Stranger Things Decoded: The Inspiration Behind Eleven's Character

Stranger Things is a thrilling show that's gained a cult-like following for its suspense and addictive storylines. The award-winning characters of the show are even more fascinating but we've decided to focus on Eleven this time. Did you know the girl with supernatural abilities is a homage to the legendary film director Steven Spielberg?

Not only is El's appearance referenced from one of Spielberg's most popular films but a lot of the storyline and plot were written in honor of other sci-fi films. Find out if you recognize anything by reading more about the details of Eleven as well as other interesting information about the series.


So here's the story about a boy who befriends a cute weirdo...No, I'm not talking about Mike and Eleven, we're talking about is the storyline of the most popular sci-fi hit of the 80s - E.T. Just like in the Spielberg masterpiece, Mike has to keep Eleven's existence a secret from his parents, the same way Elliott did with E.T.

And Eleven's funniest introduction to suburban life (including her favorite Eggo's and the way she learns about friendship), was all inspired by none other than the Extra-Terrestrial. Do you remember the episode from season one called "The Body", where Eleven has her first-ever makeover?

Well, guess what, it's reminiscent of the scene where Elliott's younger sister, Gertie dresses E.T. up. More so, tiny Holly Wheeler, the toddler sis of Mike and Nancy, bears a resemblance to Gertie. And there's more: in the episode "The Bathtub" - the bike chase scene where the kids are chased by agents, is similar to another scene from E.T. as well.

We'll end the E.T. references by saying that Spielberg is actually an admirer of Stranger Things. Not only has he claimed to be "their biggest fan," the movie legend loved how the Duffers re-created the world of the 80s, saying that they do it brilliantly. We couldn't agree more!

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Getty Images


Does a 1988 Japanese anime science-fiction film called Akira mean anything to you? No? Well, how about this: The plot of Akira follows a teenage biker with psychic powers, who attempts to release an imprisoned psychic named Akira.

The movie features children who possess psychic powers and these children were test subjects, experimented on in a secret government project -the government aimed to develop and use their abilities for personal gain. Now it sounds a bit more familiar, doesn't it?

Just the same, Eleven's powers are used by the Department of Energy to spy on the Russians during the Cold War. Wait! There's even more! Those poor kids were assigned subject numbers alongside their real names....and Akira himself was number 28. So, here you go!

The Duffer Brothers didn't hide these similarities and openly admitted that there was A LOT of Akira in the show's DNA. But you know what influenced Eleven's character even more than Akira? The master of science-fiction horrors himself, Stephen King!


We will start from the less famous 80s King novel, "Firestarter" and its film adaptation. The story follows a young girl, born with psychic abilities that allow her to create and control fire with her mind. But that is not the main thing she has in common with our El.

That girl, whose name is Charlie, runs away from a secret government agency that seeks to control her. And the most important similarity is that both Charlie and Eleven have mothers who, while in college, participated in secret government experiments that involved taking hallucinogenic drugs.

And so, Charlie and Eleven are born with supernatural powers as a side-effect of these experiments. Moreover, Charlie's father bleeds from his nose when doing hypnosis. Yeah, exactly the same way Eleven bleeds when she uses her powers. And if by any chance you still think that's only a coincidence, there is a direct Stephen King reference in season one!

When Joyce Byers and Jim Hopper were trying to figure out the story of Eleven, they met with El's aunt. She claimed that Terry, her sister, and El's mom, believe her lost child was "special... born with abilities." When Joyce questions what she means by abilities, Terry's sister simply responds: "Read any Stephen King?"

That's right! And of course, there are other huge references to King's novels. The whole boys' gang was surely taken from IT and the Upside Down is very similar to the eerie alternate dimension that invades earth in The Mist. And by the by, both were caused by a government experiment gone wrong, and both result in otherworldly creatures breaking through into our world.

Just like Steven Spielberg, King is also a fan of Stranger Things. But unlike the E.T. director, King not only thinks the show is brilliant, but he was also actually the one, who helped the Duffers discover Millie Bobby Brown! That's all thanks to one tweet from Stephen King!

Which said: “Millie Brown, the girl in Intruders, is terrific. Is it my imagination, or are child actors a lot better than they used to be?” The Duffer Brothers could not ignore such a tweet and decided to check out who this mysterious young lady was.

Getty Images

Getty Images

Thank God they did! But you might be shocked to find out that, initially, the Duffers were planning to kill-off Eleven! This was revealed during Matt and Ross Duffers' chat at Chapman University. As the show was originally pitched as a limited series, Eleven's fate was supposed to be pretty devastating.

"So it was like, Eleven was gonna sacrifice herself and save the world and then that was gonna be it, because there was a moment where limited series were a big deal." - Ross Duffer revealed.

Fortunately that did not happen and we now can all happily whine about the season 4 delay. If you thought those were all the surprises about Eleven, you're wrong, as there's one more reference. This time it was inspired by a computer game!


To start with, the Duffer Brothers are huge fans of computer games and that's why we see so many Arcade scenes in the show. "The Last of Us" is an action-adventure survival horror video game that, according to the show creators, had a rather big influence on Eleven's story.

In the game, protagonist Joel accompanies a young girl named Ellie as they travel across the post-apocalyptic United States, overridden with the undead. Both Chief Hopper and Joel had a daughter named Sara, who died tragically. Eleven and Ellie not only share very similar names, but both preteen girls are also endowed with unusual, remarkable qualities.

Just as Ellie reminds Joel of his deceased daughter, Eleven potentially reminds Hopper of his own child who passed away. And at last, talking about this game a couple of years ago, the Duffers revealed that they had an idea of bringing El and Hopper closer in future seasons.

We all know how this story ended and we all can't wait to see how El will find out that her dad is still alive!

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