Barb. Who is she? What does she want? Where is she going? I don’t know. Nobody does because (spoiler alert) she dead. Taken from this cruel world before her time. Snatched from the clutches of life and given an eternal resting place amongst the inter-dimensional monsters. And slugs.
Netflix’s breakout hit Stranger Things introduced Barb as a foil to Nancy Wheeler. The superego of ‘80s America, eschewing boys in favor of books. She’s only in a few episodes and she’s dead before the plot even really starts rolling. Allegedly. At any rate, Barb was never meant to be the focus of Stranger Things and her fate, while tragic, is brought up as an afterthought throughout the rest of the series.
This did not sit well with viewers. Enraged by the lack of attention Barb’s death received, a campaign emerged. Justice for Barb, but with more hashtags. It dominated the news and, within a few weeks, Shannon Purser, the actress who plays Barb, had become an international icon and, for those unfamiliar with the show, the apparent star of Stranger Things. It’s not hard to see why. For someone with such a small role in the story, Barb is a compelling character. She’s wise beyond her years and a loyal friend. She cares about her future. She wears big funny glasses and mom jeans. Her name is Barb. What’s not to love? Or, at least, what’s not to be fascinated by?
Hence, this article. Hence the subsequent fifteen facts about this whole #JusticeForBarb hullabaloo. Read ‘em and weep. Weep for the lack of justice. Weep for Barb.
15. This Was Her First Acting Gig
And what a gig it was. Having only ever acted on stage, Purser was delightfully green (heh) when she walked on set. In an interview with Esquire, Purser gushed about the experience of first seeing the studio:
“Walking into not only my first production, but also one on this scale, was incredible. From the very first day I went to the studio, when I auditioned, I saw the huge soundstages and I was totally floored. I was thinking, this is the biggest thing I’ve ever done and how cool would it be if I actually got this? And I did!”
Little did she know. In addition, pre- and post-dead Barb/Shannon Purser worked at a movie theater up until a couple of weeks ago. Meaning that the show aired and she was still taking people’s popcorn orders. Evidently though, the pressures of her newfound fame led the actress to quit her job. I doubt she’ll stay unemployed for long.
14. Screen Time: 6 Minutes, 50 Seconds
We know this because we just measured it. We did research. Don’t be too impressed, because it really wasn’t hard. Which is sort of the point. Clocking in at about six minutes and fifty seconds, Barb’s face graces the screen for (roughly) 1.42% of the show’s entire runtime. Alive, that is. We didn’t take stock of the death scenes because, honestly, that seems like cheating. Not to mention, those scenes don’t exactly dwell on Barb either. It’s more of an “oh, that sucks” sort of moment than anything else.
We didn’t do the math, but we’d be willing to guess that Barb has less screen time than Tommy H. and Carol (Steve’s shitty friends), who are objectively awful. Make no mistake: awful characters have their place in the horror genre. They typically provide much-needed schadenfreude when whatever is stalking and killing people finally catches up with them. Unfortunately, in the topsy turvy world of Stranger Things, Barb drew the short straw this time.
The hashtag that started it all. It’s not exactly clear where it started. Primarily because it’s abnormally difficult to find out that sort of thing. But, in the meantime, we do know how to measure its reach. Unsurprisingly, it is a ridiculous number.
Over time, the #JusticeForBarb tag has been used upwards of twelve million times, according to Keyhole. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that twelve million people are demanding justice for Barb, but it means at least a metric mega-load is. The particular virality of the phrase “Justice for Barb” aside, that’s insane. To put things into perspective, the Donald Trump hashtag has around seven million impressions. The Hillary Clinton hashtag? A paltry seven hundred thousand. Presidential hopefuls beware; Barb is on the scene.
12. Shannon Purser’s Twitter Is Lit
Speaking of hashtags and social media-ing, Purser’s Twitter page is a thing of beauty. A cultural gem, preserving and curating a collection of society’s best Barb art. And funny posts about her dad. The actress routinely retweets the outpouring of support that comes her way, but considering the aforementioned twelve million instances of the Barb hashtag, one assumes that endeavor is a limited one.
