NROP: Flaws in fictional characters not welcome anymore; Stranger than Stranger Things.

Have you seen “Stranger Things”? The first season was enjoyable, but the second season was not palatable for me. Despite the fact that I did not like season two, I still opted to watch season three out of boredom. I felt the need to watch something and I could not find anything that remotely interested me. Even though I have not finished the season yet, I have to say that it is just as boring (if not more) than season two. Although I appreciate the music from the 80s, the props, and style from back in the day, fast pace and action are things I look for in a show but am having trouble finding.  But this is not a review of “Stranger Things”. This is a discussion on specific things (characters/ actions) from the series.

Whenever I watch a movie that is set in the past and I see people smoking, I go back in time. It reminds me of the past that I barely even remember. People smoking at the dinner table, smoking/ non-smoking sections in restaurants, doctors smoking during patient consultations, etc. How does that impact me? It just shows me how things change and how life was so different back then. It is so strange to be reminded of the past lifestyle trends. It seems so different from what we have now. What will be the next cigarette – popular today, but frowned upon and alienated in a decade or two?

Season three was released in its entirety on July 4th. When I browsed through various news websites on the morning of July 5th, I expected to see a ton of reviews and spoilers related to the new season of “Stranger Things”. However, it seems that other people, like I, were too busy celebrating Independence Day and did not binge the show until the next day or so. Articles started appearing on Saturday, but they were not about the show as a whole. They were about one thing and one thing only – cigarette smoking.

Season three is set in 1984, and if you were around then, you know that everyone smoked (well, not eeeeveryone, but A LOT of people). Even though the show is completely fictitious, it definitely prides itself on being true to the time it is set in. People wear 80s clothes and hairdos, they eat and drink specific foods, etc., and so naturally, they also smoke. Apparently, Truth Initiative, which is a “public health organization dedicated to making tobacco use a thing of the past”, conducted some research and found out that smoking was featured in every single episode of the show that they had reviewed. Why is that so bad? Their mission is to: “achieve a culture where all youth and young adults reject tobacco”. I understand that it is meant to do good, but are we not allowed some free will? Maybe a young person needs to get sick on a few cigarettes their dad forces them to smoke so they never touch it again.

Netflix was quick to react. They vowed to limit the use of cigarettes in future episodes/ series they produce. A statement has been issued: “(S)moking is harmful and when portrayed positively on screen can adversely influence young people.” Is someone smoking a cigarette a positive portrayal? It is not like the character says: “Cigarettes are tasty. Cigs are good. Everyone should smoke because it is good for you.” In the future, any show rated PG-13 will not feature cigarettes. In shows/ movies for adults, they will try to steer clear from smoking, unless it will be necessary for character building. They also plan on adding a cigarette usage warning in those shows that will feature them.

Where does it end? Will documentaries about rock stars stop including cocaine? Will horror movies not include murder? Yet another example of trying to solve a problem by going about it the wrong way. Do you want your kid to stay away from cigarettes? Banning them from watching movies/ shows in which people smoke will not do that. You will have to actually use some parenting skills to try and keep them away from smoking. Ultimately, it is up to them. Because even if you slap that cigarette out of their hands every time they bring it to their mouth, one day they will become adults and move away. What then?

A couple of days ago, I stumbled upon yet another article about the show. This time around it was about negative traits one of the characters displayed throughout the season. A woman and a man agree to go out for dinner. He arrives and waits, and then waits some more. She stands him up. Not on purpose. She goes to see another man. It is not what you think – she actually goes to consult a scientist because of some strange things that she had witnessed. But the guy does not know that. When they meet, he is upset that she never showed and never notified him she would not be coming. He is also jealous because he finds out she spent her evening with another man. Does all that sound reasonable to you? It does to me.

This guy, Hopper, is also taking care of a girl, Eleven, with superpowers. She had a rough childhood and is not like other kids her age. She is very literal, innocent and vulnerable. When she spends the whole summer with a boy, locked in a room, he gets worried. He wants to protect her, so he talks to the boy, possibly threatening him if he was to do anything to hurt the girl. To me, that sounds like any other protective father. Which father does not care about their baby girl?

I am not saying this character is perfect because he is not. Are there other ways to handle things? Sure. But we are humans with the gift of free will. I saw a man, who cares for the people around him. What did other people see? Toxic masculinity. [Feel free to sigh now.] Do you never get angry when you are hurting? Do you always act with class and dignity when your emotions are in full swing?

No one is perfect. Fiction is exactly that – fiction. If you watch a movie and decide to base your life on what happens in them, then it is not the actor’s fault; it is YOURS. People have emotions. They have good AND bad traits. Why are we so hellbent on masking the negative ones? I think DEALING with those is a better idea than trying to pretend like they do not exist. Also, do not judge a person by a single thing/ trait/ action. There is more to them than that. Sometimes you need to help others who are struggling instead of abandoning them just because they have issues.

