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Δευτέρα, 22 Απριλίου, 2024

Stranger Russians

By Amalia Theocharidou, 

Stranger Things, is a popular American Netflix production that has been taking over our receivers for the past years. As more and more spectators are being attracted by the original storyline and unique characteristics it is no secret that one should decipher the hidden geopolitical and cultural points detected in the adventurous plot. But what is the connection of the series to the ceaseless propaganda against the Russians, the so-called main rivals of the Americans and how are they portrayed?

The plot follows a group of kids and teenagers living in the small American town of Hawkins in Indiana during the 80s. The team discovers some paranormal activity in their city caused by the actions of a new facility which leads to the opening of a gate leading to the so-called “Upside down” and the abduction of one of the kids, named Will. As the kids try to save their friend, they meet a mysterious girl called “Eleven” who is one of the facility’s escapees and with her help, they fight the monsters released from the gate.

As the third season finishes, we know one thing for sure. The evil Russians are the culprits behind the monsters and the destruction of the town, with the higher purpose of conquering the States. Season four takes an interesting turn. As the adventure of the loved by many group continue, the new season allows us to take an insider’s look on a completely new subject. As the period of the Cold War approaches, some characters find themselves enmeshed in a new ‘threat’, the Soviets. More precisely, as the new plot unravels, we come across the story of the beloved Sheriff Jim Hopper and his imprisonment in a deadly Russian premise. The living conditions there are poor as the imprisoned ones are tortured and sacrificed, destined to battle with the monsters just for the soldiers’ pure entertainment and for testing purposes. As the plot unfurls, we follow the heroic acts of Hopper as he tries to escape and return to America in order to save the day. But the propaganda against the Russians doesn’t end there.

During the tries of Hopper to escape this described hell, we meet another Russian character called Yuri Ismaylov, a common conman who acts only according to his interests. Yet again, even the people who work along with the American officer are described as profiteers, frauds, known in the mafia world. Yuri only is seen as a cause of trouble for the Americans as he doesn’t hesitate to betray Hopper for the slightest of offers made by the Soviets.

Screenshot from Netflix. Image source: rostercon.com

The ideological difference is obvious in between the two sides. The Duffer brothers (the show’s writers) are trying to pinpoint the American superiority. The leads are described as heroes, with ethics, being in a constant battle against the evil Russians, who want to destroy the world and impose their communist beliefs, harassing the democracy with the most vicious of measures, the creation of the monsters called Demogorgons. This is a straight state of soft-power, the act of imposing the appeal of the nation in an indirect way, through the media (Ayu, 2022).

As the geopolitical games of the Americans continue, intertwined with the interesting plot, the writers try to ease their harsh criticism on the face of a character named Alexei. This man is a Russian scientist with a childish personality who betrays his Soviet leaders and reveals the secret scientific formulas to the leads. Once again, even with his seemingly innocent personality, Alexei only resembles the cunning attitude and profitable spirit of Russians who is completely attracted by the American habits and traditions that are being introduced to his ‘uncivilized’ self. Alexei’s persona underlines the superiority of the ‘American dream’ and lifestyle and how it manages to absorb him, which is obvious by the fact that Alexei betrays his country and beliefs just for a Slurpee or a shopping spree at 7-eleven. It is once again the use of soft power that presents the US lifestyle as irresistible and a cultural reset for the ‘old-fashioned’ Alexei who manages to escape from the chains his county imposed on him (Stranger Things Wiki, -).

As one watches Stranger Things, they’re so drawn by the story that tend to ignore the indirect messages the writers are trying to pass. While the series go by, it is time to wonder, are the Russians the dragons of the fairytale, or we’ve just been airily accepting a straight forwarded propaganda?

  • Ayu, G. A. (2022, July 8). The Evil Russian on American Screens: Stranger Things Season Four Short Review. moderndiplomacy.eu. Available here
  • Stranger Things Wiki. (n.d.). Alexei. strangerthings.fandom.com. Available here



Amalia Theocharidou, Editor-in-Chief
Amalia Theocharidou, Editor-in-Chief
Born in 2003, she is an undergraduate student in the department of International and European relations in the university of Piraeus. She likes to travel and get to know new cultures and environments. She loved writing since she was young which is what inspired her to start publishing articles.