You’ve probably heard about the hit Netflix franchise Stranger Things. This 80s nostalgia series features some of the most popular ‘child actors’ of our time, such as Millie Bobby Brown, and some older fan favourites, like Winona Ryder. It has been running since its premiere in July 2016, and has consistently influenced wider cultural trends both online and offline. On top of the show itself, there are multiple novels, games, and apps that have been released.
Stranger Things takes much of its inspiration from other horror films and stories like Carrie, It, and Alien, even getting a favourited nod from horror novelist Stephen King himself. Things like jump scares, monstrous creatures, and supernatural beings appear regularly – but it also subverts what the audience expects to see when they watch something ‘scary’ by including sympathetic characters, complex storylines, and reoccurring jokes. Many have considered the series to be a ‘spooky and playful’ introduction to horror.
Since its release, children and young people have connected strongly with the show, especially as its main characters are young – the first season’s plot centres on 12 to 16 year olds. Even though the characters face off against threats from other worlds, they also struggle with normal issues for people their age, like crushes, hormones, and bullying. This makes Stranger Things extremely relatable for children and young people (as well as anyone who remembers what it’s like to be a preteen or teenager!). Viewers may feel like they have grown up with the characters throughout the years, which can result in a heightened emotional attachment to the series.
After the release of Season 4 (part one) on May 27, 2022, some parents were concerned that the latest instalment is “more disturbing than others” and could be scarier for younger audiences. The first episode alone includes images of dead children, distressing bullying incidents, and the unexpected, gruesome murder of a teenaged character. Netflix did add a content warning to the beginning of the episode in response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which happened three days before the season’s release.
All four seasons of Stranger Things are rated 15 by the BBFC for including subjects like strong language, sexual activity, excessive violence, and depictions of substance abuse. ‘Part Two’ of Season 4 is releasing across the world on Friday, July 1st, 2022.
Is it appropriate for children to watch?
It is up to parents and carers to decide whether Stranger Things is an appropriate show for their children to watch. It’s important to keep in mind that content from the show is easily accessible through platforms like YouTube and TikTok, where other users are posting reaction videos or clips from episodes. Remember: even if you restrict your child from watching Stranger Things, they may be able to access content on other platforms.