Stranger Things‘ Dustin Henderson might just be the smartest of the four founding Party members, and definitely the dorkiest, but he’s also one of the show’s most endearing characters. He tries the hardest to win the attention of girls he likes, failing more often than succeeding — and when he does succeed, initially no one believes him.
Dustin is the Party’s peacemaker, and one half of the Netflix series’ most iconic duo (yes, that would be Steve and Dustin). He’s sarcastic, he’s unabashedly himself, and he’s surprisingly wise for a kid. The Party wouldn’t be the same without him.
Warning: The following contains spoilers for Stranger Things Season 4.
Updated by Amanda Bruce on June 20, 2022: As Stranger Things barrels toward its Season 5 conclusion, Season 4 divides up the Party into different groups — some are even in different states. Dustin continues to be one of the smartest members of the Party despite the change in dynamics, but he also provides plenty of comic relief. He’s got just as many funny lines as he does inspirational quotes, and that continues in season 4.
Dustin Uses Other Famous Quotes
“Never Tell Me The Odds.”
Though Dustin’s lines are most often his own, he does get the chance to quote another famous science fiction hero. In season 4, Dustin refutes his friends when they try to tell him that an idea won’t work, channeling Star Wars‘ Han Solo.
It makes perfect sense that Dustin would quote the adventurer as he’s a big fan of science fiction and fantasy. Han Solo, a man who doesn’t let anyone stop him from pursuing what he wants but is willing to ultimately do the right thing, would certainly appeal to Dustin.
Dustin Has Specific Priorities For The Party
“MIKE! I FOUND THE CHOCOLATE PUDDING!”
In season 1, one of Dustin’s main concerns is providing the Party sustenance. When they first meet up to discuss a plan for finding Will, the others bring useful tools, but Dustin methodically lists all of the snacks he brought. And while Mike and Lucas aren’t always real friends, they agree that Dustin’s contribution is less than impressive.
Later, at the school, when everyone is preparing to use Eleven’s powers to locate Will in the Upside Down, Dustin proudly discovers the stock of chocolate pudding — so proudly that he screams loud enough that his voice actually breaks. Meanwhile, Hopper, Joyce, Nancy, and Jonathan are on serious missions to save Will’s life. Still, Dustin’s concern for everyone’s nourishment is sweet. The Party needs their energy, after all.
Dustin Is Impressed With Suzie’s Skills
“I’m Not Saying That My Girlfriend Is Better Than Yours, But Suzie’s A Certified Genius.”
Though Dustin spends the first two seasons impressed with Eleven having actual superpowers, he also becomes incredibly impressed with Suzie’s more practical skills in season 3 when he starts a long-distance relationship with her after they met at camp.
Dustin knows that Mike is excited to visit Eleven in season 4, but he can’t help but boast about how great Suzie is. Suzie changes his grade in one of his classes, despite her own misgivings about hacking into the school’s system. Dustin is impressed with just what Suzie can do, and his talking her up pays off later in the season as she is able to help Mike with an even bigger problem.
Dustin Is Proud Of Eleven’s Abilities
“She’s Our Friend, And She’s Crazy!”
Dustin isn’t one to shy away from the truth, and he doesn’t worry too much about what others will think. But when he has to lie, he struggles — like when Mr. Clarke meets Eleven.
The school bullies threaten Mike after their embarrassment at the school assembly when Eleven made Troy wet himself. But Eleven shows up to save the day after watching over her friends from a distance. She saves Mike from falling to his death and mildly injures Troy and James. As the bullies flee, Dustin shouts this after them.
Dustin Wants Information To Be Accurate
When Hopper first questions Will’s friends about his disappearance, their behavior is a little suspicious. They’re not all that upset, but they can’t reveal the truth about Eleven and what little they know of the Upside Down. So, when Lucas and Dustin start bickering over trivial matters, Hopper is confused and frustrated.
He asks them which road Will takes to get home, and they say “Mirkwood” — which the deputy says sounds made-up. Lucas confirms that it’s from Lord of the Rings, but Dustin corrects him: “The Hobbit“. Lucas turns on him and says it doesn’t matter. Hopper rolls his eyes and warns them that this is serious business, not some Lord of the Rings book. Dustin feels the need to correct him, too. This time, Lucas slaps him.
Dustin Recognizes Steve Is Jealous Of Eddie
“You’re Just Jealous Because I Have Another Older Male Friend.”
Though Steve denies it, Dustin is likely correct that Steve is a little jealous of his new friendship with Eddie. While Steve has graduated from high school just as Dustin has started, Eddie is still there. Eddie is also involved in Dungeons and Dragons through the Hellfire Club, something Steve doesn’t entirely understand.
Steve and Dustin became Stranger Things BFF goals, and their team-ups are some of the best parts of the show. Just because Dustin admires Eddie doesn’t mean he isn’t still close with Steve, though, and he makes that very clear.
