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I may be a pretty shitty boyfriend, but it turns out I’m actually a pretty damn good babysitter.

–Steve Harrington, November 5, 1984


Steve Harrington is a recurring character in the first season and a main character in the second season of Stranger Things. He is portrayed by starring cast member Joe Keery.

A student at Hawkins High School, he was friends with Tommy H. and Carol and the boyfriend of Nancy Wheeler. When Nancy's best friend disappeared, she became distant and Steve thought she was cheating with Jonathan Byers. Following a few ignorant actions, Steve had a change of heart, told his friends off and set out to make things right. By coincidence, he ended up heroically saving the day and reconciled with his girlfriend.

In 1984, following a falling-out with Nancy, Steve became a proper ally to the main party, especially Dustin, with whom he formed an unlikely friendship. He became a sort of authority figure for the party and solidified himself into becoming a major player in the battle against the Mind Flayer.

History

Background

Steve was a student at Hawkins High School and friends with Tommy H. and Carol. During a conversation, Nancy implied that he had several superficial sexual relationships with girls, including Laurie, Amy and Becky.

He did not have a great relationship with his father, at one point referring to him as a "grade A asshole."

1983

Steve and Nancy Wheeler started dating around November 1983. They had made out a couple of times and fooled around in the bathroom at school. On November 6, he convinced her to go on a date with him. In the evening, Steve climbed in through her bedroom window and helped her study for a chemistry test. He suggested they should take their clothes off and was leading up to have sex with Nancy, but she stopped him.[1]

Stranger Things 1x03 – Steve and Nancy have sex

Steve and Nancy have sex for the first time.

The next day, Steve’s parents were leaving town for a conference his father was going to and he invited Nancy to a party at his house. Tommy and Carol were also there, and Nancy brought her friend Barbara Holland along. Steve chugged a beer and persuaded Nancy to do the same. Apart from Barb, they all jumped into the pool with clothes and played around. Nancy slept over at Steve’s that night and they had sex.[2]

At school the following day, Nancy felt like people were watching her, but Steve swore that he hadn’t told anyone and kissed her by the lockers. During lunch, Nancy was worried because she hadn't seen Barb since last night, but Steve suggested that she was "probably just skipping."

Stranger Things 1x03 – Steve with Jonathan's camera

Steve taunts Jonathan before breaking his camera.

Nicole informed Steve that she had seen Jonathan Byers in the darkroom, developing sneaky photographs from the pool party. Steve and his friends confronted Jonathan and took the photos, one of which was of Nancy getting undressed. Steve called Jonathan a pervert, ripped up the photos and broke his camera.[3]

Barb was still missing two days after the party and Nancy expressed her worry to Steve. However, he was more concerned that his parents would find out he hosted a party with beer. Nancy got upset, walked away and said “I can’t believe you right now.”[4] Steve did get into trouble with his parents, but went to Nancy’s home to apologize the day after. He explained that he panicked and “was a total dick.” He noticed that Nancy was still upset about Barb and suggested they catch a movie to “pretend everything is normal for a few hours.” However, Nancy was reluctant and said she couldn't.[5]

Noticing that Nancy was acting weird, Steve worried that something was wrong and decided to check up on her. He drove to her house with Tommy and Carol the same evening and climbed up to her bedroom window. There, he saw Nancy sitting on her bed with Jonathan Byers beside her. Jonathan placed a jacket on Nancy’s shoulders and held his arm around her back. Steve immediately concluded that Nancy was cheating on him.[6]
Stranger Things 1x06 – Nancy slaps Steve

Nancy slaps Steve while Tommy, Carol and Nicole watch.

Hurt and angry, Steve went around downtown Hawkins with Tommy, Carol and Nicole as Tommy spray painted obscene messages about Nancy and Jonathan on walls and the marquee of the movie theater. Nancy confronted them and slapped Steve across the face. She inferred that Steve had come by last night and, though she tried to tell him that “it wasn’t like that,” was unable to explain what she and Jonathan had done in her room. Steve told Nancy to go to hell, spewed insults at Jonathan about his family and pushed him until they ended up in a fist fight. Jonathan kept punching Steve in the face while he was down on the ground, until the cops broke up the fight and Steve ran away with his friends.[6]

Tommy and Carol kept talking trash about Nancy until Steve finally had enough and told Carol to shut up. Steve regretted their actions and told Tommy he shouldn’t have spray painted that stuff about Nancy. He called them both out for never caring about or liking Nancy, called them assholes and miserable people and drove off. He then went to the movie theater to help them clean the spray paint off the marquee.[7]

Stranger Things 1x08 – Jonathan, Steve and Nancy after monster

Jonathan, Steve (spiked bat in hand) and Nancy after fighting off the monster.

