My oldest son, Josh, recently binge-watched the first season of Stranger Things. After seeing one of the ubiquitous trailers for Logan, he remarked that the Laura character reminded him of Eleven (who topped my list of 2016’s best heroes). I thought that was a pretty astute comparison, so much so that I had to get over the fact that my 13 year old drew it before I did.
Both of these girls were bred, or at least reared, by malevolent organizations to serve clandestine agendas. At about the same age, both managed to escape the clutches of these organizations and became fugitives of sorts. They each used their considerable superhuman abilities, as well as the good will of others, to elude capture and set things right.
The most compelling similarity to me is that Laura and Eleven are young, female heroes. Hollywood has had an annoying habit of depicting girls as helpless and in need of rescue or protection (see Newt from Aliens, Carol Anne from Poltergeist, Ariel from The Little Mermaid, Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, Rogue from X-Men, and Lex from Jurassic Park). But not Laura and Eleven- they kick butt.
In a previous post I defined my Heroism Quotient (HQ) and Villainy Quotient (VQ). I rate pop culture heroes along five factors (0-20), yielding a Heroism Quotient (HQ) with a maximum score of 100. The higher the HQ, the more heroic the hero. The factors are inspired by the thinking of Dr. Philip Zimbardo, who has explored heroism following his ground-breaking work on the roots of evil with the Stanford prison experiment. Here’s how I rate Laura and Eleven on the HQ factors:
1. acting in service to others in need, or in defense of an ideal: Both Laura and Eleven initially are out for themselves, for survival. Eleven’s motivations shift to protecting her newfound friends and then to defeating the monster, so I’ll give her a 10 (out of 20). Laura scores higher (14 out of 20) because eventually she signs on to a mutant exodus that just might stave off extinction.
2. serving voluntarily: I figure Eleven has to score higher on this factor, since she is on her own or with peers for long stretches. Laura is with adults who call a lot of the shots for her (she has her moments, though). Eleven gets a 15 and Laura gets a 9.
3. recognizing possible risks/costs: Eleven has seen (and done) horrible things. But Laura has been exposed to much more violence and cruelty, which gives her a keener sense of the risks she is facing. Therefore, Laura earns a 17 while Eleven earns a 9.
4. accepting anticipated sacrifice: These are brave characters who have no problem throwing themselves into the fray, especially to help others. Eleven makes the ultimate sacrifice, though, so she maxes out at 20. Laura gets a 16.
5. anticipating no external gain: One of the tragic things about Eleven is that though she longs for the life of a normal girl, and gets tantalizingly close with some experiences (a first kiss!), she always seems to know she’ll never get there. Hence, she gets a strong 18 on this factor. Laura is driven to do what’s right, but she also has a shot at life with a father and accepting community; that drops her to a 12.
Total the 5 factor scores and Laura gets a 68 (close to Lego Batman’s 67), but Eleven edges her out with a 72 (not far off Doctor Strange’s 76). How would Laura and Eleven fare in a fight against each other? As fierce and formidable as Laura is, my son and I pick Eleven (telekinetics, like Jean Grey, rule!).
Craig Pohlman is the co-author of CinemAnalysis: Learning about Psychology through Film. He tries to be heroic at least once a week.