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You are beautiful, Nancy Wheeler.

–Steve Harrington, "Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers"


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.

Steve was a student at Hawkins High School, friends with the bullies Tommy H. and Carol and dated the brainy and innocent Nancy Wheeler. When Nancy's best friend disappeared, she became distant and Steve thought she was cheating with Jonathan Byers.

Following a few stupid 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.

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."

Season One

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]

I was worried about you... I can’t believe that I was actually worried about you.

–Steve to Nancy Wheeler, "Chapter Six: The Monster"


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]

Neither of you ever cared about her. You never even liked her, because she's not miserable like you two. She actually cares about other people.

–Steve to Tommy H. and Carol, "Chapter Seven: The Bathtub"


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]

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.

Relationships

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

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]

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.


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