As a writer-producer and a former mental health professional, the latest epic season of “Stranger Things” is an imperative pop-culture event.
I will do what I can to refrain from spoilers in this piece, though I would suggest reading no further if you are planning to catch up on the acclaimed series. Suffice to say, “Stranger Things” has supplanted “Cobra Kai” as my favorite currently-running series.
For anyone interested in other recent personal favorites both current and concluded — to decipher a sense of my taste — “Barry,” “The Kominsky Method,” “The Godfather of Harlem,” “WandaVision,” “Moon Knight,” and recent “Star Trek” series are up there. Going back further, “Mr. Robot,” “Breaking Bad,” “Feud,” and “Game of Thrones” still represent for me the cutting-edge of the medium.
So yes, I’m a genre guy. I so wanted to love “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” but only the miniseries’ second half brought the goods in my opinion. I enjoy “The Mandalorian,” but as a ”Star Wars” geek since the first film’s release in 1977, “The Book of Boba Fett” — save for the Luke Skywalker/Mando eps — left much to be desired.
“Stranger Things,” though, is an animal of another color. Every last filmmaking department has excelled in not only bringing forth one of television’s most purely fun programs, but one with a stunning degree of psychological depth.
On the Psychology of “Stranger Things” Season Four
Save for an excerpt below, I will not spend too much time here detailing the characters and overarching story of “Stranger Things,” which by now is well known. If you do not watch and are still reading to see what all the fuss is about, understand this piece is a heartfelt recommendation.
I will touch on general themes moving forward.
As excerpted from the Wikipedia page: Set in the 1980s primarily in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, the series centers around numerous supernatural events occurring around the town, specifically around their connection to a hostile alternate reality called the "Upside Down"... The Duffer Brothers developed Stranger Things as a mix of investigative drama and supernatural elements portrayed with horror, science fiction and childlike sensibilities... They also took inspiration from experiments conducted during the Cold War and real-world conspiracy theories involving secret government experiments.
As a former special education teacher with several years of accredited study in Psychology, of more personal note than the 1980s milieu and escapist plot is the psychology behind the characters of “Stranger Things,” most especially as progressed in the series’ penultimate fourth season:
- Growing Up
- Trauma Bonding
- The Romanticizing of Childhood
- Tragedy and Death
The fantasy and horror of the endeavor aside, ”Stranger Things“ Season Four engages in genre tropes while portraying such issues with a sensitivity and sincerity rarely seen on television.
I mentioned earlier I will try not to spoil anything for new or future viewers. Lest you believe those bullet points above spoiled anything, I have left them deliberately vague enough to where they can fit under the umbrella of “coming of age.”
“Stranger Things” is not only escapist fantasy, but a highly-intelligent and sensitive work of art that will likely resonate for generations. As one who believes there is reason for everything, it is no accident that the series continues to break all existing streaming records.
On that note, see here for July 1 Hollywood Reporter article, “‘Stranger Things 4’ Sets Nielsen Streaming Record,” which reported: Given the records Stranger Things has already set since the premiere of its fourth season, one more isn’t that much of a surprise. But the new mark the Netflix series hit is a big one. “Stranger Things” amassed 7.2 billion minutes of viewing time for the week of May 30-June 5, according to Nielsen — the highest weekly total for any streaming title since the advent of weekly rankings almost two years ago. It also has the biggest two-week tally for any streaming show: In the week of May 23-29, when season four of Stranger Things premiered, it had 5.14 billion minutes of viewing for a two-week total of 12.34 billion minutes.
I hope you enjoy the series as much as I do, and appreciate the fourth season particularly for speaking honestly to its audience in terms of resonant, larger themes.
Thank you for reading.