In the evening, Steve went to the Byers residence to make things right. Nancy was there with Jonathan and threatened to shoot Steve unless he left immediately. But, the Christmas lights hung all over the living room started blinking intensely and a monster broke through the ceiling. The trio hid in Will’s room until the monster disappeared and Steve, who didn’t understand what was going on, tried to call the police in a panic. Nancy told him to leave because the monster would come back, so Steve ran to his car. The lights started blinking again, so Steve want back inside and fought off the monster with a spiked bat, leading it into the bear trap in the hallway, where Jonathan set fire to it.[8]

A month later, at Christmas, Steve and Nancy had reconciled and he spent Christmas Eve at the Wheeler household with her family. Steve had bought a camera for Jonathan to replace the one he broke, which he made Nancy give to him as a Christmas present.[8]

1984

While in the school parking, Nancy was looking over Steve's college essay when they witnessed Billy Hargrove and Max Mayfield arrive. That night, Steve and Nancy had dinner with Mrs. and Mr. Holland. While there, they discovered the Hollands were selling their house in order to hire Murray Bauman, a private investigator, to investigate Barb’s "disappearance."

The next day, as Steve and Nancy were studying in the school library, Nancy noticed a person who resembled Barb, reigniting her grief. She then told Steve that they should tell Barb’s parent’s the truth about her death. After reminding her that it would be too dangerous to do so, Steve managed to convince Nancy not to say anything and to go to that night’s Halloween party so that they could have a normal night.

That night at the party, Steve had a confrontation with Billy, who had beaten his keg standing record. Nancy began drinking the spiked punch, despite Steve’s protests. She eventually became intoxicated, resulting in her confessing to Steve that she really did not have feelings for him. Upset, Steve left the party, later asking Jonathan to take Nancy home.

While Steve was in gym class, Nancy arrived to talk to him. Steve recounted the events of the party to her, including her confession. Nancy tried to assure Steve that what she said wasn’t true, but when she didn’t tell him that she loved upon his request, he left.

When Steve went to the Wheelers’ house to reconcile with Nancy, he was intercepted by Dustin, who urged Steve to come with him and to bring his spiked bat. On the way to his house, Dustin explained Dart to Steve, who initially believed that what Dustin found was some sort of lizard. When they entered the cellar, they discovered that, not only had Dart molted again, but it had also escaped through a tunnel it had dug in the earth.

As they were walking along the train tracks, Dustin explained to Steve he had kept Dart in hopes of impressing “a girl”. Steve then gave him relationship advice, telling him to “act like he doesn't care”. He also disclosed his hair-styling secret: Farrah Fawcett hairspray, but stated not to reveal it to anyone. They eventually arrived at the junkyard where they were soon joined by Lucas and Max. Together, they fortified the abandoned bus and created a trap to lure in Dart.

As the group were waiting in the bus, they suddenly heard a screeching sound. The sound's source was revealed to
Steve weilding his bat

Steve armed with his bat faces a demodog

be Dart, who arrived at the junkyard but didn't take the bait. So, Steve decided to confront him while telling Dustin to remain prepared. However, when Steve approached Dart, it was revealed that he wasn't alone and was joined by several other Demodogs. Steve, almost overwhelmed, managed to get back in the bus with the group after defending himself from the attacking demodogs. As the pack attacked the bus and nearly overwhelmed them, they suddenly stopped, leaving the junkyard. Following the Demodogs, they realized they were heading to Hawkins Lab. Arriving at the lab, they discovered Nancy and Jonathan, who were looking for Mike and Will. They were all forced to wait outside the lab, due to the lab's power being out. Eventually, the power came back and the group was finally able to get passed the gates. They reunited with Joyce, Hopper, Mike, and Will, and together they all escaped the lab.

Once it was determined that they’d have to interrogate Will in order to discover the Mind Flayer’s weakness, Steve assisted in remodeling the Byers’ backyard shed. During Will’s interrogation, he signaled in Morse code the way to stop the Mind Flayer: closing the Gate. Soon after, the phone in the Byers’ kitchen rang, allowing the Mind Flayer to know their location and send a pack of Demodogs their way. However, Eleven arrived and eradicated them. Together, the group came up with a plan: Joyce, Jonathan, and Nancy would exorcise the Mind Flayer from Will's body while Eleven and Hopper would go to the lab and close the gate. Meanwhile, Steve stayed behind at the Byers’ house, along with Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Max.

When Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Max decided they’d burn the tunnels as a distraction to lure the Demodogs away from the lab for Eleven and Hopper’s safety, Steve refused to let them enact their plan. Just then, Billy arrived looking for Max. Steve tried to intervene, but the two ended up in a fist fight. With one of the syringes used to sedate Will, Max was able to puncture Billy's neck, making him lose consciousness. Using Billy's car, Max drove the group to the pumpkin patch where the entrance to the tunnels was located. Making their way to the hub, they doused the entire area in gasoline and set it ablaze. On their way out of the tunnels, the group encountered Dart. Recognizing Dustin, Dart did not attack and was easily distracted by Dustin giving it another Three Musketeers bar, allowing the group to escape.
Steve taking Dustin to the Snow Ball

Steve drives Dustin to the Snow Ball

On December 15, Steve drove Dustin to the Snow Ball, giving him another pep talk on how to win the hearts of girls. After Dustin left, Steve waited and saw Nancy through the window of the middle school gymnasium, serving drinks at the dance and slowly accepts their failed relationship, before driving away.

Personality

Initially, Steve was shown as a typical popular boy who had an interest in Nancy. He displayed some insecurities, as he instantly believed Nancy was sleeping with Jonathan when he saw them together in her bedroom. Despite his flaws, Steve shows that he has a brave side and truly cares about Nancy, as he helped her beat the Monster. In the end of the 8th episode it is revealed that Steve and Nancy got together and purchased Jonathan a new camera to replace the one he and Tommy broke.

In Season Two, after Nancy breaks up with him, Steve is at a low point. Between the breakup and Billy Hargrove quickly taking over his status as 'King Bee', Steve hasn't a lot going for him.

While trying to make amends with Nancy, Dustin intercepts him and ropes him into assisting with catching D'Artagnan. Steve and Dustin bond over methods of attracting girls and become friends. Steve takes on the role as 'babysitter' for the kids and is shown to be more responsible, breaking out of the stereotype of 'popular boy'.

Skills

One of Steve's incredible skills is his proficiency with his spiked bat. His adeptness with his bat was revealed when he displayed significant feats to fend off the vicious Demogorgon from attacking at the Byers house. Steve used his spiked bat again during the events at the junkyard where he was almost overwhelmed in an ambush by the demodogs, if not for defending himself with it.

He was also shown to be physically robust during his fist-fight with Billy, dealing some quick blows to defend Lucas. And even though he received major injuries in the process, Steve was still able to help enter and guide the kids out of the demodogs' tunnel after setting it afire.

Relationships

Dustin Henderson

In season two, Dustin and Steve form an unlikely bond while trying to hunt down D'Artagnan. Dustin tells Steve about his attempts to win the heart of Max, where Steve gives advice on how to approach women, and how to style his hair. When everybody else failed, Dustin was the one who convinced Steve to put aside his responsibility of protecting the group and instead assisting them in burning the tunnels infected by the Upside Down.
Steve later drives Dustin to the Snow Ball Dance, and gives him a pep talk before Dustin enters the dance.

Nancy Wheeler

Ex-Girlfriend/friend

Jonathan Byers 

Former enemy and friend

Tommy H.

Former friend and Enemy

Carol

Former friend

Billy Hargrove

Billy Hargrove was an antagonist to Steve and quite provocative from the day they met. After Billy's arrival to the Hawkins High School, he was quick to gain reputation from Hawkins teenagers and ignited a rivalry with Steve when Billy broke his keg standing record. Even though Steve didn't bother much about his fame, Billy was always quick to taunt him when Steve was both unable to defeat him in basketball and was failing to deal with his broken relationship with Nancy.
Ultimately, Steve realized Billy's fiendish character when he returned to the Byers residence to forcefully bring Max as well as threatening the boys. That prompted Steve to intervene and a fist fight ensued, where even though Steve managed to protect the boys, Billy brutally maimed him, before he was later sedated.


Appearances

Season One appearances
The Vanishing of Will Byers The Weirdo on Maple Street Holly, Jolly The Body
The Flea and the Acrobat The Monster The Bathtub The Upside Down
Season Two appearances
MADMAX Trick or Treat Freak The Pollywog
Will the Wise Dig Dug The Spy
The Lost Sister The Mind Flayer The Gate

Memorable Quotes

Steve:

  • I'm stealthy, like a ninja
  • I'm sorry? What the hell am I sorry for?
  • Why don't you turn that frizzown upside-dizzity
  • …It’s finger-lickin’ good.
  • Hey! Dickheads! How come the only one helping me out is this random girl?

