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Growing up becomes a journey into darkness

A dive into an ever-darker world: a rewatch of four seasons of Stranger Things

Published: 14 Sep 2022
Together with frozen Eggo waffles and the drop of blood that runs down Eleven’s nose, perhaps the most iconic image of Stranger Things is that of the Christmas lights that Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) hangs on the wall of her living room. Used as a way of communicating with her son Will, who is trapped in the world of Upside Down, the lights are the central element of the first season and have since appeared innumerable times in theme parties celebrating the successful Netflix series, or as Halloween party decorations.
The eighties aesthetic created for the first season of the series by the Duffer brothers was bright and colourful. Despite the atmosphere of mystery and horror, nostalgic elements of classics, like the stories of Stephen King and the films of Steven Spielberg, combined to create an environment, often dominated by warm oranges and browns. Not to mention the characters’ clothes that look like they come from a romantic comedy by John Hughes.
The new and much-awaited episodes of the fourth season have not only relaunched an old hit by Kate Bush, they also feature a change in colour palette with a move towards significantly darker tones. This time the rural town of Hawkins in America is the victim of a new enemy, a terrifying demon called Vecna, who our heroes have to fight in order to close the gate to the world of Upside Down, once and for all. In doing so, they uncover mysteries that involve a range of characters from the past.
This change of tone in the photography and this absence of warm colours compared to previous seasons, can be explained, on one hand, by the general and steadily increasing darkness of cinema and television products (that we spoke about in this article) and, on the other, by the narrative (and chronological) progression of the series.
In its fourth season, the characters in Stranger Things are no longer children and begin to confront increasingly adult issues and problems, like Will’s love for his friend Mike, recently confirmed by the actor, Noah Schnapp, who plays his role. Gloomy colours, darkness and shadows accompany this journey away from childhood with the characters becoming less innocent, the monsters more frightening, the settings less cosy and the problems more complicated. The light and colours are therefore a thermometer of passing time for Eleven, Mike, Will, Dustin, Max and Lucas who now have to face the adult world and abandon the innocence and playfulness of childhood typical of their early adventures.