When did we start restricting fiction?

Why do we insist on erasing the facts of the past?

Should we constantly be looking backward, or should we focus on the present?

Are we not hurting young minds by “protecting” them from images of toxicity? 

Stay golden,

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35 thoughts on “NROP: Flaws in fictional characters not welcome anymore; Stranger than Stranger Things.

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  1. Great post. I hate how they try to alter the past to suit how things are in the future. I don’t think there is anything that they would air that someone won’t take issue with and make it PG or whatever you want to call it. If it’s not changing elements and characteristics true to the story and time, they are trying to be all politically correct with the casting. Nothing is sacred anymore. In the end, it will just turn people off just as it did with you in this case.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sometimes, when I’m in a good mood, I like to be the devil’s advocate and I will randomly start pointing out how someone could take offense in something, or how something is discriminatory. People get so defensive when I start talking that way. To me it’s humorous, because like you said – there will always be something someone does not approve of.
      You pointed out casting – I know exactly what you mean. Quite interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. WP is acting up indeed. Every now and again I do not get a notification/ response so I think someone forgot, or didn’t care to respond (it happens), but sometimes it doesn’t make sense and so I go and check their post and see that they DID reply. What happens is that their reply does not post under my comment, but rather as a separate comment, which is why I don’t get notified. But I went to check my post and the replies seem to be posted correctly. I think I was told that issue happens sometimes when you use your phone to reply.

          Can’t disagree with you on that, either.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yeah, I can see that. I do use my phone on the fly sometimes, but I much rather comment using my laptop or computer. Bugs I guess lol. btw, i was going to email you the other day. I feel I know you not enough…lol was just going to say hi.

            Liked by 1 person

        1. Your comments made me think. The first time I read your initial comment I wanted to agree straight away. I still do. You’re right – there are so many things that build a character (what they say, how they act, what they wear, etc.). Every detail enhances and supports the image.

          However, then I thought to myself what if that character did not smoke? How would I feel? To my surprise, I came up with an “I wouldn’t notice” answer. I have to admit that smoking in my environment is pretty limited. People either don’t smoke, or vape. That caused me to “forget” that smoking is/ was a thing.

          Rather peculiar. I’ll have to pay more attention to it in the future so I can analyze my thoughts and perceptions better.

          Like

          1. You’re right. Smoking in movies could be eliminated in future movies and I probably wouldn’t notice.

            I would notice if I watched Die Hard and Bruce Willis didn’t have his smokes!

            Smokes are a prop, the same as a telephone, or a piece of fruit, but they are a very personal prop for the character that smokes. They reveal a flaw or an attitude of rebellion or a feeling of stress or delight and I really think they can add a lot to a scene.

            From a standpoint of what’s best for society as a whole, I think we should get rid of the damn things for good!

            Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve never seen the show, but apart from Mad Men (and the UK Life on Mars) which I really enjoyed, modern day shows set in the past do tend to impose cliches and political correctness on their characters. I see it also in period dramas (latest season of Poldark is a good example). As for the smoking, it’s true that a lot of people did smoke in the 80’s – it looked cool. The pubs and clubs stank of cigarette smoke and the restaurants had smoking and non-smoking areas – you could still smell the cigarettes in the non smoking area. Modern day shows and many films seem to be censored to include political correctness just as much as older shows and films were censored to exclude bad language and sex. Modern day society…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right. I cannot quote specifics, but when I watch stuff meant to be “from the past”, I see and hear things that belong to the present and not really to the past. It’s quite bizarre.
      Ha! And bad language and sex aren’t as limited nowadays. Free our sexuality, etc., right?

      Like

  3. Excellent Points! They wanted to ban Huck Finn in public schools and libraries because of the racist remarks in them, and the character’s moral flaws. Children should not read about young teenagers in mortal peril. Heck, Huck even smokes in the book! Except that at the time this was written, children WERE in mortal peril. Children were not protected by the law and could be beaten at home or at school, starved, ignored, you name it. So because we have these laws now and CPS now, they forbid children to read about any stories written before these protections were in place. Child abuse doesn’t happen anymore; it’s just a rumor from the past. (Stands on sarcasm button until it shorts out.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think I’m like you Goldie. The first season of “Stranger Things,” was the best. I kinda skipped some episodes of season 2 due to losing interest. I’m watching season 3 along with my favorite PodCast of the same name, where they recap events and explain things that I missed while multitasking.

    What does that say about a series that needs a PodCast to keep a viewer interested? As for the smoking, I think Netflix recreated a flashback in time that captured the way it really was, good or bad. I think censoring cigarette history will not change teen views on smoking. Parents do that by (gasp!) talking to them.

