A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Friendship and family are key and it's important to work as a team to overcome obstacles. Kids/teens can be smart, resourceful, and brave, as well as kind, curious, and thoughtful. Difference should be celebrated and can often be a powerful force. Military and medical authorities are mostly not to be trusted.
Positive Role Models
Some parents are present, responsible, and concerned about their children; others seem more clueless (sometimes played for humor). A tight friend group deals with their chaotic world by being kind, open, and willing to listen to each other. They break rules and put themselves and others in danger, but it's usually for the greater good. Teen boys often hug and show their love for each other in clear ways without worrying about looking "manly." Strong girl characters also emerge, with more added to the mix each season. The main characters' teamwork is often fraught with bickering, but ultimately they come together and use curiosity, courage, and communication skills, as well as their individual talents and differences, to solve problems.
Diversity and inclusion increases as the series continues. In addition to Eleven, strong female characters like Max, Nancy, Joyce, and Robin are integral to the story, with both Nancy and Joyce developing more confidence and agency as the story develops. The main friend group is mostly White, but Black character Lucas' storyline does expand and deepen as time goes on, and his younger sister also sees more screen time in later seasons. Taking a risk for the Midwest in the 1980s, one character tells a good friend that she's a lesbian and is met with support. She has a crush on another girl throughout most of Season 4. It's implied that a main character is gay; off-screen, the actor confirms it. A supporting character belongs to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and, while the characters accept her religion and dispel the idea that Mormons wouldn't have "electricity and cars and stuff," one character flippantly describes them as "super-religious White people." Russians are largely portrayed as villains, though a couple are given more complex characterizations and act with kindness, such as Alexei. Actor Gaten Matarazzo has a genetic condition called cleidocranial dysostosis, which affects the development of bones and teeth. He agreed with producers to incorporate it into the show, and his character is bullied by kids at school because of it.
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Violence & Scariness
Intense monster/slasher-type scares; frequent death, peril, and gore. Children and teens are killed gruesomely (with blood, gouged-out eyes, horribly broken limbs, and more), and people are attacked/taken by monsters, their bodies manipulated, possessed, and absorbed. A boy is kidnapped; his distraught mother searches for him. Children are held captive in some type of military/medical experiment; guns are brandished and fired (sometimes fatally), and mysterious powers are used to injure and kill. Beatings, torture. Sympathetic characters die, sometimes abruptly. The Upside Down is eerie and disturbing; monsters range from screechy and slimy to terrifyingly demon-like. A particularly gruesome scene in Season 3 shows many rats exploding; others include zombie-like humans being killed by scissors. In Season 4, a group of children is violently killed. Lots of fistfighting and arguing/yelling throughout.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Teen characters kiss frequently; sexual references, discussion of dating, flirting. During a steamy make-out scene, a teen takes her shirt off, showing her bra. An adult character prepares to have an affair with an older teen. Another adult character is naked beneath a blanket and almost seen fully nude as it slips (though he catches it just in time).
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Cursing includes "f--k," "s--t," "hell," "a--hole," "dammit." A woman calls another a "bitch." One boy calls another a "p---y" and says they're "screwed." Bullying words include "f-g," "f--got," "freaks," "toothless" (in reference to a character with a genetic disorder), "frog face," and "midnight" (in reference to a Black character). Other language: "pissed off," "douche bag," etc. Characters also say "goddamn," "Jesus," and "Christ." Middle-finger gesture used frequently.
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Products & Purchases
An array of nostalgic products take center stage, including Eleven's beloved Eggo waffles and the main characters' affinity for Dungeons & Dragons. Characters drink Coca-Cola throughout Season 3. Other brands seen on-screen include Lacoste, Doritos, Pringles, Reebok, Nike, Adidas, 7-Eleven, KFC, Dr. Pepper, and many more.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A parent smokes during stressful moments, and the sheriff not only smokes frequently, but may have a prescription pill and alcohol addiction. Underage drinking, sometimes to excess. References to marijuana and cocaine, and a supporting character is often high on weed in Season 4. Drug deal between two teens.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Stranger Things is a sci-fi/horror drama that centers on a group of tween/teen friends who find themselves fighting mysterious, dangerous forces in their small Indiana town. There are intense monster/slasher-type scares, with frequent death, peril, and gore. Children and teens are killed gruesomely, and people are attacked or taken by genuinely scary monsters, their bodies manipulated, possessed, and absorbed. Kids are kidnapped and traumatized, and there's frequent gun use; characters are killed by bullets as well as by supernatural means. In one scene, rats explode in a bloody, graphic manner; in another, a group of vulnerable kids is brutally murdered. Children take part in some type of experiment, and one main character spends much of her time processing the abuse she dealt with as a research guinea pig. Medical/military authorities have complicated motives. There are strong female characters, and LGBTQ+ representation is introduced as the seasons go on. The cast is majority White, though Black character Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and his younger sister, Erica (Priah Ferguson), have larger storylines later in the series. Teens date, flirt, and make out (and at least once, a girl removes her shirt). Language includes "f--k," "bitch," "s--t," "f--got," "goddamn," "screwed," and "pissed off." Teens and adults drink and smoke, including marijuana. Parents and teens will have fun watching this nail-biter of a mystery -- which has themes of curiosity, courage, and teamwork and emphasizes the importance of family and friendship -- but the later seasons in particular may be too intense for younger viewers.
Is It Any Good?
Dark, creepy, and sublimely intriguing, this 1980s throwback will remind you of many a vintage-era sci-fi/horror movie, in the most pleasant way imaginable. The cast is clad in dated '80s wear, walls are (fake) wood-paneled, phones are firmly attached to cords, and kids are free to race around on their bicycles, looking for clues. And there are lots of clues to look for, as it quickly becomes clear that all is not as it seems in the small-town setting.
In the first season, violence and gore are relatively low, while atmosphere and spookiness are high -- that changes as the series progresses, with some pretty gruesome deaths in the spotlight. But with characters of both kid- and parent-age to relate to, fear fans of all ages will have someone to root for. Tweens and teens will be interested in the mystery and compelled by the finely drawn characters, while adults can also enjoy the vintage clothing, technology, and prices. It's likely that everyone will be charmed by the spunkiness of the young heroes, who are ready, willing, and able to save the day when the adults in their lives are stymied.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.