Stranger Things: Mental Health and Bullying

Eleven. By Don Lawrence.

There is no doubt that the Duffer Brothers have mastered the art of horror and the supernatural; drawing upon everything from Goonies to Nightmare on Elm Street there is no shortage of terrifying villains and monsters in the Stranger Things universe. The hit Netflix show has also always been brilliant at tackling the teenage experience whether that takes the form of Dungeons and Dragons gatherings or high school parties. Hailed the darkest season yet, Season 4 of Stranger Things has been all anyone can talk about since the release of ‘Volume One’ on May 27th of this year. Season 4 went above and beyond with gore, quirky new characters and 80s pop culture references but it also managed to make some profound points about human nature and who the real monsters might be.

The Mind

This season’s villain, Vecna’s modus operande took the form of mental torture; forcing fragile teens to relive their darkest moments before killing them. This allowed for some profound exploration of teen mental health in a subtle and exhilarating way and it’s certainly no coincidence that three of Vecna’s four victims were seeing the school counsellor.

Stranger Things
Characters of Stranger Things. From season 4.

Vecna traps his victims in a hellscape of their own creation with all exits literally boarded shut, a harrowing yet symbolic image of what mental ill-health and being trapped in your own head can feel like.

Vecna’s first victim, Chrissy, begins the show as a beautiful cheerleader dating the most popular jock in school. However, is is then revealed that what her adoring classmates don’t realise is the immense pain Chrissy is experiencing daily. The details of Chrissy’s personal life aren’t explored extensively but it is suggested that her family life is difficult and her self-esteem is plummeting. These are presented in the form of truly terrifying visions of her maimed parents and criticisms from her mother echoing around her.

The secretly depressed cheerleader may be something of a cliche but in this case it feels truthful and it is treated with care. Chrissy is instantly easy to sympathise with and her subsequent death is truly heart-breaking.

Another example of Vecna’s emotional manipulation is in Fred, Nancy’s bespectacled assistant’s death. Fred is targeted because of a car crash that was his fault, his guilt and shame taking the form of Vecna to torture him. In both of these cases, emotions and trauma take physical forms, forcing the victims to face their demons head on.

Chrissy Cunningham
Chrissy Cunningham

In Max’s case, Vecna played on her guilt regarding the death of her brother, Billy forcing her to confront him and the moment of his demise over and over again. Max however, is able to confront Vecna and survive his first attack using the power of friendship (and Kate Bush) to anchor her in reality.

Stranger Things has always pushed the “power of friendship” message but in this scenario in particular it makes a deeply important point about the strength of teen friendships and how support networks are saving graces in our darkest times. To support this, Science Direct states that social withdrawal is a common coping strategy for those contemplating suicide which only solidifies the idea that having trusted loved ones surrounding you can be a lifesaver. There is certainly something to be read into in the fact that Chrissy and Fred, who don’t seem to have true friends don’t make it and Max who has brave and kind people surrounding her, does.

The use of soundtrack has also always been one of the show’s strengths and this season was no exception. Kate Bush’s ‘Running up That Hill’ is exquisitely used as Max’s anthem and as something which tethers her to her friends and the real world when Vecna invades her mind. Once again, this feels appropriate for a show so dedicated to chronicling the teen experience as music is one of those things that is so important during adolescence in particular.

Running up that hill


This season also saw an exploration of bullying and it’s consequences in Eleven’s experience in a Californian high school as well as the jocks’ war on ‘Hellfire Club’.

Season 4 sees Will and Eleven separated from the Hawkins gang having relocated to Lenora Hills, California. Contrary to what her letters to Mike say, Eleven has a horrible time of it at school. The head mean girl, Angela brutally teases and mocks Eleven, calling her out in front of the class, filming her humiliation and throwing a milkshake on her.


Despite the lack of visual horror, the bullying scenes in this season are, in some ways, scarier than the more “horror” based Vecna scenes and it would be difficult to find someone whose heart doesn’t go out to Eleven. After watching this season it cannot be denied that the cruelty of insecure teenagers is a truly terrifying concept and it could even be argued that Angela is as much of a villain as Vecna, their methods are even similar – using people’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities to torture them.

Back in Hawkins, we see a classic conflict; the jocks vs the nerds. Chrissy’s grieving jock boyfriend, Jason and his possy of basketballers take on the innocent D&D club ‘Hellfire’ which is comprised of, among others, Mike, Dustin and newcomer to the show, Eddie ‘The Freak’ Munson. Inspired by the very real ‘Satanic Panic’ which swept the 80s, the series sees Jason wage war on ‘Hellfire’ after Eddie is suspected of murdering Chrissy in a satanic ritual. Jason convinces the frightened townspeople that the club is a cult which is murdering teens for their devil worship and manages to assemble a threatening mob of locals.

