By Carol Starkey

We’ve all heard the saying, “Love makes the world go ‘round.” I looked that quote up and found a slightly different one that tried to improve on it: “Love doesn’t make the world go ‘round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.”

I don’t know that I’d say love makes the world go ‘round, so I definitely like the second quote better. But when I (and probably a lot of other people) think of love, the first thing I think of is romantic love. In all the well-known stories, you read about or see romantic love. Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, Ross and Rachel, Jane and Mr. Rochester, Sam and Diane, Ted and the mother.

Romantic love is important. It has its place, and many people seek a partner through the journey of life. But friendship is just as important. Even in the most romantic of stories, those characters almost always have supporting characters, friends who stick with them through thick and thin.

The very popular series, Stranger Things, is about a group of kids who rescue a girl, Eleven, from a corrupt government agency, and their adventures as they try to keep her safe and give her a normal life. And of course, you have pairing off between boys and girls. One child, Mike, ends up with a huge crush on Eleven, and they end up being boyfriend and girlfriend. While the audience roots for Mike and Eleven to end up together and cries at the end of season three when the two are parted, the relationship that really stands out to me is the friendship between Eleven and Max.

In season one, three boys, Mike, Lucas, and Dustin, go out looking for their missing friend, Will. Instead, they find a girl and bring her back to Mike’s house. The season focuses on finding Will, though as the season wears on you see Mike slowly falling in love with Eleven. In season two, new kids show up, stepbrother and -sister, Billy and Max. Max tries to fit in with the boys, and Dustin and Lucas accept her quickly. Mike takes longer to warm up to her. When Eleven renuites with her friends, she snubs Max.

Season three is where the friendship between Max and Eleven really takes off. Eleven breaks up with Mike and goes to Max’s house for advice. Instead of bickering or acting cold, Max offers real advice. The two end up going to the mall. Eleven, shut away or kept a secret for most of her life, finally learns how to have fun and fully embraces the things so many teens take for granted: she goes clothes shopping, eats ice cream, gossips with Max, and hangs out. You see her grow and realize she can have a life of her own, a life as her own person without bad guys hurting her and she’s even able to be who doesn’t need a boyfriend. She can stand on her own two feet. She figures out what she wants and who she is, something that she hadn’t done before becoming friends with Max.

Knowing who she is and trusting herself strengthens her. She and Max confront the bad guys, face off with Max’s stepbrother, Billy, and help the boys as they battle their biggest foe yet. She refuses to let Mike tell her what she can and can’t do, and even the adults in her life see the change and embrace it.

Max also grows through her friendship with Eleven. She’s not just a tomboy who skateboards; she truly befriends Eleven. She doesn’t let the challenges and rough home life she has hold her back. Instead, she wholeheartedly welcomes Eleven into her life. She’s able to blossom with a friend, and you see her grow softer because of her friendship with Eleven. She doesn’t have to be tough anymore.

And later, when something happens to Max’s stepbrother, it’s Eleven who comforts her. This is the girl who ignored Max, who was used as a science experiment her whole life, who had to learn to speak in full sentences and how to interact with others. She comforts Max and here you really see the friend she really is.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carol Starkley lives with her husband, three daughters, and numerous pets. She likes to read, write, bake, and dabble with the clarinet. She also infrequently blogs.