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Here's the Absolute Best Thing About Stranger Things 4

Commentary: Steve and Dustin's friendship is the best thing on Netflix.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Expertise Breaking news, entertainment, lifestyle, travel, food, shopping and deals, product reviews, money and finance, video games, pets, history, books, technology history, generational studies. Credentials
  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
3 min read

Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Steve (Joe Keery) have the best friendship on TV, despite their age difference.


Warning: Spoilers for Stranger Things ahead.

Stranger Things manages to do the impossible: Juggle a complicated horror/sci-fi story without losing track of the emotional relationships of its many characters. And there's no better example of that than the unexpected friendship between genius nerd Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) and hunky Steve Harrington (Joe Keery).

This is a friendship that easily might never have happened. The characters are about four years apart in age, but a world away in sophistication. It's easy to imagine the show's creators, the Duffer brothers, keeping Dustin's younger group of kids emotionally separate from Steve's older crew. When the show began, Steve "The Hair" Harrington was a big man on campus at Hawkins High -- popular, handsome, athletic and, in season 1, kind of a big jerk. It's still tough to watch the scene where he breaks Jonathan's camera out of pure meanness.

Dustin is Steve's opposite in many ways: smart and intellectually curious, and he's no jock and no Mr. Popularity. But both of them are sassy and opinionated, and instead of that making them clash, it actually creates chemistry.

They start palling around in season 2. Steve and Nancy have broken up, and it's hard to be the BMOC when your girlfriend is with another guy. But smart-mouth Dustin is like a younger Steve in a way, and their friendship feels natural despite the age difference. Their friendship deepened in season 3, and I'm so thankful they stayed pals in season 4, with Steve having graduated high school and working at Family Video and Dustin beginning high school. They save each other's lives, sure, but they also clown around in a rapid-fire, entertaining way that I could watch for hours. 

Here are five great Steve-Dustin scenes from throughout their Stranger Things friendship.

Five great Dustin-Steve scenes

  1. Dustin comes to Scoops Ahoy!

Robin is at first perplexed when a middle-schooler shows up at Scoops Ahoy! acting like she should know who he's there to see. But when Steve bursts out of the back room yelling, "HENDERSON!" she can only watch in disbelief, delivering the classic line, "How many children are you friends with?"

2.  Wipe your feet!

Steve admonishes Dustin to wipe his feet clean before getting into the car, and Dustin obeys. Kind of. "On the OUTSIDE, not the inside," moans Steve, as Dustin smears mud all over the inside of the passenger foot well. 

3. The wayback

Steve is usually driving, since he's one of the few Stranger Things kids with a license, but there's no funnier scene than when he and Dustin are crammed in the wayback of a wood-paneled station wagon. They don't have to say anything or do anything, just the two of them being there is perfection.

4. The Farrah Fawcett hair spray method

When Dustin tells Steve that not everyone can have his perfect hair, Steve decides to explain his very-1980s way of prepping his famous 'do. The short version: Use Faberge Organics shampoo and conditioner, and when your hair's damp, but not wet, use four puffs of the Farrah Fawcett hairspray. (As the co-author of two books on the lost trends of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, I must sadly report that neither Faberge Organics shampoo and conditioner nor Farrah Fawcett hairspray is made anymore, but maybe another brand will do.)

5. Jealousy

Even Steve himself knows the friendship between someone his age and someone Dustin's age isn't quite right. But it's never stated quite as clearly as when Dustin is trying to convince Steve to join him for D&D and tells him, "you're just jealous because I have another older male friend." First off, that's probably true, and secondly, eww, when you say it that way, it sounds creepy and possibly illegal.

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