Once again, it could be argued that Jason and his jocks are as villainous as Vecna forcing the show’s heroes to combat not only a supernatural creature from the Upside-Down but also high-school bullies. The challenges of everyday teen life seem to never be very far away in this show despite the out-of-this-world occurrences.

Jason and the jocks
Jason and the jocks.


In a similar vein, by examining Will and Henry Creel (Vecna’s) storylines this season it could also be seen that society itself is a central antagonist or evil force.

The character of Will took a bit of a backseat this season which was a shame as Noah Schnapp’s performances never fail to amaze. Since Season 1, there has been speculation around Will’s sexuality and many have seen his profound speech to Mike and subsequently to Jonathon in this season as confirmation of this. Of course, nothing has been confirmed by the Duffers or any other authority on the show but there is certainly evidence to back up these fan theories as Will frequently references his “being different” and status as an outsider.

Once again, the show presents how society alienates those that don’t fit like Eddie, Eleven and Will. Maybe this is the Duffers showing us what happens if we do reject these people as it has been revealed that Will will once again have to face the terrors of the Upside-Down next season.

Eddie 'The Freak' Munson
Eddie ‘The Freak’ Munson

Vecna is the first Stranger Things villain to have a backstory: as the son of Victor Creel he was a strange child, an outcast obsessed with spiders and killing rodents. Through his societal alienation Henry discovered his power to enter the minds of and kill creatures such as rabbits. His anger grew and grew until all of this rejection ultimately culminated in the murder of his parents and sister and, later on, his transformation into Vecna. Not only did this make for a magnificent twist but it is yet another message about tolerance and acceptance. For example, if Henry Creel had been loved and nurtured would he have become Vecna?

Vecna/ Henry Creel/ Number One
Vecna/ Henry Creel/ Number One

So, Stranger Things Season Four has certainly wowed audiences and critics alike not only in its quality of acting, use of soundtrack and nostalgia but in its maturation and darkening. The show is growing up alongside its actors and each season seems to pile on to the previous, improving and developing every step of the way.

The Duffers stated that they didn’t want to abandon anything that happened in previous seasons and wanted to recognise the profound trauma these teenagers have experienced. In doing so, the characters feel even more realistic and vulnerable this season and their experiences feel more universal and emotional.

Vecna certainly made for a chill-inducing villain but in many ways, the humans of the story like Angela and Jason are crueller. Vecna’s method of murder also foregrounds some highly relevant and important points about teen mental health and the amalgamation of epic action sequences and profound social commentary was truly outstanding this season. It may seem ridiculous to take moral messages from a Netflix TV show but in many ways, Stranger Things teaches us that tolerance and acceptance goes a long way and a lack of such things has terrible consequences.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. Can we just talk about that amazing moment against vecna where Max made the choice to live. Vecna mentioned that late at night she sometimes thinks about killing herself and in the final moments when she is about to die she chooses to live, to fight, and to run forward even if it’s an uphill battle. It inspired me.

    • Adelaide Dupont


      Choice IS powerful and amazing – especially when we didn’t know we had it – or weren’t capable of exercising it before.

      Yes – that point about SOMETIMES THINKING about killing herself.

      [the larger point about suicidal ideation being frequent and intense and of middling or long duration – especially in a teenager like Max].

      [I do make the distinction here between IDEATION and ACTION – remember that there are such things as parasuicide or some of the more “passive” varieties].

      Moving forward is indeed a big and brave choice.

      Or it can be a set of small and everyday habits.

      It does contain the impetus to fight and to live, as you have pointed out.

      “Even if it’s an uphill battle” – and it was literally an uphill battle for Max [and metaphorically for us.

      Late at night – well, that is a time when lots of us are vulnerable because we have been holding things in or off us through the daytime when we are around people.

      [And I do read in the subtext that Max has had a history of intrusive thoughts and of flashbacks/re-experiencing].

      When Max was fighting against Vecna – she was really fighting for herself and for her friends – as another commenter has said.

      Those “final moments” really do make us [often they shake us – and they have a way of breaking us too – subtly or obviously – sometimes it is our shells; sometimes more of an internal/interior break that only we know about].

      [yes, this does apply even if it is with other people we are sharing].

      Inspiration does have a way of opening doors that may have been closed before – or showing mirrors or windows.

    • That really was the reason for me breaking down into tears when I was watching that moment for the first time ever. It just felt so, real. Confrontational and real.

    • i think she only chose to live because she saw how much her friends cared about her!!

    • Stephanie M.

      Yes! I think a lot of media these days talks about suicide, but not many focus on the actual moment when someone could, or does, choose life and the courage that takes.

      • Adelaide Dupont

        I know!

        The … redemptive … moment.

        When you pull onto something.

        That you are needed for – or something that you want to do.

        A sense of unfinished purpose or business.

