A Forgotten ‘Stranger Things’ Theory Makes Even More Sense Now
This article contains mild spoilers for Stranger Things 4.
Despite the fact that its adorable gang of scrappy kids are now roughly 37 years old, Stranger Things is still a massive hit. And while a number of theories that first sprang up during the show’s first season (most of which involved Barb’s Christ-like resurrection) don’t necessarily hold up today, one old interpretation of the show’s themes may have been spot on.
Way back in 2016, writer Michael Morelli posited that the Upside Down, that monster-filled craphole dimension, was really an allegory for the internet. Which … sounds about right. This would explain why our world was connected to it through electricity – and the famous scenes of Winona Ryder communicating with her son through a makeshift keyboard made of Christmas lights is basically a primitive system of digital communication.
Arguably, the show is all about the “consequences of rapid technological advancement.” And in that context, Stranger Things’ 1980s setting isn’t just an excuse to wallow in nostalgia for New Coke and Radio Shack but also serves to examine the dangers of a metaphorical internet in a pre-internet world. And subsequent seasons’ storylines have seemingly only strengthened this interpretation, like how season three found giant monsters from the Upside Down destroying a shopping mall – which, bear with us, could be seen as a physical representation of how online shopping is killing in-person retail ...
And that season came out in 2019, around the time people were constantly discussing alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election through social media channels – and pointedly, it introduced a new set of villains; Russian government officials who were trying to use the powers of the Upside Down as a weapon against America.
This season we have Vecna, the villainous demon who, in our headcanon, is also Skeletor’s nudist cousin. He preys on teens with a history of trauma, which could be a metaphor for the potentially negative effects of internet toxicity on the mental health of young people. Even more simplistically, maybe the whole “eye removal” business is a direct nod to the fact that internet screen overuse is bad for the health of your eyes? We’ll know we’re on the right track if the finale reveals that the Upside Down was created by an Al Gore-type guy.
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Top Image: Netflix