Skip to main content

How the Satanic Panic Influenced Stranger Things Season 4

And Other Pop Culture References in the Netflix Hit

We’ll try to avoid spoilers here because, to be honest, some of us might be saving Netflix’s Stranger Things season 4 for a more eerie season. After all, season 4’s 1980s and 1990s nostalgia recalls the demons conjured by the “Satanic Panic,” and the geeks punished for playing Dungeons and Dragons. Stranger Things 4 also reanimates Kate Bush, arising once again to incorporate the forefront of the musical consciousness.

Without revealing too much, part of the gang becomes a target of Hawkins citizens as the townspeople become understandably paranoid from the psychological horror inflicted on the cursed town over the past few years. The once heroic misfits find themselves labeled as satanic cultists (and worse) for their participation in D&D and its surrounding Hellfire Club.

Related Videos
Eddie Munson showing off fake horns, mocking the 1980s satanic panic

At first, the Hellfire Club takes the ribbing in stride, especially newcomer Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn), but things get real very quickly, just as they did in the early 1990s American heartland on which the character Munson is based.

The 1980s and 1990s “Satanic Panic,” a paranoid belief that orgies and ritualistic murder played out to metal music and in worship of fantastic creatures, claimed the lives and reputations of thousands of victims pulled into the scare. “Recovered memory therapy” led to false claims of ceremonial abuse on the news, in books, and from preschools. As U.S. society evolved to allow women further into the workplace and traditional roles dissipated, conservative pushback called on a rising Christian Right to demonize actions outside of the mainstream — like listening to Metallica.

“Something we really wanted to get into this year was the ‘Satanic Panic,’” the Duffer brothers explained at Netflix’s May Tudum event. “That brought us back to the Paradise Lost documentary series with the [West] Memphis Three, and it brought us back to Damien Echols.”

Echols was a classic 1980s headbanger, scaring the world with chains and black shirts featuring electric chairs, mohawked skulls, and wicked dragons. That pose, however, became a very real thing when police put Echols behind bars. Along with friends Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin, the trio was arrested on charges of committing a horrific triple homicide in West Memphis, Arkansas. Circumstantial evidence, counterculture imagery, and three murdered children were enough to frighten a jury into handing down a guilty verdict in 1994.

The West Memphis Three spent 18 years in prison before their release. #WM3

— Investigation Discovery (@DiscoveryID) April 9, 2020

As the West Memphis Three settled into prison life, a wider world found interest in their cause through the documentary, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. The film found a critical reception and national attention for an apparent miscarriage of justice. Several celebrities called for a new trial, but none followed through like Johnny Depp, who would eventually get a matching tattoo with Echols when the trio was released. A 2011 evidentiary hearing overturned their conviction after spending 18 years in prison.

The Duffers wanted to bring this reality into Stranger Things to offer a connective element — the rebellious outsider who could be held accountable for murder.

“We really wanted that character who’s a metalhead, he’s into Dungeons & Dragons, he’s ultimately a true nerd at heart. But from an outsider’s point of view, they may go, ‘This is someone that is scary,'” the Duffer brothers said.

Also making a cultural reappearance via Stranger Things 4 is British pop singer Kate Bush, whose 1985 hit Running Up That Hill not only helps Max escape Vecna’s grasp, but it landed at No. 1 on the June 22 Billboard Global 200. The Bush track from the album Hounds of Love boasts the longest-ever gap between No. 1 singles in the U.K. Top 40 chart’s history, with 44 years separating her 1978 career-launching leader Wuthering Heights and Running Up That Hill.

Max’s Song (Full Scene) | Kate Bush - Running Up That Hill | Stranger Things | Netflix

“I’m overwhelmed by the scale of affection and support the song is receiving and it’s all happening really fast, as if it’s being driven along by a kind of elemental force,” Bush posted on her website.

Elemental force? Maybe Bush’s credentials need to be checked. She could be an occultist hiding in plain sight.

Editors' Recommendations

15 true crime podcasts to obsess over this year
Try out some of our favorite true crime podcasts
headphone laptop podcast

As podcasts became more and more popular, true crime podcasts grew to be one of the medium's most popular genre. These stories thrilled listeners who wanted to inject a little excitement into their lives without facing any actual danger. All of this crystallized around the first season of Serial, which transformed everyone who listened to it into an investigative reporter, part-time detective, or  aspiring lawyer. Since then, that kind of amateur detective work has only become more common, and the internet has provided a safe space for people to speculate without directly harming those involved.

With so many true crime shows out there, there's something that's just right for whatever your tastes might be. From international conspiracies to horror podcasts about murders that rocked small towns, the true-crime genre contains multitudes.

Read more
Sad but true: Those earning over $150k/year are working more to stay out of debt
More and more Americans are going into debt
someone paying with a credit card that is blue

As U.S. inflation continues to rear its head, so does its effect on people. A new report shows just how striking the impact has been on Americans’ wallets and work-life balance.

The four-day workweek may be a trending concept. However, a new survey of more than 1,500 people by financial content hub Finmasters found that nearly one-third (30%) of people who are making more than $150,000 per year were logging more hours at work. Why? They were afraid of going into even more debt. 

Read more
This is the only time you should pay an annual fee for a credit card
You love what a credit card offers. Should you sign up if it has an annual fee?
a man looking at a credit card

You — hopefully — know you have to pay your credit card once per month. Email and SMS alerts can remind you to fork over at least the minimum.

However, some cards charge an annual fee. If you look closely at your statement, you’ll see it shows up as a line item once per year. It typically happens in the same month.

Read more