        When I was young this came across to me in the film portrayal of CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST

        and this was talked about in the way ghosts evolved and when they did what they needed to do they went away.

        [A very mild and comic horror – the sort of thing I needed at the time].

        And, yes, there are moments when people COULD [choose life and Life] and moments that they DO.

        Decisive moments, often.

        I also think of the way poltergeists are portrayed in literature and in film.

        There is just a whole lot of extra and “nervy/nervous” energy.

        Rationally they could be explained by natural disaster [as indeed much of the STRANGER THINGS fourth season would have looked like to characters who were not so inside].

  2. After El got arrested, why did she not explain to the police what happened between her? (Did Hopper teach her how to deal with the police)?

    • Adelaide Dupont

      Good question Soren!

      I think he would have NOT wanted Eleven to learn from him to deal with the Hawkins police because he himself was jaded and corrupted.

      In some way he did want to keep her innocence.

      He did try in Season Two when they were living together.

      The law enforcement tend to be very concrete and forensic when it comes to the very complicated psyops which Eleven/Jane had been involved in all her life [and for that matter, her Mother Terry – and do not even get me started on Vecna/Henry/One].

      They do tend – as a group – to have minor or major trouble with dealing with things that are abstract/outside of their experience/beyond their ken.

      When I saw your question I thought about how other minority groups are “taught” and “trained” on dealing with law enforcement.

      It would have been a good thing for Eleven – perhaps – to learn about the police when she was in California.

      [at the minimum – her Miranda rights might not have been respected and she would have been subject to some very intrusive and imposing questioning].

      I think, too, of the very adversarial system – which comes out in other STRANGER THINGS plot arcs – and the more inquisitiorial system of much of Europe.

      Then the Russian “justice” system.

      So in as far as Eleven knows and learns how to deal with systemic and systematic bias and prejudice.

      I do think this will be a bigger theme in the next and last season.

      It does seem she got her lessons and experiences piecemeal – and that she had much much bigger battles to fight.

      Or the whole Vecna thread/plotline seems very much like that – I do feel she would have had to do a lot of work around and on that.

      One could easily ask about the psychology and counselling system as it was in the 1980s [and Season Four DOES make a deal of that – I liked the counsellor at Hawkins – and the way Max really got into the inside of Cheryl through the filing system].

    • No, he thought she had bigger problems dealing with the monsters trying to destroy Hawkins while going through puberty. Let’s face it, the guy was not exactly father material, but he stepped up when the time came as best he could.

    • Sometimes you can resort to violence, this being one of them.

    • classact

      The most infuriating part of this scene is that it’s so true. When someone bullies and belittles another person, everyone laughs and points along with them, but when that person fights back, all of a sudden, THEY’RE the bad guy and the bully never deserved that.

      • Stephanie M.

        Oh my goodness, YES. I cannot tell you how many times this has happened to me. It was always excused as, “Well, you shouldn’t take things so personally” or, “They didn’t mean it.” Now in 2022, when we know more about bullying, I also look back on some bullying as instances of ableism. That is, I have cerebral palsy, and the subtext was, “Well, she’s disabled, she ‘functions’ differently than us, maybe she’s overly emotional, too.” It still makes me sick to think people got away with not only bullying, but ableism, and nobody questioned their narratives or ways of viewing people like me.

        • Adelaide Dupont

          Those comments also have a way of demeaning the ableist

          and doing them a disservice.

          We do not learn from things we are held not to mean.

          You may choose your behaviour – but you may not choose its effects – especially when they affect another person.

          And the whole “overly emotional” thing – well, that can go several ways.

          At least one subtype of CP does affect emotional expression – especially the whole “pseudobulbar effect” – or the understanding of emotional expression through the neurotypical lens.

          [in other types of brain injury also and more generally].

          When you talk about function – it is what someone NEEDS as well as what they DO.

          These narratives have a way of running under the skin.

          Sunlight, sunlight is needed.

          And you take things personally because they ARE personal

          and they are a thing that you cannot change [without doing violence to other aspects of yourself].

          It makes me think of how people see disability in education.

          * The speech-disabled
          * Those with academic impairment

          who may show frustration in socially unacceptable and inappropriate ways

          and * Those who are emotionally and behaviourally disturbed.

          Not to mention those with intellectual and developmental disabilities

          and those who are orthopedically or multiply impaired [which is where people in STRANGER THINGS’s Hawkins might have been sent/ascertained].

          Bullies can and will use any power gradient or indeed section.

          And then I think of the concept of the “maladaptive invitation” in child development. People like Janet Lansbury and one other developmentalist of my acquaintance use it.

          Manifestations of the “maladaptive” invitation include hitting and biting and name-calling.

          And it is a skill to take on the invitation AS an invitation without condoning or minimising the behaviour – but to see the thoughts and feelings which are driving it. Perhaps of exclusion or of segregation.

