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The unlikely breakout star of Stranger Things 2 is unlikelier babysitter Steve Harrington

Steve was everyone’s dad.

Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

In the first season of Stranger Things, no character was more extra than Steve Harrington — Nancy Wheeler’s frequently possessive, largely confused, often douchey boyfriend. Though he eventually got with the program and helped fight some monsters, he wasn’t exactly what you’d call the pick of the litter.

So when the actor who plays Steve, Joe Keery, was promoted to series regular status for Stranger Things 2, fans were left to wonder why that might be. With Nancy’s eyes clearly wandering toward her stalkery BFF Jonathan Byers, what could Steve possibly be getting up to?

As it turned out, the answer was a delight. Steve Harrington’s job would be to deliver Stranger Things 2’s loving homage to one of the greatest teen comedies of the ’80s: Adventures in Babysitting.

Armed with a nail-studded baseball bat, plenty of stern words, and a can of Aqua Net, Steve took on the unlikely role of guardian to Stranger Thing’s breakout preteen ensemble as they faced down everything from monsters from the Upside Down to girl problems. And he was such a natural at it that he shepherded his way into becoming this season’s breakout role — at least on the internet.

Fans quickly began to celebrate Steve’s protective prowess:

And many instantly embraced the idea of “Dad Steve.”

Netflix loved the “Dad Steve” vibe so much, it embraced the joke:

As did Keery himself:

But Steve’s epic babysitting skills weren’t the only thing that earned him praise and adoration.

It seems that Nu Steve is memeable even without the bat and gaggle of preteens:

Fans’ love and appreciation of Steve all seemed to revolve around the development and disintegration of his relationship with Nancy, for better or for worse. Though it was clear the pair weren’t exactly compatible, not all fans were happy with where the two of them ended up. Recalling last year’s #JusticeForBarb meme, the sidelong refrains that Steve Harrington deserves better and #JusticeForSteve spontaneously burst forth among viewers.

Whether you loved or hated where Steve ended up, lots of fans seem to agree that Steve’s character development in season two was top-notch.

Well done, Stranger Things. Well done.