Stranger Things was a great eight hours of television. The kids acted like kids (which meant, pretty frequently, they were remarkably annoying and frustrating), the pacing was excellent, the resolution was satisfying without being too neat. But reading the rest of the glowing reactions I started to notice a disturbing trend: A conviction that Nancy should have ended up with Jonathan and not Steve. So let me help you out with that: No. To elaborate: HELL NO.
For all Steve’s popular-douche good looks and impossibly fluffy hair, he actually proved himself to be a pretty decent human being. Not great, because he’s a teenage boy and I think most teenagers are physiologically incapable of being great people, but better than expected. When Nancy made it clear she didn’t want to fool around while they were running flash cards, he respected her boundaries, affirmed that she was special to him, and gladly went back to the flash cards with no pouting or manipulations. When Nancy showed up to his house with Barb in tow, he didn’t blink or make any snide remarks, he welcomed both girls into his house. Nancy made the decision that she wanted to sleep with him, he didn’t pressure her. And while there was that unfortunate graffiti incident late in the season, he came to his senses pretty quickly and ditched his friends and cleaned up after their handiwork BEFORE he knew that Nancy hadn’t been with Jonathan. He did it because it was the right thing to do.
Jonathan, on the other hand, took creep-shots of Nancy while she was having a private moment, DEVELOPED THEM, and then harangued her for her completely normal explorations of her adulthood. Nancy was making her own choices for her own reasons, which are none of Jonathan’s business.* I guess we’re supposed to be sad that he had his camera broken since he was so into photography, but I can’t shake the feeling that he deserved it for being an unrepentant creep. “I saw this girl, you know, trying to be someone else. But for that moment it was like you were alone.” You were a good 200 yards away in the bushes and she was in a second floor window, dude, you saw a cute girl getting ready to take her shirt off and you’re trying to justify it. I guess we’re more geared to sympathize with him because of his counter-culture interests and his brother being gone and all that, but his actions around Nancy definitely mark him out as a stereotypical “Nice Guy” sort of creep. It’s entirely possible he’d grow out of it, but for now? He shouldn’t be anyone’s boyfriend with that chip on his shoulder.
Neither of them are perfect, and both of them put Nancy through some things she didn’t deserve. Frankly, she’d probably be better off waiting until college to date seriously. But her ending up with Steve is not a “bad” ending, it’s the one that she wanted.
*Besides which, what do you bet his conviction that her “rebellion” was pathetic would be very different if she was rebelling with him?