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When Warped Community Feels Right} ?> There’s wisdom in seeking counsel from those who are older and wiser than me, from friends who can view my situation from an unbiased perspective. Any time I have to make a big decision, I consult those close to me. However, advice still needs to be taken with careful consideration. A solution that worked for someone else in a similar situation may not work for me—it might not even be the wisest thing for me to do.
In Stranger Things 2, Eleven meets Kali (another girl with superpowers). She finds safety and belonging with someone who can empathize with her troubles. Kali gives her advice on how to harness her power and tries to coax her into seeking revenge against the people who hurt her. But Kali tempts Eleven to the dark side of the Force—I mean, convinces her to do more harm than good. She advises Eleven to use anger to fuel her abilities and be unmerciful to those who have hurt her.
Kali’s advice isn’t malicious; she genuinely wants to help Eleven. But Eleven comes to realize that Kali’s life is dark and bitter; and Kali is surrounded by friends who let her thrive in her depravity. Eleven soon realizes Kali’s life is not something she wants to aspire to. Kali tries to convince her to kill a man who abused Kali and hurt Eleven’s mama. When Kali tries to kill the man herself, Eleven stops her and Kali responds by saying, “If you want to show mercy, that is your choice, but don’t you ever take away mine. Ever.”
Kali respects Eleven to make the decision to show mercy, proving she doesn’t want to force Eleven to become like her, but Eleven clearly sees the difference between the two of them. Despite having a connection with Kali, Eleven realizes that she can’t follow Kali’s path, nor follow her advice.
It’s difficult to set aside the advice of someone we admire when it’s not the wisest choice for us. For one thing, it’s scary; I’m making a decision on my own and I might not be supported in it. For another, I may hurt others’ feelings by not taking their suggestions. But my hope is that friends will love me when I take my own path, and even if I’m wrong, they’ll let me make my own mistakes.
Despite feeling the same hurt and bitterness that Kali feels, Eleven chooses to react differently. She leaves Kali, one of the few people who can truly understand what she’s going through. Eleven runs back to her friends in Hawkins—not because they can save her, but because she can save them. They need her, and she knows it.
I desire community. I don’t want to be alone in life. Sometimes it feels like any community is good community as long as I’m no longer by myself in the world. I’ve chosen to be around people who didn’t have a positive influence on me because they seemed to want me around and understood me. And yet I need more than just empathy from my friends. I need people who push me to be better. I need people who care about me for me, and not for what I can do for them. I need people who will accept me when I make mistakes.
Kali has chosen friends who share her mission, but little else. And since people tend to reflect those they spend the most time with, vengeance becomes Kali’s only drive.
Though Eleven’s friends, particularly Hopper in this season, have let her down, they genuinely care about her. Hopper kept her confined to the cabin because he cares about her. If he completely empathized with her desire for vengeance and her teenaged emotions, he probably would have let her do whatever she wanted and wouldn’t have kept her safe. Eleven needed someone like him in her life, someone who could see what she couldn’t.
Eleven has the strength to venture away from this community in Chicago who understand her personally and go back to those in Hawkins who may not relate to her as intimately. But her friends in Hawkins want to encourage Eleven positively. They want what’s best for her in all ways and they won’t hesitate to point out when she’s going down the wrong path. They love her. Eleven made the choice that Kali couldn’t: to try to heal without hurting others and avoid a warped community even though she felt a kinship with her “sister.” Eleven chose the more difficult path—one where she had to face her ultimate fear and reconcile with people who’ve hurt her—but it was the wiser path, leading to a community that will push her to love others, search out peace, and value forgiveness.