And yet, whether she knows it or not, Purser has made a deft move. The heavy engagement with fans and the window she’s given us into her life is precisely the sort of self-marketing that agents bark at actors for not having. Purser is ahead of the game. Let’s hope people are paying attention. Specifically, studio execs.
11. Barb Has Her Own Rap Tribute
Because of course she does. Created by the YouTube comedy channel, Dr. Chorizo Productions, the rap is simple. It bemoans the lack of Barb attention. It describes Barb as having hot glasses and being thick. It only has eyes for Barb.
The two rappers go on to sing a two minute song about Barb, while concurrently paying their respects. It’s weird, but nothing denizens of the internet haven’t seen before. It’s unclear whether Purser has seen this odd tribute to her character yet, but we can only imagine she’s excited about it. Wouldn’t we all be?
10. She Wants To Be Squirrel Girl
You might be asking a lot of questions right now. Who is Squirrel Girl? Why does Purser want to play her? Did you say Squirrel Girl? What the hell is a Squirrel Girl!?
Obviously, she’s a superhero from Marvel comics, known for communing with squirrels and girls. Honestly, we don’t know what she does. Just that Shannon Purser wants to play her in a movie.
Unfortunately, so does America’s quirkiest girlfriend, Anna Kendrick. The latter has just been endorsed for the role by the directors of the new Avengers movie. So, it looks like Kendrick probably already has a head start on that dream-made-reality. But stranger things have happened (see what we did there?). Maybe if a loyal following of several million demanded justice of some kind, Purser might have a fighting chance. If only.
9. Her Famous Fans Love Her
No one really wants to live in a world where we gauge the relative “coolness” of something based on what John Stamos thinks, but in this case it seems to have worked out. Stamos, via his Instagram account, ‘grammed his support for Barb last week. Purser subsequently shared the post on her aforementioned delightful Twitter page.
But Stamos isn’t the only famous face to grace this space. Other famous Barb lovers include Angela Kinsey (of The Office), Hannah Simone (of New Girl), and eHarmony (of the airport television screen).
Purser also routinely retweets celebrities who just generally enjoy the show. Because she knows what they aren’t saying. They’re watching it for Barb.
Even on a show like Stranger Things, which tosses around ’80s references like old floppy disks, Barb stands out as being particularly ’80s looking. It’s not just the clothing. It’s something deeper. Something Barb.
Well, someone realized that Barb looks exactly like an amalgamation of every high school photo from the 1980s and a trend began wherein people shared their most Barb-like school pictures. The results were pretty hilarious. In addition to being a collective “haha, didn’t we look ridiculous back then?”, the movement stood as a testament to Barb. Her unapologetic Barb-ness. The everywoman, forgotten by society but remembered by those who loved her. Because really, we are all, at some point or another, Barb.
7. Barb Art
With great fandom, comes great amounts of art. Just heaps of it. Enough that it’s conceivable that some enterprising soul could construct some sort of collage out of them. Hint hint, artists. A tiny sample can be found here. But just comb Purser’s Twitter to find more. She often retweets those who tweet at her with their renditions and she’s always incredibly excited that someone took the time to draw her.
Which seems to makes sense. Someone taking the time to immortalize you on the page is a great honor. There’s also got to be an element of self-consciousness to it too. Wow, this person must have stared at my face for some time to accomplish this, one might think. Barb cares not. Barb is too evolved for such things.
6. Barb’s Mom Finally Finds Out
One of the oft-touted criticisms of the Barb death dearth (say it quickly; it’s fun!) is the real lack of any motherly concern. There’s a phone call from Nancy asking about where Barb is, but besides that, we never see Barb’s mother again. This isn’t particularly odd, considering Barb herself has very little to do with the show. Her mother, presumably, has even less to do.
And yet, she’s the focus of a 40-second video. The entirety of which is just her getting the news of Barb’s death. The reaction, executed with perfect comedic timing, is the collective subconscious of everyone at some point while watching the show. It highlights the “swept under the rug” nature of Barb’s disappearance and the, apparent, apathy from even her own mother. Maybe not apathy, but certainly not maternal horror.
