Stranger Things may be a 1980s sci-fi adventure, but it secretly loves love as much as Grey’s Anatomy or Riverdale. Nearly every single person in Hawkins has stumbled into a love triangle — and that includes Mike Wheeler’s (Finn Wolfhard) very sleepy dad Ted (Joe Chrest). Yet, all the messy romance of the Netflix show has been as straight as straight can be since the very beginning… until now.
Stranger Things season 3 remembers there must be queer people in Hawkins — and the show is so much better for it.
If you were to search “Robin Stranger Things” on Twitter right now, you would find a brand new army of stans, all lining up to protect Robin (celebrity daughter Maya Hawke), the newest addition to the Stranger crew. At the top of season 3, Robin seems destined to be Steve Harrington’s (Joe Keery) new love interest after the Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) debacle. Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) repeatedly says as much to Steve. A drugged up conversation about Robin’s high school fixation on Steve screams love is ahead.
Then the bathroom scene in “The Bite” arrives. In that moment, Robin explains she wasn't “obsessed” with Steve because she had a crush on him — she was wildly jealous of him. Despite the fact that he would get bagel crumbs on the floor and ask terrible questions, Tammy Thompson, whoever that never-before-seen classmate is, still only had eyes for Steve “The Hair” Harrington. It made Robin so angry she would go home and scream into her pillow.
“But Tammy Thompson’s a girl,” Steve says, totally oblivious. All Robin can say in response is, “Steve” and stare at him, helping him slowly realize she’s a lesbian. When Steve gets it, he quietly says, “Oh.” It’s one of Stranger Things’ most subtle and thoughtful scenes, and it’s only improved by the conversation that follows. As Twitter fans have pointed out, Steve is someone who once called Jonathan Byers (Charlies Heaton) “a queer” to insult him. Now, two seasons later, Steve cracks jokes about Tammy Thompson to assure Robin she deserves someone better than “a total dud” who sounds like a muppet when she sings.
Stranger Things could have patted itself on the back for crafting one good queer scene and then promptly forgotten about Robin’s sexuality. However, that isn’t what the Duffer Brothers did. In the finale’s three-month time-jump, we see Robin and Steve applying for jobs at the local video store. While trying to convince Kieth the Manger (Matty Cardarople) to hire movie dunce Steve, Robin repeatedly talks about how hot the girls who flock to Steve usually are. You can tell this is something Robin thought about a lot at Scoops Ahoy before the mall “burnt down.”
All of a sudden, Robin's “You Suck” board makes so much more sense. She made the board to focus some more of her understandable envy over all the girls crushing on Steve and his ability to pursue them with ease in the 1980s Midwest. Steve, unlike Maya, doesn’t have old school homophobia keeping him single.
While Robin is Stranger Things’ most obvious exploration of queerness in season 3, the series also continues to nod at the possibility that Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) also fits somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Previously, Will’s season 2 rainbow drawing was the most obvious suggestion.
As the series teased in the season 3 trailer, Will and Mike were bound to have an argument over impending teenagedom. The confrontation comes in “The Case of the Missing Lifeguard.” Will is upset Mike would rather “swap spit with some stupid girl” than play Dungeons & Dragons (the “girl” in question is Millie Bobby Brown’s Eleven). “It’s not my fault you don’t like girls,” Mike shoots back. Both his and Will’s faces immediately recognize the gravity of that statement. Yes, Will may not like girls because he’s desperate to hold onto childlike innocence after his traumatizing trip to the Upside Down. But, he may also simply not be into girls.
Either way, Will’s portrayer Noah Schnapp doesn’t believe in trying to figure out his character’s sexuality. In 2016, he wrote as much in a now-deleted Instagram comment, saying on the topic, “An author called Gary Schmidt came to speak at our school this week and he said that good stories aren’t supposed to leave you with answers because then you never question yourself and you forget about it. A good book, or a good show leaves a lot of unanswered questions but makes you think … I hope the real answer never comes out!”
At the rate Stranger Things is developing Will's love life, it looks like Schnapp's wish has been granted.