Dustin Encourages Steve To Grow Up
“Don’t You Think It’s Time You Move On From Primitive Constructs Such As Popularity?”
Dustin’s words are so inspiring that Steve actually acts upon them. He starts out barely tolerating Robin but gradually opens his eyes to her charms. As they embark on their underground journey to discover the secret of the Russians, Steve realizes that he actually enjoys Robin’s company.
Even though Robin and Steve aren’t meant to be a romantic pairing, Steve still grows a lot in season 3, and it’s partly a result of Dustin’s advice — which is funny, considering how much younger he is than Steve.
Dustin Is Quick To Abort If The Party Is In Danger
When everyone believes Will to be dead, the school holds an assembly in his honor. Suspiciously, his friends are late because they’ve been held up by Mr. Clarke, who wants to be introduced to Eleven (another funny scene for Dustin). The boys tell him she’s Mike’s cousin from Sweden.
Mr. Clarke escorts them to the hall where the assembly is being held, and Dustin unceremoniously bangs the doors open. The entire school stares at their group, standing in the doorway. Under his breath, Dustin mutters, “Abort,” but they shove him inside. Gaten Matarazzo’s delivery of this line is the perfect combination of embarrassment and introversion.
Dustin Has An Open Mind
“I Am On A Curiosity Voyage, And I Need My Paddles To Travel.”
Dustin is trying to borrow some books from the library, but he’s already got five at home. The librarian reminds him of the rules, and he comes up with this great analogy. Really, it’s quite astonishing to hear these wise words leave a child’s mouth. The librarian isn’t swayed, though.
Dustin resorts to plan B, which is to distract her with some top-notch acting skills. She turns around for a split second before realizing that he’s made up whatever is supposedly behind her. But he’s already rushing out the door, desperately clinging to the stack of books, calling, “I need my paddles!”
Dustin And His Mother Are Very Close
“We’re On Your Side. I Swear On My Mother.”
Unlike the other families in Stranger Things, it appears that Dustin doesn’t have any siblings, and it looks like his father is out of the picture. He and his mother are very close, and she is quick to foster his creativity and curiosity.
That’s why, when Dustin, Robin, Steve, and Max find Eddie while he’s in hiding, it’s easy to believe Dustin is telling the truth because he swears on his mother. Even Robin agrees and says that they swear on Dustin’s mother as well, which lends a little humor to the scene.
Dustin Sometimes Speaks Without Thinking
“Man, These Aren’t Real Nilla Wafers.”
The boys are determined to find out what really happened to Will since they absolutely reject the idea that he’s dead. “Just wait ’til we tell Will that Jennifer Hayes was crying at his funeral,” Dustin says upon seeing her tears.
Afterward, Mr. Clarke attempts to show the boys his support. He asks them how they’re holding up, but Dustin isn’t paying attention. “Man, these aren’t real Nilla wafers,” he says a little too cheerfully. Mike and Lucas glare at him. Dustin doesn’t think before he speaks because he knows that Will is still out there.
Dustin Is Proud Of Steve
“You Won A Fight!”
Once again, Dustin is the one to spur Steve on. What begins as teasing at the start of season 3 ends with encouragement and pride.
Dustin reminds Steve of the two fights he lost, including the one with Jonathan, but in season 3 he finally gets his victory. Dustin is more excited than Steve, exclaiming, “Dude! You did it! You won a fight!” From this moment on, Dustin idolizes Steve all over again, just like he does in season 2. Also, Steve is a lot more courageous for the remainder of the Starcourt fiasco.
Dustin Tries To Encourage His Friends
“Touch My Butt, I Don’t Care!”
With the addition of new members every season, the Party has changed a lot in Stranger Things. In season 3, the Scoops Troop, a Party subgroup, was formed, and they try to find a way into the secret underground maze beneath Starcourt Mall. At first, Steve is delicate, but Dustin loses his patience.
“Push my a**! Touch my butt, I don’t care!” So Steve does exactly that, shoving Dustin through the tiny tunnel as Robin observes, amused. Inside, they discover vials of a strange green substance. When Steve moves to unbox them, Dustin refuses to step aside. “If you die, I die.” Everyone is silent, but eventually, Steve just shrugs and agrees.
Dustin Knows How To Get Adults To Help Him
“Why Are You Keeping This Curiosity Door Locked?”
Once again, Dustin inspires the audience to be curious. He’s actually on the phone with Mr. Clarke at a crucial moment in the investigation of Will’s disappearance trying to get answers. Everyone — the kids, teens, and adults — is there, hanging on the teacher’s every word. But it’s evening, and Mr. Clarke isn’t exactly in the mood. At least, until Dustin inspires him.
Mr. Clarke inspired the boys to be curious, and he continues to encourage their thirst for knowledge throughout the series. Now, Dustin seems to be more passionate about his curiosity voyage than their teacher. His words unlock the curiosity door, though, and he gets the answers the group needs to find Will.
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