5. The Duffer Brothers Never Forgot Barb
Lest we forget, Barb’s true creators of questionable parenting skills are The Duffer Brothers. And they want you to know that they never forgot about Barb, even when the entire town of Hawkins, Indiana did.
In an interview with HitFix, the brothers discussed the Barb phenomenon with a mixture of amusement and, entirely likely, confusion:
“‘What about Barb?’ became a constant refrain. We said that almost every episode as we were writing season 1. I think what it boils down to is we’re not following Barb’s parents, or her family.”
Barb isn’t the main character, guys. Chill, they seem to be saying. But Barb fans are not chill. Nor are they hot. They’re just right. Except when they’re not…
4. Not everyone wants #JusticeForBarb
It appears that Barb’s easy charm and quirky fashion tastes aren’t enough for some people. Namely, a Buzzfeed writer who really tears into the whole Barb craze. It would seem that, unlike Raymond, not everyone loves Barb.
The writer argues, in between distracting Gifs and pictures, that Barb wasn’t actually a character, but merely a plot device. A lowly minor player, doomed to wander the world with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Presumably, there are others who feel this way about Barb. If there are, however, they are not readily visible in the comments section of that Buzzfeed article. Don’t mess with Barb fans, yo.
3. Shannon Purser Says Barb Is Empowering
In that same Esquire article, Purser ends the interview by musing on the particular power behind Barb.
“I tried to play her as very independent and unapologetic of who she is and confident in her logic and reasoning. I know a lot of fans have speculated that she would get into a really good college, make the most of herself in a career, and really take charge. And I could totally see that, too. She’s totally a boss, and whatever she ended up doing, she would succeed in it.”
And she’s right. Despite the dorky exterior and decidedly mom-ish tone she takes with Nancy, she’s a cool chick. She doesn’t apologize for looking the way she does, she just flaunts it. Barb doesn’t chicken out when asked to shotgun a beer. And Barb definitely doesn’t leave Nancy in the clutches of that dastardly Steve. To her eventual detriment. But Barb is a team player, and that night she took one for the team.
2. There Will Be #JusticeForBarb
Yes, they heard you. Space alien universes away heard you. The Duffer Brothers have confirmed to IGN that there will be justice for Barb in Season 2. It just may not be the sort of justice you’re looking for. When asked whether or not there was a chance of Barb getting resurrected à la Jon Snow, the brothers had this to say:
“I can’t see it happening” came Matt’s response. “But Barb will not be forgotten. We’ll make sure there’s some justice for Barb. People get very frustrated, understandably, that the town doesn’t seem to be really dealing with Barb. That stuff is all happening. We’re just not spending any screen time on it.
“It’s not like her parents are like ‘Oh Barb left. She died!’ Season One actually takes place over the course of six or seven days – it’s a really short period of time. So part of what we want to do with hypothetical Season 2 is to explore the repercussions of everything that happened.”
Do you smell a dramatic high school vigil scene? ‘Cause we do. And that’s all well and good, but what about Shannon Purser? The actress who is Barb. Perhaps we’ve been going about this all wrong. Maybe we should have been demanding #JusticeForShannon instead? Well, have no fear.
1. THINGS ARE HAPPENING
Indeed, very (very) recently, Purser blew up her Twitter in one fell tweet: “JIMMINY CRICKETS, GUYS. THINGS ARE HAPPENING.”
There were immediately questions and a litany of speculations. But, before anyone could get too excited, Purser qualified her statement a bit: “(Sorry guys, it’s not Stranger Things related)”
But maybe that’s better. Maybe Barb’s time is over. After all, would there have been #JusticeForShannon had there not been a need for #JusticeForBarb? Maybe, much like Will’s disappearance, Barb’s death brought everyone a little closer together? Maybe her sacrifice actually meant something?
At any rate, the world can’t wait for Season 2 and the new Twitter campaign: #JusticeWasServed. #BarbGotJustice? We’ll figure it out by then.