Welcome back to The Circuit’s collection of Pop Culture Olympiads; The third olympiad is the Upside Down Olympics, focusing on Stranger Things! From Best 80’s Reference to Best Use of Eleven’s Powers, we award gold, silver and bronze medals across 20 events in the Upside Down Olympics.
Opening Ceremonies: Here at The Circuit, we view pop culture content through an Olympic lens, using medals to convey our feelings for different categories. This is the second entry in our collection of Pop Culture Olympiads. We will be looking at Netflix’s smash hit Stranger Things, and awarding gold, silver and bronze medals in 20 different categories that all revolve around the supernatural phenomenon.
Now, let’s jump off the diving board head-first into the Upside-Down categories!
Gold- Season 1
While every season of Stranger Things is fantastic, there’s nothing quite like that first season where you are introduced to all these kids. While both the monsters and the town of Hawkins continue to get bigger, season 1 will always hold a special place in our hearts.
Silver- Season 3
Bronze- Season 2
Gold- The Vanishing of Will Byers (Season 1, Chapter 1)
Just like season 1 won the gold medal because it came first, the same can be said for this category. From opening in Mike’s basement with the kids playing D&D to them stumbling upon Eleven in the woods, this episode captures our imaginations and thanks to Steve Harrington, our hearts.
Silver- Trick or Treat, Freak (Season 2, Chapter 2)
Bronze- The Battle of Starcourt (Season 3, Chapter 8)
Best Uses of Eleven’s Powers
Gold- Flipping the van
One of the biggest issues with the series has been that every problem can be solved with Eleven stretching her arms out and screaming. While there are many of those moments, by far the best use of her powers was when she flipped that van in the great cul de sac chase in season 1.
Silver- Making the bully pee himself
Bronze- Performing surgery on herself
Best Male Kid Characters
This category is difficult, and if you ask four different people you will probably get four different podiums. But here’s my justification; Will is gone for the majority of season 1 and possessed for the majority of season 2 so he can’t win. Mike is insufferable in both seasons 2 & 3, the former for losing his girlfriend and the latter for getting her back. He’s out. Slo then it was down to Dustin and Lucas, and who doesn’t love Dustin’s pearls?
Best Female Kid Characters
Unlike with the boys, this category was a slam dunk. Max is a welcomed addition to the party, and Erica was brilliant in season 3, but Eleven is a superhero who saves the world time and time again.
Best Male Teenager Characters
Another slam dunk. Steve is a heartthrob who is also great with kids and kind of a badass (except that he’s about 1-12 in fights). Billy turns out to be a literal super-villain, and Jonathan is just… Jonathan.
Best Female Teenager Characters
The top two in this category created some real drama (justice for Barb). We are with Nancy from the beginning, and we see her become a strong independent woman. But Robin is an injection of steroids in this series when we see her slinging cream at Scoop’s Ahoy. Her and Steve are great together, and I can’t wait to see where her story goes in season 4.
Best Male Adult Characters
Murray provides great comic relief, but he wasn’t in real contention for gold. Bob was the hero we needed, but Hopper is the hero we deserve. Hopper continuously saves the party and Joyce, despite his grizzly attitude towards… everything.
Best Female Adult Characters
Gold- Joyce Byers
This category was a slam dunk because there are literally no good adult female characters other than Joyce (and she’s not great if you ask me). All the other mothers in this town are awful parents (and wives… looking at you Mrs. Wheeler). At least Joyce cares where her children are and doesn’t want to hook up with a teenage shadow monster. Yeah, the hurdle in this category was set pretty low.
Silver- Claudia Henderson
Bronze- Karen Wheeler
Best Upside Down Monsters
Gold- Shadow Monster
Each season we get a different version of the Upside-Down monsters. Season 1 was a demogorgon, a human-looking creature. Season 2 we got the demodogs, who looked like dog creatures. And season 3 we had the Mind Flayer possess people and ultimately turn those people into one giant creature. But the Shadow Monster wins the gold here. It was responsible for all the other monsters, and the first look we get at it when Will turns around in the lightning storm is chilling.
Best Human Antagonists
Papa probably would have won the gold had he stuck around, but since we haven’t seen him since season 1 (other than that vision in season 2), Billy steals the win. Not only was he the point man for the Mind Flayer in season 3, but he was just a regular-ass dick in season 2.
Bronze- The Russian Terminator
Best Product Placement
This show has some fantastic product placement, from Steve saying “finger lickin good” to Lucas going full 1980’s commercial with New Coke, but Eggos is the clear winner. Eleven has a strong connection with Eggos; she’ll eat them heated up, frozen solid, smothered in Halloween candy and as leftovers from the Wheeler’s breakfast. There certainly are episodes with Eggos shown and/or referenced, but there aren’t many.
