Out of every aspect of Netflix's Stranger Things — including the retro '80s nostalgia, a grief-stricken mother played by Winona Ryder, a young girl with telekinetic powers, a shadowy government conspiracy, and a monster from another dimension with a flower for a head — I don't think that co-creators Matt and Ross Duffer necessarily expected a minor supporting character named Barb to become the show's biggest sensation and a rallying cry for fans. But Stranger Things star Noah Schnapp (who plays the missing Will Byers) has a theory as to why Barb became such a phenomenon… and what happened to her while she was in the Upside Down. (Spoiler alert: it's not pretty.) (This article contains major spoilers for all of Season 1.)
Here we are, with audiences clamoring for "Justice For Barb!" after Nancy's best friend was abducted by the monster, taken into the Upside Down, and eaten. It was an ignoble end for an innocent character, to be sure, but the level of passion she has inspired among viewers remains a bit mystifying. The fact remains that Barb was only in three of the season's eight episodes, and was a relatively insignificant presence in those three episodes, to boot. We didn't know anything about her other than the fact that she was Nancy's friend and that she wore funny glasses.
"I think it's just because Nancy kind of dismissed her when they were at that little thing with Steve," Schnapp tells Bustle. "So I guess maybe people just feel really bad for her." I'm sure pity had a certain amount to do with it, but it's perhaps not all that surprising that an audience that likely numbers many Dungeons & Dragons-playing, fantasy-loving nerds who may have experienced bullying in their own pasts would identify with a misunderstood, frumpily-dressed outcast.
Even so, the entire cast and crew were caught off guard by the strength of the audience's reaction to Barb's demise. Schnapp recalls actress Shannon Purser's initial reaction to learning her character's unfortunate fate. "We were at the reading together, and she was telling me the Duffer Brothers said she might die and she was like, 'Oh no, this show looks so amazing, I wish I could be a part of it,'" he remembers. "And she is! Just… not anymore, sadly."
But it's Schnapp's theory on what happened to Barb while she was in the Upside Down that's the most… interesting? When asked if he thought Will and Barb interacted while they were both in the parallel dimension, the young actor theorized, "I don't think they saw each other, just because then it would've changed the plot. If they saw each other, they would've worked together. But I think maybe they heard each other while they were running away, and maybe Will was running away while the monster was distracted feeding on Barb. That's just a guess that I have." Schnapp pauses. "Yeah, poor Barb. She was awesome."
Poor Barb, indeed.
Images: Netflix (2); Giphy