I need him to know that good big brothers provide these things for their little siblings. This scene gave me a great excuse to remind him of that fact.
There is a bonus mini lesson right after Dustin exits the car. Steve looks into the gym and sees his ex-girlfriend Nancy looking... like a teenage girl in the 80s (poorly dressed with big hair). Although you can tell he regrets her being the "one who got away", he shrugs a bit and drives away. He doesn't weep. He doesn't think he will never get a girl again. He moves on. At some point, we all have to face that we "let one get away" (and eventually we will thank god that we didn't settle of this one). I anticipate that my son will be no different. I figure there is nothing wrong with dropping in a quick, "Oh that's cool that Steve isn't a basket case over Nancy. I'm sure he knows that there are plenty more fish in the sea."
My son shot me a sideways glance at that one. I smirked as we continued watching. I knew that one wouldn't mean anything to him right now. But I also think that planting that seed early is not a bad thing. It will also give us a shared experience to use as a starting point when we inevitably have to talk about it some day.
Proving that even an awkward attempt is better than no attempt at all.
After Lucas delivers a lesson in how not to ask a girl dance (I believe you can learn a lot from "non-examples") and Mike shows how a friend should always be there to encourage a pal to take advantage of a golden opportunity, Dustin once again shows what he is made of: pure courage.
If you ask a 13 year old boy, "What is more terrifying? Fighting a demon from another dimension or asking a girl to dance?" My guess is that 90% of those teenagers will say the second option is far more horrifying.
If you asked Dustin the same question, I think he would say, "Neither".
Dustin has guts. Dustin is not afraid to put himself out there. He does just that at the dance.
After missing out on dancing with Max, Dustin does not wilt. He walks right up to another girl, looks her in the eyes and says, "Stacy. Shall we?"
To a 13 year old boy, this is the epitome of courage.
And she laughs in his face.
Then he looks for another partner.
With the same result.
But Dustin took his shots. My son needs to know that "Fortune favors the bold" and "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." I nonchalantly told my son that I thought Dustin had a "ton of guts" for taking a chance like that. I then doubled down with, "The only way to get a date, is to ask someone on a date. You have to be willing to take a chance. You never know what you might miss out on if you aren't willing to take a chance."
It helps that although Dustin is very deflated and goes to sit by himself (and perhaps cry) he does not leave the dance. I bet if left to his own devices, Dustin would have taken another shot. But he didn't have to. Why? Nancy is awesome. That's why.
In my house, we have a rule...
Members of our family pick people up. We never push them down.
Nancy perfectly illustrates this precept when she sees Dustin sitting alone. She walks over, extends her hand and asks, "Hey? Do you wanna dance?" Then she grabs his hand and pulls him to the dance floor. This act of pulling someone up when he needed it, is no less heroic than her fighting off demigorgons with a shotgun. It's also far more realistic and relatable. Her kind actions and words made Dustin's night. She singlehandedly turned a miserable evening into an unforgettable one. And all she did was show a little kindness.
There wasn't much I needed to say to emphasize that lesson. I merely dropped a, "That was really cool of Nancy." Timmy nodded. Good enough.
Besides, I didn't want to talk over the final lesson of the season...
In life, there are going to be many things (like dancing with a girl with supernatural abilities) that you simply have to try to figure out as you go along. Life is a fantastic ride... if you have the guts to take it.