“Maybe I am a mess. Maybe I’m crazy; maybe I’m out of my mind! But God help me, I will keep these lights up until the day I die if I think there’s a chance that Will’s still out there!” — Joyce Byers, Stranger Things
Winona Ryder made a brilliant comeback with her character of Joyce Byers on Netflix’s Stranger Things and is perhaps the most badass mom out there on the streamer.
Created by twin brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, Stranger Things is set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, in the 1980s. It involves a group of children investigating their friend Will Byers’ disappearance, which leads them to befriend a girl named Eleven (who has psychokinetic abilities) and uncover dark secrets of the government.
The show has attained unthinkable with a classic child endangerment theme set in an ’80s grunge backdrop. Nerdy kids on bicycles trying to find their missing friend, a girl with telekinetic powers, dangerous species travelling to and from between dimensions, a corrupt bureaucracy and nearly helpless adults.
With a plethora of interesting characters, however, we stand by our decision of the Byers matriarch being one of the best characters on the show and on Netflix.
Besides having a variety of threats from monsters, Stranger Things is poor parenting galore. From absent parents to abusive and ignorant ones, the show does not hold back while incorporating the trope of dysfunctional families into the mix. However, Joyce stands out in this sea of bad parents as a caring and badass mother who refuses to stop at anything and is determined to find her son Will.
The mother of two, Jonathan and Will, Joyce is divorced from her childhood sweetheart, Lonnie. Their marriage ended on bad terms owing to Lonnie’s offensive and unacceptable behaviour towards their son Will which prompted Joyce to take a drastic decision. To support herself and her two sons, Joyce always worked extra during the holidays to make ends meet, often being unable to be there for them.
When Will mysteriously disappears, except Will’s friends, the whole town dissuades Joyce in her search. An admirable and robust character, she keeps composure even in the face of adversity despite having suffered from panic attacks previously. Ryder adds a certain amount of nuanced dignity, poise, and grace to a helpless mother who is determined to find her son despite being scorned by all. Despite being denied initial assistance, her perseverance warms our hearts.
Amiable, kind and benevolent, her motherly instincts make her go to unimaginable lengths to protect her sons. While we wish she paid more attention to Jonathan, we must also pay heed to the emotional turmoil. Besides losing Will initially, she found love in a man named Bob, who was killed by the Demogorgon. Joyce has no time to stop and breathe as her life is constantly tangled in a violent mess. She has no time for herself as she is too busy trying to make her loved ones happy.
While Jim Hopper, one of the best characters on the show, is haplessly in love with her, any possibility of romance is hindered by the obstacles in their path. Most notably, the ambiguous ending of season three where Hopper ends up presumably dead and Joyce moves away with Eleven and her sons. Despite being subjected to immense trauma, her unbridled energy and charm and compassion add a new dimension to the series. Her pragmatic, hardworking, and fiercely protective maternal self never loses its way amidst the confusion and initial paranoia and frenzy.
With her iconic bangs, Winona Ryder, who is well-known for films like Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and more, makes a return to the world of acting and cements herself as one of the best mom-characters ever written up by Netflix.
Oh, and she looks extremely scary when she’s angry, so never hurt the Byers siblings!