          [it may well be the Hit; Bite; Spit argument which is made all too often].

  3. Frances

    It’s so sad how people people assault and humiliated eleven but when she fought back people called her a monster.

    • Adelaide Dupont

      I know, Frances!

      That is a reality for so many people who attempt to respond or react to their bullying figures.

      I am glad you called it what it is – Assault and Humiliation.

      Assault, at least, is considered a crime.

      And humiliation makes a hole where civil and civic society should be – particularly in the safety net of that society.

      [I am sure you can think of many STRANGER THINGS moments which are analogous to – or informative about/of – this aspect of Real Life].

      It also has a way of disempowering people and characters in their personal and social lives.

      [So, of course, do dismissal and contempt – both very important aspects of dehumanisation and Othering].

      Eleven is sadly very used to being called a monster – and thinking this of herself – in her Core Self.

      I do think she has a resilience and self-esteem and self-regard which has developed a lot in the four seasons we know of STRANGER THINGS – and which has been especially evident in the latter episodes of Season Four [the Part Two ones.

      This was especially evident for me in how she dealt with Brenner and the FBI people [the other researcher in the Hawkins lab comes to mind – I have partially and protectively blanked/blocked out some of these scenes]

      I do remember the freezer and the lab tank.

      There are multiple ways to fight – and to fight back!

      Try to remember this when you are not feeling hopeless; helpless; powerless – and put it into practice.

      Another point is that sadness can be immobilising; and anger can be activating. [Some of us are immobilised by our anger and activated by sadness and its intensifiers and dampeners].

      One thing about sadness is that it helps us elicit comfort and support from those around us. [Mourning and grief – for, say, an aspect of the Lost Self or a lostness in our approach and/or avoidance to/of others].

      Thus sadness helps us regain safety and reminds us how important it is for ourselves and others who we care about – like you care about Eleven.

      • Stephanie M.

        Adelaide…have you ever visited the IndependenceChick blog? (If yes, it’s me–is this you)? Also, wonderful points.

        • Adelaide Dupont

          yes! Can confirm…

          For those who don’t know the IndependenceChick blog …

          I have indeed been visiting the blog since late 2012.

          I started commenting publicly on that blog around 2014-15.

          It is a great blog about disability; activism; advocacy and lived experiences.

          [I think my first IndependenceChick experiences were “Pomp and Special Ed”; the blog about “A Dog called Christmas” and all the Kathie Snow ‘Disability is natural jumping-off points].

          My first experience [at least a conscious one – I remember when you were struggling with the editing function of the site] was “Progressing yet stuck” and then in December 2021 I started seriously reading Artifice every few weeks or when there was something good.

          I have enjoyed your pieces about Environmental Animations in the 1990s; the NickToons; the Babysitters Club and the one about Disability and Death [and that piece in particular touched on things we have discussed and approaches to text].

  4. I hate both bullies character like Troy s1 now Angela s4.

    • Adelaide Dupont

      Troy didn’t make a big impression on me back in 2016-17 when the whole STRANGER THINGS universe came into my consciousness.

      Probably because he was too much of a “typical” bully and not enough of a three-dimensional person/character. We call those people “flat” characters.

      Angela – that person had her moments!

      I will talk about one moment – or a series of moments – which affected me.

      Especially the Helen Keller presentation which Angela did.

      That presentation had Inspiration Porn written all over it and did not get into the complexity of Keller.

      [if perhaps Angela had had the insight to connect with the first seven years of Keller’s life as a domestic tyrant due to her lack of ability to communicate – and her family’s lack of will to teach her/accessible means and methods – that would have been so much more effective].

      Also it spoke of trying to buy the approval and approbation of those in authority at the school. [Perhaps Angela had not had to try that hard before Eleven came along].

      You do not trash someone’s hero lightly – especially when they are very close.

      [I for one respected classmates who chose their family or best friends as their heroes/role models/ego ideals – even if I would look further afield].

      Now it was problematic for all sorts of reasons to choose Hooper as her hero when she was in a new school and a new State.

      That diorama.

      And the rollerskating moments – Angela really was a behind-your-back and in-your-face person.

      I remember, too, when Eleven wrote a letter to Mike – and how she tried to save her face by saying nothing to her friend.

      You know the younger Wheeler is very much a Rescuer type – especially for his friends and those he loves.

      I was glad when Angela fell out of the picture.

      What do you think of the basketball team, Hellah?

      • Stephanie M.

        I never finished Stranger Things…now I think I should go back and try it again. Also, if Angela engaged in inspiration porn, I already despise her. When are we going to get past that as a society? (Not that I’m complaining in terms of Angela’s character. I love atypical villains, especially the ones who act sweet, and what could be more sickly sweet than inspiration porn)?

        • Adelaide Dupont

          If you do end up trying again…

          Season Four just dragged me in its orbit.

