“Stranger Things” introduces new creatures and entities that put the livelihood of the world at risk with each new season. This time, it’s the Russians.
With the release of part one of “Stranger Things” season 4, we are reminded of how deeply ingrained anti-Russian sentiments are in our culture in post-Cold War America.
Light spoilers for Stranger Things seasons three and four are included.
Stranger Things 4 brought us back to 1986 in Hawkins, Indiana as the sleepy town recovers from the supernatural catastrophe that rained down on them the previous season. The portal to the inter-dimensional hell called the Upside Down is being used by the Russians after being opened by the shaved figurehead of the show, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown.)
If the antagonization of Russians as villains in season four proves anything, it’s that anti-Russian sentiment is not only a political viewpoint, but a sentiment that is steeped in our culture over the past 40 years. In a show that boasts authentic callbacks to the ’80s, it is worth noting that anti-Russian sentiments are considered just as much a cultural hallmark of the decade as Ghostbusters or new Coca-Cola.
Jim Hopper (David Harbour) is also revealed to be held prisoner in Russia for his work in trying to expose their presence in Hawkins at the end of season three. Hopper’s detention in a Russian work camp only further highlights the clash between America and Russia. Harbour’s rugged portrayal of Hawkins’ beer chugging, Jim Croce-loving chief of police represents traditional American values: seeking justice, standing tall and tough, and, in season four, resisting communist regimes.
Stranger Things also inadvertently works concurrently with modern cultural events regarding Russia to remind us just why some are upset. During the same year of its premiere in 2016, the accusations of Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election started to arise around former President Trump. Now in 2022, as Cold War sentiments are being revisited in Washington amidst the Russia/Ukraine conflict, the show revisits the time when similar sentiments were at their peak and reminds us where our hatred of the foreign nation started.
Aside from the healthy portion of Russian collusion that “Stranger Things” season four serves audiences, it is chock-full of everything that made us love the show from the start. The ’80s nostalgia continues to remind older audiences of the good ol’ days and younger audiences that they were born in a different generation.
The main cast continues to ground the show with their charm, camaraderie, and adventurous spirit amidst a plot that sometimes gets too big and complicated for itself. And, of course, what would “Stranger Things” be without the stand-out performance from the queen of the strange and unusual, Winona Ryder.
“Stranger Things'” fourth season’s appeal to older audiences and benefit to younger audiences lies in its honest depiction of Cold War-era America. The backdrop of the communist regime and our country’s reaction to it in season four serves as a reminder and history lesson for how anti-Russian sentiments in America became ingrained in our culture.