Please note: Pre-finale, Stranger Things Season 4 spoilers are possible.
Stranger Things fans already know that 11-year-old Erica Sinclair originally wasn’t supposed to be here for this length of time. She originally was a secondary character, someone the guys all alluded to and occasionally talked about. But suddenly Erica, portrayed by Priah Ferguson, garnered a bigger role. Granted, many fans of color – and specifically black fans – noted that of all the characters on the first season of the show, only the black ones didn’t seem to be fully fleshed out with parents and a back story.
But all that was corrected in the third season of Stranger Things and now, with Stranger Things 4 about to cap off Independence Day weekend in the United States, Erica is poised once again to steal the show – or to help correct it. At the very least, she could help to save it.
As a black woman who was about Erica’s age in the Stranger Things 80s timeline, I can appreciate the character’s nerdiness, mathematical prowess and ability to bring her A-game to hours of Dungeons and Dragons play – but only after she gave herself permission to be herself. For me, 80s D&D was a subculture and nerd culture was a sub-sub culture well unlike today. To find black players at that time was a rare thing and to find white groups welcoming of black players was another, also rare, thing altogether. I was lucky in that I too had a neighborhood group of kids to play games with. But like Erica and her brother Lucas, I sat on the edge of being on the cheerleading (for him, basketball) team but also wanting to spend Saturdays playing games in the basement or at the arcade. (Note: I did just that at the Stranger Things pop up in Chicago.) Folks back then wanted you to choose your side rather than openly claim all the parts of yourself.
And this is why Erica’s character is so refreshing, even if she doesn’t get early enough screen time for my liking. Though her version of sassy would never have been allowed in my household, at times she seems real – a definite mashup of the kind of folks I know and knew. Not yet having seen the season 4 finale, to date here are my five reasons why she’s the come up of the season, and perhaps the series.
- Erica became a key part of the plan to uncover the Russian operation at Starcourt Mall simply because she was small, and smart. Always written off as the little sister, she showed that she is more than her place number in the family lineup.
- As Independence Day approaches, who can ever forget that there is no America without Erica?
- Erica shows up as one of small number of girls who make their way in a horror fantasy world and holds their own. She’s also wise beyond her years while also retaining her childhood. Remember when she heard the plan to crawl in the shaft? “You know what this half-baked plan of yours sounds like to me? Child endangerment.”
- Erica honestly did more to help the town than many other characters and she provided a nice comic relief along the way.
- She’s “Lady Applejack – a level-14, chaotic good half-elf rogue” and honestly, who can mess with that?
Here’s hoping a future season of Stranger Things uses Erica and her amazing mind to its fullest potential.