          I did have to be much more conscious regarding the content of the episodes of the Second Part of Season Four.

          There was an edge of outrage and of grace which occurred to me in those scenes.

          About as sickly sweet as one Dolores Umbridge – for the Harry Potter fans – though.

          Those villains are all too typical in feminised professions like teaching; nursing; elder care; child care and disability care.

          They do rather stack up the bottom of the barrel.

          Yes – there really is no such thing as a typical villain.

          Even if the things they do are typical – their motives and the consequences and how those consequences play out are completely unique to the situation; the interactions and them.

          Good to commit to “predespising” a character – that card is laid out already on the table – so you will not be too surprised.

          [Suspense is a thing which makes history

          And sometimes inspiration porn can be more like carbon monoxide and indeed the chemicals which are responsible for climate change].

          Perhaps reframe? When you talk about “getting past” a thing – it is a temporary obstacle or possibly a developmental/evolutionary stage.

          Something came up on one of the Substacks I read about pregnancy brain and processes.

          Then I think of Angela again and the display rules she and her group follow to maintain their status.

          I have tended to feel sorry or sad for pornographers and the abuse material that they purvey.

          If she wished one day to have a more genuine and authentic relationship with disability community – or if it were thrust upon her – she might find it a lot more difficult.

          [especially if STRANGER THINGS time works like our time – as it is in part science fiction and in part Bildungsroman – the 1990s and 2000s].

          And it has a way of inspiring disgust and contempt which tends to undercut any “inspirational” moments.

  5. Max throughout Season 4 is a metaphor for depression. Shying away from her friends, not addressing her feelings, nightmares, and finally facing Venca and choosing to live.

    • Julia Gordon

      Loved her arc. When Max can look directly and lie, it’s often because that’s a self-protective answer that has been practiced a few times now.

  6. The most empowering scene was definitely Max conquering Vecna’s possession through the combined power of friendship and Kate Bush. That song will be stuck in my head for the foreseeable future!

    • Adelaide Dupont


      The possession scene was an empowering scene for me too.

      Another song which stuck in my head was the Journey song and another one which was played in the van.

      [which shows you after two months].

      Everything that led up to that scene from the last two years – ever since Max was there in the beginning.

      Would Max have thought in the beginning that she would be saved by Kate Bush? In a great many senses, the friendship part would have been harder for her to believe or know.

      [as it may have been for some viewers – particularly perhaps the ones who have closely identified with her].

      [The teamwork there was incredible – great ensemble work – especially from the Sinclairs – Dustin and Erica].

      You provoked me to think about more empowering scenes:

      * The relief work scene after they were reunited in Hawkins.

      * The scene where Eddie and Christy talked.

      * The Hellfire Club and its anticipated change of leadership.

      And now that RUNNING UP THAT HILL is doing a number in my head. Earworms for the win!

  7. Sunni Rashad

    As someone who was never into Stranger Things I think you did a wonderful job with this write up.

  8. Adelaide Dupont

    I feel that the horror parts complement and amplify the everyday teenage life and dilemmas of the characters.

    Not only with Eleven and Max; but it came out with Mullins and the Will/Mike dynamic and Steve Harrington and Argyle.

    Also I am thinking just now of the elder characters and their own teenage [and contemporary] struggles.

    • Very true. Which of the elder characters where you thinking about and why?

      • Adelaide Dupont

        I was thinking in particular of:



        Mrs Byers

        and maybe the senior Sinclairs and Wheelers.

        I was also thinking of Suzie’s father and what we saw in that home.

        As for the “why” part, Emmy.

        Robin was one that got me thinking a lot.

        Murray – when he was a younger person his divergent thinking may not have been appreciated by the “square” world of Hawkins.

        Mrs Byers was a highly sensitive young woman.

        And Hopper – oh, Hopper!

        Perhaps with Hopper it would be better to reason and remember from the contemporary to his own younger years [especially where Hopper and Eleven are concerned]

        Max’s mother.

        I am also trying to think of people who played roles in the Hawkins community over the past 3 seasons – and in California this year.

        [for example: teacher/mentor of the Audio Visual club? other people at Hawkins High?]

        Also their younger years would have been in the 1960s and 1970s.

        I did imply that I was about to speak of horrors both everyday and beyond, didn’t I, Emmy?

  9. We try to rectify the world to our will but come short when everyone around us makes us feel less than others. The children’s horror and experience as they grow into teenagers emphasize the “loneliness” some teenagers believe they have. Eleven’s revenge for Angela shows that she wanted to gain power over her enemies but felt helpless and ashamed when it didn’t go as she anticipated.

  10. The scene where max is reading her letter to her brother’s grave was heartbreaking. The line that was somewhere along the lines of “we might of had a chance but now we don`t/we will never know now”. While not always the best or even good option it is possible for reconciliation between toxic people (as long as they are genuinely putting effort to correct there behavior and again even then it isn’t always a good idea). Especially with family it is possible to both love and hate someone at the same time and the pain of losing someone can still be very strong despite what they’ve done. The question is always in the back of your mind “if they lived could we have made things worked and be a healthy/happy?”