Steve to Dustin:

  • How do you know it’s not just a lizard?
  • You’re gonna slay ’em dead.
  • She's only gonna break your heart, and you're way too young for that
  • Yeah, Farrah Fawcett. You tell anyone I just told you that and your ass is grass.

Steve to Mike:

  • Alright, Wheeler, we found your hub.

Steve to Billy:

  • Yeah, it’s me. Don’t cream your pants.

Steve to Nancy:

  • I may be a pretty shitty boyfriend, but turns out I’m actually a pretty damn good babysitter.

Steve & Dustin:

When the two were bonding during setting up a trap-

  • Steve: "So let me get this straight. You've kept something you knew to be dangerous in order to...impress a girl who you just met?"
  • Dustin: "Okay, that's grossly oversimplifying things."

Behind the scenes

Character development

Initially, the character of Steve was more of a stereotypical douchebag, which actor Joe Keery described as "more forceful and pushy, and kind of the '80s stereotypical jock you’d see in a John Hughes movie."[9] In the pilot script for Montauk, Steve actually went so far as raping Nancy.[10]

The character was reworked because the Duffer Brothers thought Keery had a different look and energy from how they imagined Steve, saying Keery was "incredibly likable and had this charisma about him."[11] In the original plan, Nancy and Steve would not reconcile at the end of the show, but the Duffers decided to give Steve his own arc where he's in with the wrong crowd and Nancy turns him to her side.[12]

During development, Keery and the Duffers spoke about “what kind of family life [Steve] comes from and maybe this girl Nancy is quiet and listens in a way that other people haven't listened to him at this point.”[9]

Costume design and styling

Costume designer Kimberly Adams described Steve as a high school "prep" and summed up his style as "Polo shirts, Levi’s, khakis, and Brooks Brothers basics worn with attitude!"[13]

ST1 Costume Mood Board – Steve

Mood board for Steve's style, created by costume designer Kimberly Adams.

As seen in the mood board Adams created for the character, his style was inspired by Tom Cruise’s characters Joel Goodson in Risky Business (1983) and Stefan "Stef" Djordjevic in All the Right Moves (1983). Both films are referenced by Steve in Chapter Five and he mentions how Carol said he looks like Tom Cruise, who Nancy has a poster of in her bedroom. Steve wears the same Nike shoes that Cruise wore in All the Right Moves. Other inspirations in the mood board were Johnny Depp as Glen Lantz in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and model John Sommi modelling knitwear in GQ. All of the aforementioned men were considered 80s jocks and heartthrobs.

The stylists spent a lot of time discussing the look of Steve – how they could make him look like "kind of a douche" that "really rubs people the wrong way."[14]

They didn’t figure out Steve’s hair until the second and third episodes, when they tried it as a joke style to see if it would go up. To get the look, they used a lot of shampoo, a lot of hair spray and a lot of meticulous grooming.[9]

Gallery

View Gallery

Click the above image to view the gallery for Steve Harrington.


References

  1. Stranger Things Season 1 Episode 1 "Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers"
  2. Stranger Things Season 1 Episode 2 "Chapter Two: The Weirdo on Maple Street"
  3. Stranger Things Season 1 Episode 3 "Chapter Three: Holly, Jolly"
  4. Stranger Things Season 1 Episode 4 "Chapter Four: The Body"
  5. Stranger Things Season 1 Episode 5 "Chapter Five: The Flea and the Acrobat"
  6. 6.0 6.1 Stranger Things Season 1 Episode 6 "Chapter Six: The Monster"
  7. Stranger Things Season 1 Episode 7 "Chapter Seven: The Bathtub"
  8. 8.0 8.1 Stranger Things Season 1 Episode 8 "Chapter Eight: The Upside Down"
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "‘Stranger Things’: Joe Keery on Steve’s Perfect Hair and Going Beyond the Classic ’80s Bully" The Wall Street Journal. August 8, 2016.
  10. "Montauk Pilot" The Duffer Brothers.
  11. "The Stranger Things creators want some scares with their Spielberg" A.V. Club. July 13, 2016.
  12. "‘Stranger Things’ Finale: Duffer Brothers Talk Cliffhangers, Death and Season 2" Variety. July 18, 2016.
  13. "Stranger Things - Costume Designing 1980s Nostalgia" Tyranny of Style. November 15, 2016.
  14. "Eleven Got a Perm For Season 2 — & You Just Need To See it" Refinery29. February 10, 2017.