Warning: Major spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen Stranger Things yet. A growing theory among fans of Netflix’s hit ‘Stranger Things’ involves the idea that Eleven – a girl with psychic powers – is the alter ego of the blood-thirsty Monster she encounters in the realm known as the Upside Down, even though the two first meet when Eleven is shown floating in a sensory deprivation tank. Some believe that the duality of the two is exposed when we see Eleven “birthing” the Monster in her mind.
This is considered a possible reaction to the combination of the drug testing imposed on her by the “mad scientist” father figure and her telekinetic powers. It’s believed that the integral part of the theory involves those tank scenes. Others cite the climax in the final episode as a clue, where we see them in an epic face-off. Eleven states “I am the Monster” which mirrors the same idea hinted at several times throughout the show.
It makes sense that Eleven could be using an allegory to express how she is linked to the Monster, like two sides of the same coin. In order to explore the theory further, it might be best to start first with the idea that Eleven is the earthly counterpart to the Monster from the Upside Down. This might answer the question as to why Eleven vanishes in a cloud of ash after the final showdown, leading to the assumption that she had to sacrifice herself to exorcise the Monster.
Further hints to be found in the show and other references?
Many fans on social media have suggested this is why Eleven was able to recognize Barb and Will in photographs, without having met them in person. If that’s accurate, then her powers could be what link her to the Monster – making them the same entity. Also, in the finale, when Chief Hopper leaves behind the care package in the forest, it mightn’t only be due to his concern for Eleven but maybe, his desire to fortify who he considers the enemy.
Some fans also point out the references to Dungeons and Dragons along with the X-Men, where many correlations can be found in the show, as well as a 1980’s soundtrack – there’s an obvious love for Stephen King and John Carpenter.
In terms of the alter ego theory, there’s an X-Men reference in the first episode, where Dustin and Will are involved in a bike race, with a comic as a prize for the winner. It’s not just any comic though, as Will requests the X-Men 134 – legend among superhero fans – as the issue produced in 1980 which heralded the comic’s Dark Phoenix era. This included the storyline focused on Jean Grey – a psychic who battles with the Phoenix, who drains her supernatural powers and threatens to bring about the destruction of the Universe.
Similar to the struggle between Eleven and the Monster, Jean Grey is host to the Phoenix – however – in ‘Stranger Things’, the Monster remains independent of Eleven, apparently not needing her to exist or cease to exist.
The alter ego theory argues that Eleven and the Monster need each other to exist. Further to that argument, it’s believed that their relationship are akin to the association between the Demogorgon’s two heads in Dungeons and Dragon lore. The two-headed monster has two separate personalities, similar to Eleven and the Monster in ‘Stranger Things’. In Dungeons and Dragons, both heads of the Demogorgon are perpetually at war with each other but also require the existence of the other in order to survive.
Interpretations and Further Possibilities?
The literal interpretation of the themes, symbols and allegory depicted in ‘Stranger Things’ are integral components of the belief in the theory. Seeing as the show is brimming with fantasy and obscure elements, the basic idea of Eleven and the Monster being linked is obvious.
What will hopefully be a fascinating continuation of the show will be Eleven’s growth as a character. In terms of her relationships with the other characters, we know that she cares for Mike and his friends, even though she moved the compass away in Episode Five, sabotaging their investigation of the Upside Down. In that case, if she’s the enemy – she’s not behaving as such.
Eleven and the Monster appear to be mutually exclusive. In the final episode, they appear in the same frame and end up doing battle with each other, although it might still prove to be a representation of the inner struggle – like Jekyll and Hyde!
It also bears noting that even her name Eleven , in numerical form “11”, is seen as the same from both sides!