  11. This Season did so well for Max. I really felt for her since it’s so conflicting missing someone who abused you endlessly. You feel horribly guilty for missing them, but also for being happier without them since they can no longer hurt you. It’s something a lot of people fight with and it’s beautifully betrayed here. It’s ok to miss the ones who hurt you and to feel good that they can’t cause further harm.

  12. It’s a bit frustrating how therapy is used as a storytelling mechanic in media rather than a realistic depiction of the practice.

    • Stephanie M.

      Good point. I’m a writer myself, and most or all of my characters have undergone some form of trauma (don’t ask what that says about me. It’s a long story). I have shown these characters in counseling before, but am trying to move away from actually writing scenes because I don’t want the counseling to become a device.

    • Adelaide Dupont


      Think of how people remember things.

      And the exteriors involved.

      These will make your therapeutic and counselling scenes unique, and the sensory features will be realistic.

      [this is probably not a guarantee]

      Senses + memory + imagination.

      And because therapeutic work in fiction tends to build in other fiction, it might be an idea to grab Springhole’s THE TROUBLE WITH IMITATION in fiction.

      Also think about how the character might use their therapy in everyday life – and how they manage to own it.

      And how everyday life informs the therapy.


      I feel they serve as recycling and revelation [in the secular world – and also the complement/replacement for the confessional].

      It is a frustration I feel too – both in the reading and the writing.

      Someone who did these scenes well was Louis Sachar in THERE’S A BOY IN THE GIRLS’ BATHROOM.

      And I also appreciated Paula Danziger’s THERE’S A BAT IN BUNK FIVE – especially how the character of Ginger was portrayed. It also contains my favourite lightbulb joke.

      I hope your therapeutic scenes will sparkle with humour and sometimes with intimacy.

      Also a great resource in this direction was A NOVEL MIND from May or June 2022 which did give factual material about the people involved in this type of work especially in school and educational settings as well as community settings.

  13. Angela is horrible but why is she the only one held accountable? The other three were just as awful as her if not more because they were cowards and followers…

  14. Eleven really kicked the crap off that female Drako malfoy.

  15. I would have a theory abt Angela. The duffer brothers said that it is known that hoppers daughter is still alive. Probraly his real daughter is Angela because he let el stay in his small house forever (I think.) Another thing is that Angela is a test subject like el.Why? Dr. Brenner took care of Angela everyday or made 001 took care of her. Another reason why I would think Angela would be a test subject or hoppers daughter (idk if she is.) is because in the lab, there was a person, 010 and they named her Angela. That’s why I would think that Angela is 010 or hoppers daughter?

  16. Patrick

    I really liked the detail of max writing letters to her friends and family. It allows her to breakdown and understand how she is feeling and kind of regain that connection that she lost when she distanced herself from those that care for her. It is also fitting for her personality. Avoidant and nit good at explaining how/what/why she feels. Writing allows her to think her thoughts through in a safe way with less confrontation. It’s a stepping stone for her to become more open in the future and gain some practice and understanding of her emotions.

  17. I got the impression that Max’s friends weren’t very supportive of her grief for Billy – not because they didn’t care, but because they didn’t understand why she would grieve for him. Eleven is the only one who would have got it, but she wasn’t there. Sadie Sink did an amazing job.

    I also think one of the reasons Vecna targeted the victims he did was that they didn’t just have traumas, but traumas they were afraid of being judged for. Chrissy and Patrick were being abused, apparently by family members – but if they’d been open about it, I could easily them being told they shouldn’t be airing family business in public, or that this how their parents “show they care” or “encourage them” – or in Patrick’s case people saying that’s just how black people are, and in Chrissy’s case that eating disorders are basically self-inflicted, or not even real. (Not all of these responses would be confined to the Eighties either).

    In Frederick’s case, it’s survivor’s guilt. It’s not clear whether or how much the crash was his fault, but he seemed to think it on some level. Max has that too, with the extra burden that if she told anyone the truth they’d think she was making shit up.

    It’s an extra vulnerability that Vecna uses. (And I suspect a play on the way slasher movies frequently have early victims acting against conventional mores in some way – a “You know what, fuck that noise, they don’t deserve it, but people make them feel like they do and that makes them vulnerable”).

  18. I like the show because I relate so much with some characters that it makes me feel understood.

  19. I hated how angela made fun of jane/el’s father being dead in the show. i almost broke my ipad watching that scene.

  20. Bully 1’s name is Stacy.

  21. As much as the series tries, this show is a hodgepodge of 80 ‘s pop culture references mixed with early to mid 90s dress, culture and attitudes. For a better representation of the 80’s see Young Sheldon. They really seem to have a much more comprehensive understanding of what the 80s truly where.

