On the surface, Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) from Netflix's Stranger Things, and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) from The CW's The Flash couldn't be more different. One is still a child, the other an adult. One lives in the '80s, the other in a super-powered version of 2017. One has issues with teeth, the other doesn't.
But when you dig ever so slightly deeper, you'll find that that the two characters were clearly separated at birth -- or at the very least, one was stolen from their universe and transferred over to a nostalgic pastiche on a streaming service.
Let's dig-dug in, shall we?
1. What's in a name?
Here's the most obvious similarity between the most toothless resident of Hawkins, Indiana, and the tech guru of Central City, [STATE REDACTED]: they both love naming things. What started as a weird quirk on The Flash -- Cisco giving everyone from the titular superhero, to all the villains their own catchy nicknames -- has become a running joke throughout the so-called Arrowverse: nobody can name meta-humans as well as Cisco, even though everyone tries.
Dustin is the same way, using his trusty Dungeons and Dragons handbook to find the perfect monster that's analogous to the "real" monsters he and his friends battle in and out of the Upside Down. Although Dustin might be good at naming things, unlike Cisco he gets a lot of s--t for it in the show -- particularly from stern adult Sheriff Jim Hopper (David Harbour). After naming the uber-bad smoke monster the Mind Flayer towards the end of Season 2, Dustin tries to double down by naming the Flayer's minions Demodogs, a portmanteau of the Season 1 villain Demogorgon (which Dustin also named) and dog.
"Why are we talking about this right now?" Hopper exasperatedly asks when Dustin brings up the name during a siege by the creatures. Hey Hopper, maybe take a lesson from Team Flash, who respects Cisco! Dustin is good at this.
2. They wear shirt shirts.
To be fair, this is a pretty typical "nerd on TV" trope; to wear catchy, identifiable slogan style t-shirts (we're looking at you, Sheldon from Big Bang Theory). But both Dustin and Cisco have elevated their outer-wear into a subtle high art. On a recent episode of The Flash, Cisco wore a brilliantly cheeky shirt emblazoned with the word "#octothorpe," which, if you don't know, is another word for the pound sign.
Meanwhile over in Hawkins, Dustin is rocking the vintage '80s sweatshirts and t-shirts, including Season 1's iconic green Waupaca, Wis. tee, and Season 2's purple brontosaurus hoodie, which set off a buying frenzy after the season dropped.
Would Dustin and Cisco, if they ever met, be happy to share a wardrobe, trading tees and going shopping at science museum gift shops together? Yes. Yes they would.
3. The hair, the bod, when you're staring at a demigod.
Both Dustin and Cisco are obsessed with their own hair. They talk about it almost as often as they name things or fight monsters (which is pretty often). They are -- and mind you, there's really nothing wrong with what's growing out of either of their heads -- absurdly confident about how good their locks look, whether it's Dustin's perma-perm, or Cisco's long, flowing mane.
Cisco has gotten off a few good lines about his tresses, most notably in Season 2 when he quipped to Thea Queen (Willa Holland) that she was "just mad because my conditioner game is on point." But Dustin's hair was made into a whole plot point, as he learned to ape his new friend Steve Harrington's (Joe Keery) bouffant in time for the climactic Snow Ball dance. In that instance, Farrah Fawcett-ing Dustin's hair was a mistake that led to him being ridiculed. I say, Dustin needs to take a tip from his bro Cisco and just own the ringlets.
4. They'll be there for you.
A pretty simple one, but both Cisco and Dustin will live and die for their friends. They've got tight knit groups (Team Flash for Cisco, the Upside Down Boyz for Dustin) that -- though they might occasionally withhold information for "reasons" -- they will never give up on their friends... No matter how rough things get.
5. Talk nerdy to me.
Another pretty basic similarity, but they're both straight up over-talkative nerds, and I mean that in the best way (being an over-talkative nerd myself). If Cisco was in the '80s, you know he'd be geeking out about Dragon's Lair at the arcade, or Ghostbusters in the theaters. And Dustin would talk Cisco's ear off about Game of Thrones and Harry Potter. While they annoyed everyone else around them, Cisco and Dustin could easily sit in S.T.A.R. Labs discoursing about Star Wars and anything else in the known universe for hours.
6. Alternate You
All right, let's just throw this out there, because why not? On The Flash, Season 2 introduced the concept of alternate dimensions, something that the show has since explored extensively. They've posited that every iteration of the universe that can exist, does exist -- whether it's a simple riff like evil, alternate versions of themselves with mustaches; to a 1920's style steampunk dimension. As Team Flash has traveled the multiverse, they've discovered worlds where they exist, worlds where they look entirely different, and even some where time runs differently than in their dimension (which they call Earth-1).
On Stranger Things, the gang has discovered one alternate dimension they call the Upside Down (sorry Dustin, this one was named by your friend Mike Wheeler), which is a flipped evil reality filled with toxic beasts trying to invade "our" world. But that doesn't preclude the idea that there are more universes than just the one we see in Hawkins and the Upside Down (in fact, I'd venture an educated guess that we'll see more than these two dimensions in Season 3, but that's a story for another time).
So what if Stranger Things is just an alternate universe version of The Flash? Earth-U, if you will? And if so, it stands to reason that Cisco and Dustin aren't just brothers in arms... They're the exact same guy!
Or if not, at least they can breach on through, and bond over being friends with folks with superpowers.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW. Stranger Things is now streaming on Netflix.