Stranger Things is a rare breed of a series. It not only manages to capture it’s audience’s attention with its incredibly unique story, but the actors are quick and easy to fall completely in love with. This series manages to have a fantastic character arc for the heroes as well as constantly having the threat of the unknown ‘upside down’ constantly growing. While the first season focused on the demi-gorgon and the second on the demodogs, the third season brings a fresh villain which was teased at the end of the second season. The Mind Flayer has a unique approach on a monster which overall makes for a great and disturbing story.
The show is set in the early eighties, which was a time where American citizens were afraid of the Soviet Union because of the Cold war. It was believed that there were secret Labs underground created by Soviet spies who would do human experimenting. This ended up being a major influence for this season. With the idea that they would eventually unearth themselves and start mind controlling people to fight against America.
Mind Control was no laughing matter in the eighties. In fact, it was commonly feared by the majority of the american population. The term ‘brainwashing’ was actually born from the Cold war. It is said that, “The notion of ‘brainwashing’ emerged out of the conjuncture in the outbreak of the Cold War and the sense of panic it created in American society. Efforts to master this panic found new intelligence infrastructure and in new frameworks of discourse, knowledge, and terminology.” (Killen & Andriopoulos 8) Basically, writers and filmmakers took advantage of the American knowledge, or lack thereof, and took advantage of it to produce novels and film. Killen & Andriopoulos gave great modern examples of the Jason Bourne series and Shutter Island. (9)
This ties in very well with Jeffery Cohen’s first monster theory, “The Monster’s Body Is a Cultural Body.” (4) Although the eighties did not consist of a huge human consuming monster, the fear of Russian testing and the unknown was definitely real. Cohen states that, “The monster is born only at this metaphoric crossroads, as an embodiment of a certain cultural moment.” (Cohen 4) This monster acts as a representation of what Americans were afraid could happen or be created in the Cold war era. Having Allies turn against each other.
The Mind Flayer throughout this season acts as a puppeteer, pulling the strings while having others it has assimilated do its bidding. What is interesting about this monster is that it also uses its ‘hosts’ to grow itself, turning them into a slime like paste to which they crawl together to make the main monster bigger and stronger. Which works well in making a very uncomfortable scene watching a character go from a human to a semi-slime monster. But what exactly makes this monster scary? The Mind Flayer uses humans that it assimilates to do its bidding, which makes the human the villain. This is a very interesting metaphor in that the Mind Flayer, while it might not have necessarily been created by humans, is still in our dimension because of human curiosity and testing.
The Mind Flayer, while it is its own monster, still came from the upside down. The fact of the matter is not that the monster has never left. The gate to the upside down was closed in one place but opened in another, never truly leaving the small city of Hawkins. Cohens second theory, ‘Monsters Always Escapes’ can be tied into the idea that while the group might have defeated the demi-gorgon and the demodogs in the previous seasons, the one thing that never left the city was the portal to the upside down. Acting as almost the main villain to the heroes, constantly throwing new monsters at them.
The film Get out has a fantastic interpretation on mind control. Director Jordan Peele takes a unique twist on what is a simple horror movie and creates a monster that can control another human beings body, rendering them essentially a backseat driver in their own body. The idea of being conscious in what you are doing but not being able to do anything about it is truly a terrifying feeling. The characters are similar to the Mind Flayer in that when the highest bidder wins the body, the surgical procedure allows conscious to override and take control of the victim’s body. While the Mind Flayer does not have to have a surgical procedure to control its victims, it still overtakes the victim and has complete control over their actions and decisions.
The Mind Flayer works so well as a monster because it is unique. While it has been done before the way it was presented and executed distracts the viewer and enthralls them into wanting more. This disgusting slimy beast works in the shadows which allows the actors to really shine. Also, some of the monsters actions create a real tear jerker for the viewer, giving major character development and allowing a fantastic story to play out through its ravenous destruction.
There Is however one interesting fact about the monster that does leave some unanswered questions. In an interview with the directors and cast members for the third season, Matt Duffer stated, “Eleven closed the Gate, but the Mind Flayer is still alive in the Upside Down” (Stack 2). Watching the season it is not really explained at all how the Mind Flayer managed to escape the upside down when the previous monsters did not. It is true that later in the season it is revealed that there is another gate being kept open by the Russian government. But this does not elaborate on how the Mind Flayer was the only thing able to escape after the gate was shut. Although there is a significant plot gap it does not take away from the overall story. The monster still provides a wonderful fresh experience and frightening demeanor for the viewers when on screen.
But why does this creature work so well for this series? The Mind Flayer provides such a fresh, and creative idea of a monster that really strays away from the standard traditional horror films. And is a big reason why the series works so well. You are not expecting as a viewer to see some recurring characters just evaporate into a disgusting pile of goo and literally attach themselves together. But what has to be the most chilling trait of this monster is its ability to take over someone’s body and mind. The idea that your neighbor or family member could be actively trying to kill you adds a chilling on screen tension that definitely deserves more credit than what is given.
This is a monster that is unique and different as opposed to your standard zombie. It has a mysterious background but a fantastic tool kit of skills it uses to terrorize the protagonists. This monster easily deserves a 4/5. While it does contain some miniscule flaws, the overall idea and execution of this monster were flawless. Its creativeness and uniqueness manages to leave the viewer constantly wondering what is next, or even who is next. Stranger things continues to display such unique and intriguing monsters that in the end, help create fantastic plot lines and seasons. And the third iteration of Stranger Things continues to live up to the expectations it has set in the first season.
Levy, Shawn, Et all. “Stranger Things .” Netflix, season 3, episode 1-8, 4 July 2019.
The popular Netflix series stranger things has a monster that has a hive mind. I found this to be an interesting take and interpretation of what a zombie could be or is. I’m planning on using the series to show a different style of zombie and how it differs from the standard brain eating mindless monster that is more commonly known.
Cohen, Jeffery jerome. “Monster Culture (Seven Theses).” Englishwithtuttle, www.englishwithtuttle.com/uploads/3/0/2/6/30266519/cohen_monster_culture__seven_theses__3-20.pdf.
This article is Jeffery Cohen’s seven Theses on monsters was discussed in class. This Article will be one of the main sources from comparisons, and stereotyping monsters to correctly classifying the individual as a monster. This source is credible because it is peer reviewed. J effery is also a college professor at the George Washington University.
Peele, Jordan, director. Get Out. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, 2017.
The Widely popular movie Get Out has a fantastic twist on mind control. This is a great comparison to the Mind Flayer and gives some perspective as well as contrast to some of the characters in the movie. These comparisons and contrasts are what I plan on using in this analysis.
Killen, Andreas, and Stefan Andriopoulos. “Editors’ Introduction.” Grey Room, Oct. 2011, web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=12&sid=ff43cd13-cf61-4fb3-9767-5b595eacef4b@sessionmgr4008.
This peer reviewed article goes into detail about mind control and brainwashing. It also goes into detail about how it originated, from the Cold War. This was a huge inspiration for the third season of stranger things. This will make a fantastic supporting article for the inspiration and the birth of the monster.
Stack, Tim. “Stranger Things 3.” Entertainment Weekly, web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=3&sid=b4b742f9-03e2-4875-bac8-afda0fb643ab@pdc-v-sessmgr05.
Tim Stacks is a reporter who did an interview with the cast and directors of the series. He answers a lot of questions and brings in an interesting point of view on certain topics. One question shows an error with the origin and plotline of the monster. I plan on using this to describe what is wrong with the monster.