Geeky Thought of the Day: Barb Is the Boba Fett of Stranger Things

Wednesday, 24 August 2016 - 4:29PM
Stranger Things
Star Wars
Wednesday, 24 August 2016 - 4:29PM
Geeky Thought of the Day: Barb Is the Boba Fett of Stranger Things
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Spoilers for Stranger Things follow!

Poor Barb. Poor, sweet Barb couldn't make it through one season of Stranger Things without falling prey to the "best friend" horror trope and getting eaten by a Demogorgon. But before she met her grisly end (or maybe because of it), she became one of the show's breakout characters, inspiring many touching sentiments about her adorability and relatability in spite of relatively little screentime.

The Barb love has only grown with time, to the point that celebrities are endorsing her for President now:


A photo posted by John Stamos (@johnstamos) on

And then it just got weird...

So here's my geeky theory of the day: Barb is the Boba Fett of the Stranger Things fandom. But what does a nerdy 80's girl have in common with a galactic bounty hunter (other than cute, catchy names with repeating "b's")? Let me count the ways:

They're both breakout characters—for some reason

Here's the thing: I get the Barb love, but at the same time I don't. Shannon Purser is super charming, and Barb seems like a great friend and quality human being, but at the end of the day, she was only in a few scenes, and didn't really get a chance to do much. Objectively, Eleven was the biggest bad-ass of them all, and Dustin was by far the funniest one. I understand being sad that Barb died, and I even understand wishing she'd gotten to do more (that's pretty much how I feel). But I'm not sure I 100% understand the level of fanaticism surrounding Barb.

Similarly, Boba Fett has been a breakout character of the Star Wars franchise—possibly THE breakout character, aside from Han Solo—since he was introduced in Empire Strikes Back. But if you take away his bad-ass origin story in the expanded universe, then the Boba of the movies is kind of lame. He's only in a few scenes, and he hardly gets to do much of anything before his embarrassing, almost slapstick death. So where does all the love come from?

Probably their costumes have something to do with it

Joker Boba

Joker Fett cosplay at Wonder Con 2016

This is especially true for Boba. His mystique is approximately 80% the result of his bad-ass costume, rather than any actual badassery. In fact, the top comment on a Reddit post asking why people love Boba so much (yeah, that's right, I did research) says, "He looks like a BAMF." His armor is awesome, his helmet is iconic, and the jetpack doesn't hurt (until it sort of killed him, I guess). It's not the only reason he's a fan favorite, but it helps a whole lot.

And while Barb doesn't have any one specific iconic costume in Stranger Things, she does have an overall look that has contributed to her fan favorite status. The 80's nostalgia is one of the biggest draws of the show, and no one looks more quintessentially 80's than Barb, especially with that hairdo. Plus, Shannon Purser is just an adorable human being in general, which is probably why everyone is clamoring for her to play Squirrel Girl, and why we'll probably start seeing Barb cosplays all over Comic Cons. 

They're both unconventional heroes

Barb and Boba are both unconventional heroes that are more relatable than the protagonists, albeit in very different ways. Barb is the nerdy, quirky, reliable friend to Nancy's more generic protagonist, while Boba was one of the original antiheroes. People loved him because he was a cool bounty hunter who was on the Empire's side, but seemed more morally ambiguous than Vader. And as we all know, people love moral ambiguity; he was to Darth Vader what Han Solo was to Luke Skywalker, namely more interesting.

And they didn't wear out their welcome

The fact that neither character lasted very long makes fans very sad, but it's also part of their appeal. Boba is often praised for being a "mysterious" character, and first attracted a cult following after Empire Strikes Back, when he was just a bounty hunter no one knew anything about. As we've seen with other minor breakout characters who eventually wore out their welcome when they got more screentime (Barney Stinson, Felicity Smoak, etc), Barb and Boba's respective legacies probably benefitted from their untimely deaths.

They both died gruesome—yet unsatisfying—deaths

This is an easy one. Barb was one of the few characters to get a tragic ending on the usually-optimistic Stranger Things, getting eaten by a Demogorgon and showing up in the Upside Down looking very, very dead. But still, many fans were upset by her anticlimactic end, especially since the rest of the town doesn't seem to care about her absence very much (#WHATABOUTBARB). (But on the bright side, judging from the concept art, it could have been so, so much worse.) Meanwhile, Boba's death left a LOT to be desired, to the point that most fans have come to a consensus that he didn't die in that Sarlacc pit. And they might not be wrong...

Their deaths left juuuuust enough room for them to return

Or at least for fans to hope they would return. Barb was seen dead in the Upside Down, but many fans still hoped that she would be revived somehow in our dimension, either due to wrinkles in the already-established mythology or some convenient sci-fi magic. But unfortunately, the Duffer brothers put a damper on the fans' hopes and dreams for the character:

Opening quote
"I can't see it happening," Matt Duffer said of Barb returning in season two. "But Barb will not be forgotten. We'll make sure there's some justice for Barb."
Closing quote

Boba fans might have a little more luck. The expanded universe, now non-canonical Legends, established that he survived the Sarlacc pit, and the new canon has heavily implied that he might be alive several times, most notably when his armor was found in the wreckage of the pit. There's even talk of Boba getting his own anthology movie, although now that I write this, that much exposure might ruin the character's mystique.

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