Stranger Things made obvious choices regarding the types of murders the series was willing to show in gruesome detail… and the types it wasn’t.
The following contains spoilers for Stranger Things Season 4, Volume 1, now streaming on Netflix.
The opening for Stranger Things Season 4 centered around an origin story for Eleven and her time at Hawkins Laboratory. The focus of the scene was on Ten, one of Eleven’s peers at the lab, as he went through a variety of tests with Papa. Eventually, Ten becomes scared and predicts his death right before Eleven springs into the room and kills almost everyone, including Ten. Although the violence behind this scene was more implied, the faces of the children aren’t shown as a level of protection.
Papa blocks Ten’s face from the camera as well, implying to the audience that the child is dead but concealed out of respect. These shots are intentional and serve the purpose of lessening the trauma of the scene, but the teens in Stranger Things aren’t given the same respect or protection in the show. Later in Episode 1 “Chapter One: The Hellfire Club,” a teen named Chrissy was murdered in a graphic and gruesome way. Every moment of her death took place on screen even though it was violent and difficult to watch. This contrasting scene proves that the media does not view teens as children, which makes them fair game as victims of horror.
Stranger Things consistently does an amazing job of representing classic horror tropes, especially since the show is set in the 1980s, which was an important time for the genre’s popularity. Spanning the ’70s to the ’90s, multiple horror franchises were born from the teen slasher trope, including classics like Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and Scream. All of these franchises found their success by specifically targeting teens as the victims of violent and graphic murders, illustrating how common it is for the genre to mercilessly murder teenagers.
As an unspoken rule in media, children aren’t often shown as victims of murder. They usually escape somehow, or they’re killed offscreen where it’s less traumatic for the audience. Children still play critical roles in horror films, especially as possessed victims the protagonist must save by the end of the film, but these children aren’t usually victims of violence. This is for good reason, of course, as most audiences don’t want to experience seeing a child horrifically attacked in a movie, but Stranger Things continues the trope of specifically targeting teenagers for its gruesome death scenes.
Since slasher films are reclaiming the horror genre, this decision might stem from the fact that teenagers are the target audience for such films and series. There are an array of different types of horror that focus on haunting families or adults, but the slasher genre seems to specifically target teens, and Stranger Things is no different. Many of the other themes in the series directly correlate with issues teens might experience even though there’s still significant screen time for adults like Hopper and Joyce.
Stranger Things does a great job of targeting teens and their parents in a very specific way, which makes them easily digestible by a general audience, especially by portraying classic horror tropes from the ’80s. Stranger Things doesn’t seem to be afraid to “go there” with its murders, including innocent children who were caught in the crossfire of Eleven’s “origin story,” but there does seem to be a level of respect towards the kids that’s often followed by unspoken horror guidelines. Watching these universal truths portrayed in the show further proves the media’s separation of teens and children, considering them to be different entities without the same protections.
To watch the gory details, find Stranger Things Season 4, Volume 1 now streaming on Netflix.
Madison Diaz has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication with a minor in writing. Now, she’s in grad school, pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing. Her overall goal in life is to be a writer and eventually publish romance novels. She enjoys reading, writing, and casual gaming. She has a cute senior dog and a cool husband who loves talking with her about comics and wrestling.