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Who Will Be the Next Barb on ‘Stranger Things’?

An extremely speculative analysis of the new Season 2 characters, in a hunt to find the next maddeningly viral sidekick

Netflix/Ringer illustration

Last year, the Duffer brothers and Netflix brought us the hit television show Stranger Things. More importantly, though, they brought us Barb. Barb needs no introduction, because she is an icon, but for those of you who are unenlightened, here is a fact: Despite appearing in only six scenes on the show, her fashion-forward ensembles, aversion to cool teen customs, and indescribable je ne sais Barb–ness burned her image into the public’s collective conscience forever. The Ringer alone canonized her in no fewer than four pieces. At one point, she became so famous that a jealous faction of our staff began to hate her. And though she uttered few lines before being unceremoniously plucked from a diving board and swallowed whole by the Demogorgon, her mere presence was spellbinding enough to captivate the usually attention-deficient internet for months, which in turn led to an Emmy nomination for the actress who plays Barb, Shannon Purser. Barb may be lost forever to the Upside Down, but she will never be forgotten.

Approaching Season 2, it’s only natural that we should seek another character to fill that Barb-shaped hole in our hearts. As a service to the millions of Barb mourners out there, I have performed a totally speculative and highly uninformed analysis of Netflix’s Stranger Things Season 2 trailers to scout the top contenders for this highly prestigious position. Without further ado, here is a points-based prediction of who will be Stranger Things’ next viral sidekick.

Girl with red hair in ‘Stranger Things’ Netflix

Contender 1: Redheaded Girl

Pros: This character, whoever she is, has the same color hair as our beloved Barb (+1). And in one scene from Netflix’s final trailer for the show, it appears she’s being ignored by her male peers. Barb, too, was frequently misunderstood for her genius. Extra points for outsider status (+3).

Cons: While this character’s hair may be red, its texture isn’t nearly as buoyant as the glorious auburn swirl atop Barb’s head (-1). She also appears to have shunned the high-waisted pants and conservative necklines typically worn by Barb for more casual tomboy wear. Is this just a cheap ploy to fit in, redheaded non-Barb? Nobody likes a conformist (-3).

A man standing in the kitchen with his shirt partially unbuttoned Netflix

Contender 2: Dude in Half-Open Shirt

Pros: At first glance, this character—who is standing alone, partially exposed in a small kitchen—appears to be somewhat tortured. Could it be that he, too, has trouble shotgunning beers? Maybe his cooler friend is upstairs hooking up with a popular girl? Either way, he probably needs comforting. Points for exhibiting the same vulnerability that made Barb so multifaceted and raw (+3).


The opening of this dude’s shirt, which reveals what appears to be a well-sculpted chest, implies that he might be kind of ... hot? There’s nothing wrong with being hot, per se, but a real Barb demonstrates his or her beauty in less thirst-inducing ways (-3 points for conventional hotness).

Group of three scientists standing in a lab, with one wearing glasses on the right Netflix

Contender 3: Scientist on Far Right

Pros: Barb always knew her way around a pair of statement glasses, and so does this guy (+3). He also appears to be a dedicated student of chemistry. As you may remember, Barb could write combustion formulas in her sleep. Points for being smart like Barb (+2).

Cons: Barb was always the “tall” friend. And although this scientist is crouching, I would argue that, standing up, the man to his left is much larger than him (-5, for relative lack of tallness).

Sean Astin wearing hospital scrubs Netflix

Contender 4: Sean Astin in Hospital Scrubs

Pros: Oh hello, Sean, fancy meeting you in [squints] the sparely decorated storage room of a haunted medical facility. Sean’s Season 2 character may be a mystery, but the horror on his face hints that he, too, may be a sacrificial lamb to a force of nature far more powerful than he. It’s not something I enjoy revisiting, but that’s how Barb also met her end (+2).

Cons: He’s Sean Astin (-2).

Man in a lab coat sitting next to a switchboard Netflix

Contender 5: Guy Manning Glowing Switchboard

Pros: I do not know what this man’s job is. It appears to involve watching over an apparatus featuring buttons and bright flashing lights. I do know that he showed up to work that day prepared with his key card and lab coat, ready to do the dirty work no one else wanted to. You know who else made sacrifices for the benefit of her peers? Barb (+4).

Cons: Barb may have been a hard worker, and charitable enough to be bored at a party so her friend could get laid, but her future did not involve being a soulless cog in the machinery of an all-powerful tech corporation. Whatever this guy is doing in some sad basement, adult Barb would’ve had none of it. Adult Barb was going to see the world before she was slobbered up and spit out to die in a grave of sticky Upside Down–world cobwebs (-4).

A boy in a classroom with his pencil in his mouth Netflix

Contender 6: Boy Eating Pencil

Pros: Look, it’s clear this scene is set up so that our eyes lead naturally to aforementioned redheaded girl. But the star of this scene is obviously the boy on the right, who is staring at the front of the classroom while chewing his pencil. His expression implies he’s lost and afraid, anxious for the future, wallowing in prepubescent insecurity, and maybe a little hungry for lunch. Though he may not have any of the obvious Barb traits we know and love, his presence exudes the same relatable high schooler essence that made her special (+5).

Cons: Not wearing pink (-5).

The Demogoron against a dark-red skyline Netflix

Contender 7: New and Improved Demogorgon

Pros: Like Barb, the Demogorgon is so tall that it turns heads everywhere it goes (+2). It is also probably a little misunderstood (+3).

Cons: Technically this is the same monster that ate Barb, which was (a) not cool, and (b) not something Barb would even be physically capable of doing herself (-5).

Thus concludes our scouting project. If you’re good at math like Barb was, you’ll notice that each contender’s score comes out to a big fat zero. So who will be the next Barb? It was a trick question all along, you dummies. There can be only one Barb. No one else even comes close.