    • mixed with early/mid 90’s dress culture + attitudes??
      from S1-4, what a load of rubbish!

      Young Sheldon also does a good nod to clothes, culture, attitudes!

  22. What I think Stranger Things really nails with Max (and Vecna) is that her unique circumstances, the feeling of isolation, and the weirdness of feeling like you can’t be honest or that you wouldn’t be believed is what a predator would look for. Somehow the real life analogy for a Vecna is so much worse than any eldritch horror.

  23. Max had such a great Arc this season. I really enjoyed watching her this season compared to the other kids lol.

  24. Max’s escape from Vecna, fueled by the emotional profundity of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” and keeping her focus on happy memories she’s shared with her friends, was hands-down one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. I had tears streaming down my face. Her overall character arc in season four was both well-executed and relatable.

  25. As someone who’s had to receive a lot of therapy Iver yhe years, and enough to know the best experiences from the not-so-good, I really detested the counselor in this season.

  26. Phoenix

    These past few months I’ve really felt like and related a lot to Max.

    It really does feel like an uphill battle on most days but like Max, I’m quite the avoidant one and I’m tired of searching and getting little bits of pity from random Instagram memes about anxiety and ADHD. Like yeah it sucks, but what do I do about it? Oh right, but I can’t tell you because of such and such and I feel that such reasons are invalid.

    • You should find the right therapist – it is really amazing and you can make such progress for yourself. I think it is worth a shot. you are worth it

  27. I found it really healing when Lucus told Max he was ‘here’ and that he ‘sees’ her.

  28. Max’s grief for Billy is so complex. She feels guilty that her wish for him to be out of her life actually came true, she saw him die in a pretty horrific way (even seeing a stranger die like that would be enough to traumatize you), she probably grieves the true sibling relationship they could have had if Billy had treated her better and there’s the fact that his death has led to the breakdown of her home, having to move to a bad neighbourhood, her mum having to work more and drinking all the time. Added to that is the fact no one else around her would understand. The rest of the town wouldn’t believe her if she told them how he died and she might not want to talk about the abuse with others. Her friends understand how he died and that he was abusive but might not get why she feels so cut up about the fact he’s gone.

  29. Max Pain opened different connotations in my mind, but Stranger Things IS known to put a unique twist on things, so don’t know why I was expecting any less.

  30. Ack, the Stranger Things characters. I think we have a part of each of them within us.

  31. Max was fantastic in this series. I honestly didn’t know if she was gonna make it.

  32. Can’t wait for more of Stranger Things to come out!

  33. Stephanie M.

    As noted below, I never finished Stranger Things. Now I’m thinking I should give it a redo. I especially like the idea of classic bullying combined with horror. I think it’s an idea that’s kind of gotten overused and stereotyped because of stories like Stephen King’s Carrie. But it sounds like Stranger Things could give the combo a needed twist.

    • Adelaide Dupont


      There is a lot about bullying – and the attitudes around it – that come out of straight horror.

      CARRIE is probably the ur-example for the last 50 years.

      And I think of other genre examples like THE EXORCIST. Regan may or may not have been bullied – she was most probably abused by her family and/or the Church.

      Another pick for me would be the ORPHAN series which is in the consciousness again because of ORPHAN: FIRST KILL.

      Then there’s the whole Eldritch-horror scenario.

      How easily terror and horror hang together; like a peanut butter and banana sandwich.

      All the psychological rationalisations are stripped away and made to be the hobgoblins they are. [and this British folklore horror – Dobby and his socks].

      This week-10 days has been quite a reckoning for people when it came to J K Rowling and her bigotry [RANTIN’ FROM ANTON and FIERCE AUTIE for two].

      I think horror has a way of taking bullying seriously in a way that straight comedy or straight tragedy may not. [because of the limitations and expectations of those genres].

      Or even musicals [and I do believe Carrie was turned into a musical at one point].

      Also this season of STRANGER THINGS may give you PHANTOM OF THE OPERA vibes.

      In the last few weeks since this article came up originally I began to read about SLENDERMAN from Leslie Hale’s book.

      [the two young ladies who were involved – folie a deux/joint delusion as well as much more serious mental illness – psychosis and anti-social behaviour].

      Probably in 2040-2045 there will be a Netflix series of epic proportions about the creepypasta characters and scenes of legend and myth.

      Another reading which was important was a critique of Beatrice Sparks and GO ASK ALICE from a journalist in the economic scene.

  34. Max was reluctant to speak and I don’t blame her.

  35. Yes! One thing I loved about this season was the villain wasn’t just a flesh eating monster but an evil entity that toyed with its victims and enjoyed their anguish. All the deaths hit hard this season but Max being a target to Vecna was especially tough to watch as she is a main character and we’ve grown with her over the seasons. There was a level of character depth this season that really made it enjoyable for viewers.

