*Warning: Contains spoilers for Season 1 of "Stranger Things"*
Since its release, I've been in love with Ryan North and Erica Henderson's snappy comic, "The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl". Since episode one, I have also been in love with the Netflix series, "Stranger Things". What do these two seemingly unrelated forms of entertainment have in common? Hopefully, Shannon Purser.
Since "Stranger Things" debuted last month, there has been a steady outpouring of support for the up-and-coming actress, who played the ill-fated best friend Barb on the Netflix original series, to tackle the role of Doreen Green, a.k.a. Squirrel Girl, in an as-yet unannounced television series/film. Shannon herself added fuel to the fire when she expressed interest in playing the character.
Would this little-known actress really be the best possible choice for the fan favorite Marvel comic character? Absolutely, and here's why.
1. She Looks the Part
Short, curly red hair? Check. Bright, friendly smile? Check. Most important of all though? Physique. There has been some talk around the internet about the possibility of Anna Kendrick in the role, and while I love Anna, I just don't see her donning the big fluffy tail and tackling bad guys. Squirrel Girl is known for breaking out of the "male fantasy" mold (you know the one: big boobs and butt, with impossibly tiny waist, arms, and legs) and rocking some serious curves. Shannon fits the mold perfectly, rocking her own set of equally awesome curves. One of the things many fans love about Squirrel Girl is that she has a more realistic body type, one fans can relate to far more easily than, say, Wonder Woman or Starfire. While Anna Kendrick is certainly funny and could easily play any number of superhero leading ladies, I don't think Squirrel Girl is the right fit for her. Shannon is much more in line with the image of Doreen Green readers have in their heads. Casting her in the role would not only be staying true to the source material, but it would help welcome fans who might otherwise feel there is a severe disparity in the different body types portrayed on screen.
2. She's Got the Personality Down Pat
Whether she's convincing Galactus to kindly not eat our planet, or sweet-talking Kraven the Hunter into seeking out prey in the bottomless depths of the ocean so he'll leave the land-dwellers alone, the heart and soul of "The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl" is Doreen's caring yet no-nonsense attitude. She's a loyal friend and truly very sweet and supportive, but she has no problem getting all up in your face if she thinks you're doing something wrong. Sound familiar? It should, because it's basically identical to Barb in "Stranger Things". On the show, Barb is the straight-talking best friend who has no problem calling out her BFF Nancy on her uncharacteristic behavior. As an adult viewer, it's all-too-easy to see Nancy's actions as typical teenage rebellion, and having Barb there as a grounding force helps make the show feel more relatable (I, like many, was much closer to being a Barb in high school than a Nancy). Barb is friendly to a fault, but she isn't afraid to stand up to her closest friend when said friend starts acting weird. Shannon pulls this off perfectly, seeming genuinely concerned without ever devolving into the whiny, jealous sidekick trope. She comes across as real, and never a dull, overused cliche. She's original, she goes against the grain, and she embraces it. This is a key facet of Squirrel Girl's personality, and Shannon has already proven that she understands what makes the character so wonderful:
I think Squirrel Girl is just adorable but at the same time is totally boss and completely awesome. I think people need a character like that. It's easy in the superhero realm to feel like a lot of the female superheroes we see are grown women who are super responsible and know what their purpose is and that kind of thing. Squirrel Girl is a little bit younger and like a real person, trying to figure out her life and then also having to save the world. I love that.
Shannon gets what's so great about Squirrel Girl, and at just 19, she can relate to the character far more than older actresses who might try out for the same role. An understanding of the core tenants of the character is key to crafting a great performance, and given how well she handled the role of Barb, it seems clear she would do just as well as Doreen.
3. The Fans Have Already Spoken
Go on Twitter and search for "Stranger Things". A sizable number of posts that pop up will be about Barb. This is pretty impressive given that Barb is a minor character from the series who has an active role in all of two episodes. Yet something about her has resonated with the fans, with vocal support of the character springing up all over the internet. That's a powerful movement for a character with such minimal on-screen time, but that's the power of her. Imagine what she could do for a series if she landed the starring role? From a logistical standpoint, it would be absurd for Marvel to overlook Shannon. She's already got fans issuing the call to action.
With such strong support for Shannon to play Doreen when a Squirrel Girl film or series hasn't even been confirmed, it would be a bad move for Marvel to not strongly consider her for such a role. Clearly she has that certain something that fans can relate to, and a studio like Marvel would be foolish to overlook such potential.
4. Bonus Reason!
Alright, this reason isn't really rational per se, but it can't go unsaid. On "Stranger Things", Barb's best friend is named Nancy. In "Unbeatable Squirrel Girl", Doreen's best friend is also named Nancy. It's clearly a sign from the gods that Shannon and Squirrel Girl are destined to be one in the same.
Is Shannon Purser the Unequivocal Choice for Squirrel Girl?
Look, I'm not unrealistic. I realize there are a number of steps directors go through to make the perfect casting choice, and given the popularity of superhero endeavors lately I'm sure there will be a large number of girls vying for this role (if Marvel ever gets smart and decides to greenlight this project) and Shannon will be just one of those considered. Given her physical similarities to the character, her ability to play a sympathetic, realistic character, and her ever-growing and vocal supporters, she seems a clear front-runner for the role of Squirrel Girl. Here's hoping the Marvel execs feel the same.
If not, I fully support the #SaveBarb group for "Stranger Things". Bring her back!