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Stranger Things: The Toxic Behavior Is Also A Subtle 80’s Reference


When it comes to the hit Netflix series Stranger Things, the pop culture references from the ’80s are really the number one thing that really comes to mind. The homage to the classic horror/action/SF movies, the fashion choices, the 80’s soundtrack and everything in between. The entire series is a love letter to the decade and the Duffer brothers are not trying to hide their love and affection in any way.

The recently binged (on my part at least) season 3 was another great example of that love and devotion to the 80’s pop culture. There was a reference to Day of the Dead, Back To The Future and for God’s sake like 80% of the entire season was filmed in a mall. That was a great reference to Dawn of the Dead and I loved it.

But there was one reference that I think nobody noticed, or they interpreted it in a way too PC way. The toxic behavior that Jim Hopper (David Harbor) was expressing towards his daughter El and towards Joyce Buyers.

If you’ve been following Evan Rachel Wood’s Twitter account, you’ll clearly see that she made note of this and addressed it publicly.

Yes, I am aware it’s ‘just a show’ and its set ‘in the 80s,’ even though this stuff was unacceptable then too, but that’s exactly my point. It’s just a show and this is a gentle reminder not to fall for this crap in real life. Red flags galore.” Said wood in her posts, and although she’s not far from the truth, she’s also missing one key point about it.

It’s also an 80’s reference.

Look, I get that it’s a toxic behavior. She’s not wrong about it. He was controlling, manipulating, possessive, and extremely jealous. Oh, and not trusting towards the ladies in his life, but so was every 80’s dad/husband/boyfriend in almost every 80’s movie. Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands had a controlling and possessive boyfriend (Jim), Biff was a similar character in Back To The future and do you remember Roger Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon? How he reacted when his daughter made a commercial about safe sex? He flipped! He even threatened the director on the set.

I could go on and on, but I think you get my point. It’s not OK, and we know it. And Hollywood even made an effort to change/diminish that behavior in the movies, but the truth is… that behavior was present well into the ’90s.  Picture this scene in Clueless. A boy comes to pick up Cher for a date and her father says to the young man…

Hey, you! Anything happens to my daughter; I got a 45 and a shovel. I doubt anybody would miss you.

I get that no sane woman would even consider going out with a man like Hopper now, but things were different back in the ’80s. The 80’s macho misogynistic over-protective, borderline possessive characters were in abundance, and that kind of behavior was ubiquitous. And it shaped an entire generation of men. Hey, even last year’s Brett Kavanaugh hearing testimony made a reference to the movies that shaped his twisted his misogynistic views.Yup, in the much discussed deposition, he mentioned he and his friends watched Animal House, Caddyshack, Fast Times at Ridgemont High back in the ’80s. All cult movies from that era that do not have a great track record on positive treatment and positive representation of women.

So, don’t be surprised about Jim’s rage, jealousy and aggressive distrusting attitude towards the female characters. It’s a reference to the era, just like the Magnum PI inspired shirt he was wearing.


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