    As for that scene when the guy was stood up, and he waited forever hoping she would show up, I think it is partly his fault. He kinda twisted a yes to a non-date dinner from the woman. She should have called or apologized at some point but she wasn’t invested in the meetup. I think he knew that deep down so anger at the situation or the woman never crossed his mind, but it did for me because I realized he has feelings for her that might not be reciprocated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read that the “date” was something he tricked her into, but it doesn’t excuse her behavior (not letting him know). I must have been falling asleep when the setting up that meeting was happening.

      A podcast? Do you listen to it after you watch the episode? Why watch the series if you can just listen to the podcast?

      Like

      1. I watch the series episode because TV is visual, and I like seeing the actors play the role. I then listen to the podcast to pick up on anything I missed. Also the podcast has followers that enjoy the same program I enjoy. If you pick a good podcast as I did, you can call in or email your opinion on episode scenes, adding to the enjoyment of the show.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Now, so many issues here to address, I’m not sure where to start. But first, on the question about what is popular today and may be banned tomorrow? I think it’ll be electronic devices. Entered a restaurant/? turn off your phone. Doctor appointment, turn off your phone. Family gatherings…. you get the pic. Because, You’re in the restaurant to enjoy a good meal, right? And doctor appointment…. hmmmm, ah, you’re disturbing other patients. Family gatherings, because it’s not polite.
    As for stranger things, I’ve been hearing only great things about it – don’t watch it myself – but the smoking on film, as a smoker who started young, let me say that it does impact kids, watching all those smokers on screen – it’s cool, everyone is doing, and yeah, it’s totally bad ass. so, pg 13, yes, definitely. But covering the kids eyes so they won’t see? Not right, because they don’t need to be adults to do wrong, they can simply go behind your back – I did that.
    There was more i wanted to say, but…. i forgot 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Always start from the beginning. Or from the end and work your way backwards. But I think that requires a lot more effort than the first suggestion.

      I’d be totally on board for electronic devices to be done away with in specific situations. Unfortunately, I’m not as optimistic about it actually happening.

      Thank you for providing your first-hand experience.
      Signed – a second-hand smoker.

      Like

  6. Meh. I watched two episodes of the show and just couldn’t get into it.

    I’m so tired of society trying to control every aspect of our lives. Wouldn’t “truly” good parents not even own a TV in the first place? Tying to sanitize all the “bad” out of a show their kids might watch to make it “suitable” is a losing battle. I truly hope that people will get off of their PC high horses and let life be messy, as it is intended to be. We are not doing future generations any favors by trying to create a “perfect” environment. For those who believe in the bible, sin was even found and exploited in the “perfect” garden of Eden. We’re fine tuned to locate “trouble”, get into it, and (hopefully) learn from it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I told my kids that there would be no TV until homework was done. We went from 1988 to 2008 without TV (except after the kids went to bed). Made no difference. My oldest smokes even though he watched his grandma die from smoking-induced cancer. None of my kids is a musician even though they were innundated by it every day of their lives. They all play instruments and/or sing, but they have not taken up music as a profession. Sanitizing what they see on TV is not parenting. I agree with your view! Parents should do parenting and society should do…um…societing?

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Spot on. I totally agree with everything you said. Humans are not perfect. No matter how hard we try, we will never be ideal. Trying to rid our society of the “bad” just produces people who are incapable of dealing with “the bad”.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I agree that keeping things from kids is not protecting them. Critical thinking skills need to be taught more in school.
    When I was on the board of the Christian school my children attended, I urged the high school to teach comparative religion. At the time the belief was that if you just teach the truth well enough, they’d be able to spot the counterfeits. By the time my youngest was a junior in high school, I was thrilled to see her materials for Bible class – a chart outlining the core beliefs of the major world views. She could explain to me the difference between secular humanism and postmodernism – and point out the flaws in each one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Critical thinking! Yes, yes, yes. I just call it “logic”, but yours sounds less condescending, I think.

      Wow. Consider me impressed. Yes, I agree, knowing a bit about things outside of your interests is a great thing. It has the ability to strengthen your faith.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Smoking is bad. Don’t normalize it and make it acceptable by showing what happened thirty years ago befo’ we wiz ‘woke’
    … sodomizing someone with a broom handle as in season two though is obviously perfectly acceptable however as no one complained about that…
    Strange set of standards huh?
    Personally I think if we’re teaching our kids standards and expectations then we don’t need to worry about historical depiction on TV shows. As parents or teachers we could use that as examples of how far we’ve come. Those who erase history can’t expect others to learn from it – and so the cycle turns..

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Those who do not learn from history are doomed from to repeat that history.

    I understand how we need to shield people from the influence of corrupting forces but as you mentioned you wont always be there to protect them and what we need to do is equip people with the skill set to be able to make correct choices for themselves.

    ~B

    Liked by 1 person

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Rachael Ritchey

Worlds of Fiction

from famine to feast

recovery and growth, things that interest me, occasional deep-thoughts, and semi-regular poetry

Skeptical Heartism

Views from a skeptical heart

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