It’s been over two weeks since the third season of Stranger Things came out and I finally think it’s okay to rant about it. Especially after seeing a few posts on Instagram this weekend. It’s something I’ve been feeling since I watched the show the weekend it came out and, thankfully, I know I’m not the only one. So, in lieu of my normal Monday post, I’m doing this instead. It’s been a while since I’ve had a good rant though. It’s been nearly 2 months. That’s quite a lot of rage to keep inside. It was bound to find an outlet eventually.
One of the stranger things to come out of this series is the pin-up status of David Harbour for his portrayal of Jim Hopper. Yep, for some reason, the dad-bodded police chief became one of the major sex symbols of the series. And I say that in an entirely unjudgmental way because I was there for the Hop. He was a gruff but pretty harmless guy who, admittedly, smoked and drank too much. The kind of guy you’d avoid in real life but this wasn’t real life. Compared to the things coming out of the Upside Down, Hopper was a fucking angel.
Until, it seems, season 3. I was really disappointed to see a worrying trend emerge from the latest run of episodes. What is that trend? Toxic masculinity. Hopper has always had some rage issues but this season his whole personality had changed. Yes, he never believed Joyce’s mad ramblings but he always treated her carefully. He cared about her and tried to respect her. This season? All of that went out the fucking window. He became an absolute brute. He flat-out wouldn’t listen to her about the magnets despite the fact that the woman has not been wrong about supernatural threats once. He ignored her behaviour based on grief for Bob and fear for Will. He all but called her a hysterical woman. Is he from the 1800s or what?
But the worst part of his behaviour? The way he treated her about their will they/won’t they romance. It’s been less than a year since Bob died and Joyce was clearly not in the right frame of mind to start dating. She said this. Did Hopper listen? Did he fuck! Instead, he forced her to agree to a friendly dinner whilst secretly planning on wooing her. When Joyce didn’t turn up cause she was, you know, saving the town, he got drunk and shouted at a load of innocent strangers. The next day he berated her for not turning up to the date that she didn’t agree to and then shamed her for seeking help from other men. It’s pathetic, it’s harmful, and it’s not the Hopper we all fell for.
This wasn’t Jim being protective and jealous. This was him being possessive and controlling. It’s manipulative and verging on emotional abuse. This is the kind of behaviour you read about on those dark parts of the internet where supposed “nice” guys moan about the friendzone. And what makes it worse? The Duffer brothers don’t ever condemn this behaviour. In fact, it fucking works. In the end, Joyce agrees to go on a date with him. The man who tried to shame her for speaking to other men. She just lost one of the nicest men in the history of television but she’ll happily settle for the violent man-baby. It’s not right. And, then he goes and gets a hero’s death. (Not that he’s dead but we’re meant to think it.) He dies as a respectable and good man but nothing we’ve seen in the preceding episodes go along with this.
Worryingly, much of his behaviour is played off as funny. We’re meant to laugh that the big scary police chief is jealous of the geeky science teacher. But he’s essentially slut-shaming the woman he supposedly cares about even though she’s done nothing wrong. Even if she was flirting with other men it wouldn’t be an excuse for his behaviour. And then there’s his behaviour towards Eleven and Mike. For most of the earlier episodes of this season, Hopper is pissed about how much time they spend together. They’re teenagers, they’re kissing. It’s no reason to get so homicidal. Something Joyce tries to warn him about. But he ignores her advice to be calm and sensitive and throws away the carefully crafted speech she helped him with. Instead, the big 40-something man threatens a teenage boy. The man with a gun and a violent streak threatens to hurt a teenage boy for horny. And we’re supposed to find it funny!
We’re already living in a world where people are trapped in abusive relationships because their partners have destroyed their dignity with constant put-downs. We live in a world where a fair proportion of murders are linked to domestic violence. We also live in a world where men have gone on a shooting rampage because they couldn’t get a girlfriend. This is already a fucked-up world and we certainly don’t need to complicate it any more by making violent men sexy heroes of television shows. Because I’ve already seen a worrying amount of people on social media describe this season’s Hopper as “the best yet” and talk about how much they love him.
Yeah, his behaviour isn’t worrying. It’s just “freaking level 10”. He’s no just a “general hot mess”. Please. This isn’t the behaviour of a man you want to be with. And as for the argument that he can be excused for all of his mental health issues? Bullshit. Yes, we know he lost a kid and his marriage fell apart. It’s sad. But we’re not getting that kind of development. We’re just seeing his bullying behaviour. Then there’s the Vietnam box in the cabin. Maybe he does have PTSD. Fine but, again, these are just allusions, not character development. People complained that Dany became a killer with no warning but she had way more development than Hopper did before he started threatening to kill Mike. It’s a ridiculous double standard.
And don’t even get me started on fucking Johnathan. The way he treats Nancy is fucking outrageous. Joyce raised him better than that. But it’s bedtime and I’m all ranted out.
Who is Murdocal? A casual critic who is a little bit too obsessed with pop culture. A young woman who swears and rants much more than she knows she should whilst trying to make her way in an adult world she isn't prepared for. A not as recent as she'd like literature graduate who, between job applications and subsequent rejections, has turned to the internet to fight the boredom and review the shit out of everything.
"Maybe, just maybe, I'm the faller. Every family has someone who falls, who doesn't make the grade, who stumbles, who life trips up. Maybe I'm our faller."