Silver- Kentucky Fried Chicken
Bronze- Coca Cola
Best 80’s References
Gold- Ghostbusters Halloween costumes
This series is full of 80’s references, which is part of what makes it iconic. Countless Star Wars and Back to the Future references are riddled throughout the show, but the best has to be the Halloween costumes of Ghostbusters. Seeing those kids in those costumes was one of the many highlights of the entire show.
Silver- Back to the Future screening
Bronze- The Millenium Falcon model
Gold- Nailed Bat
The wrist rocket is cool, and Nancy firing the shotgun is weirdly thrilling. But the “bat with all the nails in it” as Dustin called it is definitely the iconic weapon in this series.
Silver- Wrist Rocket
“Best death” is subjective (unlike every other category). I chose to take the best death as the most emotional, and the death of Bob the Brain is heads and shoulders above any other death (justice for Barb). Going from Bob saving the day to his gruesome death was heartbreaking, and deserved the gold medal.
Worst Parental Figures
Gold- Neil Hargrove
This was my most anticipated category. These parents rival those of Derry’s parents in It; awful! Karen Wheeler would be the shoe-in to win the gold in this category if it weren’t for the abusive asshole that raised Max and Billy. Other than Joyce and Hopper (and even they aren’t unimpeachable), these parents suck.
Silver- Karen Wheeler
Bronze- Lonnie Byers
Best Hawkins Locations
Gold- Starcourt Mall
The town of Hawkins has had a rough stretch lately, but the Starcourt Mall seemed to be a bumping place. The visuals of the mall were incredible, with the colors and the music creating a fun atmosphere. Not to mention, we get Scoops Ahoy and a screening of Back to the Future in the mall.
Silver- Hawkins Middle School
Bronze- 4th of July Celebration
Best Fight Scenes
Gold- Steve vs. Billy
While visually speaking there were better fights, Steve and Billy finally throwing down was an epic battle of two human characters. We waited all season to see who was the real King of Hawkins, and watching them trade haymakers was beyond satisfying.
Silver- Hopper vs. Russians in the Fun House
Bronze- Steve vs. Jonathan
Best Kid Games
Gold- Dungeons & Dragons
Kid logic has saved the day more often than not in this series, and Dungeons and Dragons has been responsible for much of it. By far the most popular game the show has utilized, D&D has been an integral part of the show and deserves the gold.
Silver- Dig Dug
Bronze- Dragons Lair
Gold- Dustin & Suzie
Joyce and Bob ended far too soon, and Max and Lucas are the epitome of a teenage romance. But the connection that Dustin and Suzie share is that of legend. Perhaps the most iconic scene in the show’s history, those two singing was heartwarming and thrilling. They might win the gold for all relationships in television history.
Silver- Joyce & Bob
Bronze- Max & Lucas
Closing Ceremonies: With the Upside-Down Olympics in the books, we’re going to see who won the most medals. It’s important to note that we didn’t count any medals that belonged to season or episode categories for this leaderboard, only individual categories. Also, we excluded individual character categories since those characters are the only ones that could get those medals. Let’s take a look at the medal leaderboards:
Billy Hargrove- 4 Medals (2x Gold, 1x Silver, 1x Bronze)
Steve Harrington- 3 Medals (2x Gold, 1x Bronze)
Bob Newby- 3 Medals (1x Gold, 2x Silver)
Dustin Henderson- 2 Medals (2x Gold)
Chief Hopper- 2 Medals (1x Gold, 1x Silver)
Joyce Byers- 2x Medals (1x Gold, 1x Silver)
Lucas Sinclair- 2 Medals (1x Silver, 1x Bronze)
Max Mayfield- 2 Medals (1x Silver, 1x Bronze)
Karen Wheeler- 2 Medals (1x Silver, 1x Bronze)
Barbara Holland- 2 Medals (1x Silver, 1x Bronze)
Russian Terminator- 2 Medals (1x Silver, 1x Bronze)
Jonathan Byers- 2 Medals (2x Bronze)
Eleven- 1 Medal (1x Gold)
Robin Buckley- 1 Medal (1x Gold)
Suzie- 1 Medal (1x Gold)
Neil Hargrove- 1 Medal (1x Gold)
Nancy Wheeler- 1 Medal (1x Silver)
Papa- 1 Medal (1x Silver)
Claudia Henderson- 1 Medal (1x Silver)
Will Byers- 1 Medal (1x Bronze)
Murray Bauman- 1 Medal (1x Bronze)
Erica Sinclair- 1 Medal (1x Bronze)
Lonnie Byers- 1 Medal (1x Bronze)