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Stranger Things 4-The Trauma of Guilt

Stranger Things season 4’s antagonist is a completely different, even more terrifying threat than we’ve seen before.

Vecna might have more humble origins than the creatures of previous seasons, but he’s dangerous because of his ability to inflict pain inward. He taps into something we all struggle with: guilt. When Vecna targets Max and Nancy, he preys on tha feeling: Max’s guilt over not saving her brother, and Nancy’s guilt around leaving Barb to die in the upside down back in season one. Every character has some guilt they’re wrestling with, and this adds a fresh new element of tension to the show, because Vecna could easily target anyone.

And that tension taps into a wider, cultural fear too, about guilt and shame in the digital age. Even though season 4 still plays with Stranger Things’s signature nostalgia, the guilt theme feels urgent and relevant today. With the fear of being “canceled” looming, it’s very easy to be afraid that the worst thing you’ve done has already happened, and there’s nothing you can do to correct it. The more you ignore guilt, the bigger and more all encompassing it begins to feel, until it becomes its own kind of torture. To overcome guilt, you need to forgive yourself, which is easier said than done.