At a time when bloodshed in our public squares is far too common, it seems strange to praise stranger things 4, which opens with a massacre of children. It debuted just as the nation mourned the shooting deaths of 19 school children and their beloved teachers. Versions of this opening scene have repeated themselves throughout the season in flashbacks as the series’ heroine, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), confronts her surprising role in the tragedy, buried deep within. his repressed memories.
The dark violence of the season intensified in its second volume. Countless government agents died under a hail of bullets. Series villain Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower) finally killed, at least temporarily, Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink), using his blinding, blinding methods. Hawkins misfit Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn) has bled after being attacked by a swarm of vicious otherworldly bats in the Upside Down.
But while gore, horror and mayhem dominated, Stranger Things 4: Volume 2 also featured a surprisingly sweet message about vulnerability and the power of being seen. When these moments unfold, the main characters reveal their authentic identities. They are not rejected or judged, but rather embraced in some way.
Almost all the main characters have their turn, however brief, to play on this theme. When Max is first in Vecna’s clutches earlier in Season 2, her friends know that Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” will free her from her curse. Deeply depressed, Max may have withdrawn from those who know her best, but that didn’t scare them away; they keep seeing her. When goofball Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) butts heads with Eddie just before the pair march into the Upside Down to save the world from Vecna, Eddie gently tells his young friend to “never change.”
We had 11 questions for “Stranger Things 4: Volume 2”. Here are the answers.
Dustin repays Eddie, who sacrificed himself in Upside Down, as best he knows. Seeing Eddie’s grieving uncle in the gymnasium dugout after the mysterious ‘earthquake’ that killed dozens of Hawkins residents, Dustin lets him know that Eddie is gone but was a honorable man who never stopped being himself, even in the end.
One of the most memorable emotional moments of 2nd volume happens when Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) fights back tears while assuring his best friend Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) that Eleven will always need Mike by her side, even though she has superpowers that make her invincible. Will, grappling with his unrequited feelings for Mike and the weight of being gay in a world that may look down on him, talks about how hard it is to be different. His brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) senses the subtext and later tenderly tells Will that nothing will change her love for him.
These scenes are a timely reminder of a simple truth: there are few things more empowering, especially for young people, than genuine, unconditional acceptance.
For a series about a team of misfit teenagers saving the world together, it might feel predictable or cliché. Of buffy the vampire slayer at x-men at Harry Potter, modern good versus evil storytelling often features misunderstood teenagers and young adults who have been hurt by rejection. But instead of cultivating a venomous resentment over this pain, the heroes form a chosen family serving a virtuous mission.
These narratives are not without their own problems, of course. The dark side of self-proclaimed heroism is vigilantism gone mad. We need look no further than the rise of America’s right-wing militias to see how delusions of grandeur can lead to violence directed at the vulnerable and innocent.
stranger things offers his version of this corollary. High school jock Jason Carver (Mason Dye) summons Satanic Panic as he furiously attempts to avenge the murder of his girlfriend. She was Vecna’s first victim but was last seen with Eddie, who leads a Dungeons & Dragons group known as the Hellfire Club. Jason relies on his Christian religious beliefs and easy access to guns to lead a manhunt for Eddie. In our non-fictional Lives, right-wing groups are increasingly targeting LGBTQ people and gatherings with protests and threats of violence. In Idaho, members of a white supremacist group were recently arrested for conspiring to riot; they had planned to target a local Pride event.
Vecna, a villain cast from the familiar mold of the misunderstood sociopath, sees his murderous work as righteous. Young men who commit mass killings, who have been radicalized by the far right, tend to believe the same.
stranger things would do for dark viewing without its vulnerability. Eleven may have superhuman powers, but stranger things pleads for ordinary heroism. When the protagonists see someone’s authentic self and embrace it, these small but meaningful acts suggest that we can actually help save ourselves from the darkness of self-doubt, rejection, and trauma. So many adults spend their lives seeking that acceptance. So many teenagers, especially those who society will not accept because of their sexuality, gender identity, race, ethnicity, social class, disability and other traits, desperately need it at a critical time in their emotional and psychological development.
Whereas stranger things revolves around Eleven and her powerful abilities, the series understands the courage it takes to create and strengthen the bonds of connection, and what is possible when people affirm each other’s humanity.