    • Adelaide Dupont

      yes, AnushkaJ:

      Many of us have indeed grown with Max over the seasons.

      Or we remember where Max was and has been and it comes to remind/haunt us where and when we are now.

      Big difference between monsters [even flesh-eating ones!] and entities [and that word for me already has a inherent sense of evil even when it is used neutrally – again, a lot of people with serious mental illness have had it in their delusions and hallucinations and disordered thinking more generally].

      That distinction and difference did bring in the character depth

      [and, yes, the DEATH – apart from it being high-stakes plot-wise – it did have a way of keeping the protagonists and antagonists on their toes, didn’t it].

      The pleasure in anguish – I do not know that for Henry that was quite complete. There are some people in fiction – and in real life – who do enjoy it.

      Henry’s way was very experimental – and when I think of “toying with victims” I think of more a cat doing it with a mouse or their prey in general. The whole predator: prey dynamic.

      And then Henry used devices that were so very human.

      The most complex STRANGER THINGS villain so far – and you can see what a *product* he was – of his upbringing and his repressions – of the society of Hawkins and beyond – and the product of the project.

      Remember that Henry had a chance to be a star pupil from being ignored and/or overindulged by his family.

      [that is a tricky combination and a heady mix].

      Monsters you can forget about and make them go away [sometimes].

      And entities – they tend to stick with you and use your vulnerabilities to the hilt. Less easy to fight; flight; freeze; fawn; flood and flop!

      [the 6 Fs of trauma if/when you need to know them in future – in understanding yourself and others].

  36. While many people believe “hurt people hurt people,” there may be less awareness that the research shows the biggest group in schools are bully-victims. In a similar way, most adolescent dating violence can be understood as victim-perpetrators. Attachment theory would say that you learn both sides of a relationship when you have experiences in close relationships, with some kind of emotional intensity. Relationship growth is not about picking a side (villian-victim-rescuer), but recognizing and living core values about relating. …and that loving-kindness sets firm boundaries and consequences bad-choice behaviour.

    • Adelaide Dupont


      Another aspect of attachment theory a lot of people forget – the goal-corrected partnership.

      Which is a phenomenon that many bully-victims and victim-perpetrators [especially in the adolescent dating violence case] may not have experienced or experienced in a very limited way.

      Intensity is important, too.

      You talk about regulation.

      Core values do mitigate the need for sides and siding [which may be a maladaptive form of affiliative need being expressed].

      Someone who is good at loving-kindness in literature is Edith Nesbit – the author of THE RAILWAY CHILDREN and FIVE CHILDREN AND IT.

      When we talk about boundaries and choices and choices within the boundaries…

      “Hurt people hurt people” has never fully satisfied me as a maxim.

  37. I definitely loved that they showed how kids suffer from mental health and the daily battles they go through. Once Max saw that she has a great support system, it gave her strength and the will to not give up and I think that’s a great message.

  38. This is so well done!

  39. I’m glad Stranger Things is finally addressing how teens are being bullied nowadays. It’s a subject everyone just briefly discusses, but suicide among teens is high. What are we as a society going to do to stop this???

  40. Agreed. The bullying aspect was far more chilling than the actual “terror” aspect.

  41. Yes! So excited to finally see someone making these important connections.

  42. Laurika Nxumalo

    It’s scary how this is fictitious but it’s resembles the lives of some teens in real life

  43. Sometimes, moderns shows depict mental health issues in a glorifying manner. However, I don’t think Stranger Things does this. Vecna is an allegory of mental health and her struggle with depression and suicide depicts the daily struggles people coping with these mental health issues go through.

  44. Do you think the story line of Hopper in Russia was irrelevant to the series?

    • Adelaide Dupont

      I think it was very relevant to the series.

      Remember – the Demigorgon came to Russia.

      Important plot point! It’s not just a Hawkins or Upside Down creature – it had real effects in the “real world” of STRANGER THINGS.

      [trying to recall what other monsters played parts in the Russian prison].

      And the Cold War played a significant role in the last season – if there hadn’t been any meaningful follow-up from there I would have been very disappointed and there would have been a significant hole in the story and the STRANGER THINGS world.

      Hopper needed to be away from Jane/Eleven and he needed to be closer to Mrs Byers.

      Russia did that.

      Another important character in the Russian subplot was Murray.

      As for the actual Russian characters – like Yuri and Michael – it showed us that the Russians loved their children and teenagers too – like the song that Sting sang these many decades ago.

      I would have thought it less relevant had Joyce and Hopper not returned to Hawkins in time; including the last two episodes.

      It certainly kept many fans on their toes.

  45. it shows all about fighting your fear of bad memories through your positivity…


    This is a very detailed article and everything is well stated

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