Stranger Things and Christmas Lights: A Popular Netflix Series Has Some Powerful Abortion Themes

Stranger Things and Christmas Lights: A Popular Netflix Series Has Some Powerful Abortion Themes


By Kevin Burke, LSW

[The following is an excerpt from our recently released book, Rivers of Blood/Oceans of Mercy. In this chapter, we explore the powerful abortion abortion themes in the Netflix series, Stranger Things.]  

For now we see through a glass, darkly; – 1Corinthians 13:12

“The artist…one who allows art to realize its purposes through him…a vehicle and molder of the unconscious psychic life of mankind.”    – Psychiatrist Carl Jung, Psychology and Literature, 1930.

 In the popular Netflix series Stranger Things we learn of a secret government program during the 1980s in Hawkins Indiana.  Here in this government laboratory, scientists perform human experiments to develop special mental powers, such as the ability to move objects with the mind and travel to different dimensions.   While some volunteered for the project others were kidnapped and held as prisoners.

Two of the subjects included a pregnant mother named Terry and her daughter.  This child, known as Eleven (from the number tattooed on her wrist) was taken during birth and separated from her mother.  Terry was told the baby died in childbirth.  The mother suspected otherwise and as she came closer to the truth she was given strong doses of shock treatment to silence her. 

Using familiar themes found in science fiction and the Bible’s book of Genesis, Stranger Things tells a tale of how mankind’s pride opens the door to evil. As Eleven (aka El) grew into early adolescence at the government laboratory, she cultivated strong mental powers.   Through special experiments, she developed the ability to travel to other dimensions and move large objects with her mind. 

 In one experiment, El travels into an altered reality.  She is transported to the other side of the world where she encounters a Russian spy and gathers intelligence information for the government.  But this experiment opened the door to a shadowy reflection of their small Midwestern town of Hawkins Indiana called the Upside Down World.  A monster from the Upside Down World enters the town of Hawkins through portals created by the experiment. 

The creature is a living and very intelligent virus.  The monster has large tentacles and spider webs of flesh and goo that trap its prey.   The creature then enters through the mouth and slowly sucks out the life of its victim.  One of the early targets of the virus is Will, played by Noah Schnapp. Will is part of a group of middle school boys who share a strong bond of friendship, and a special love for the fantasy game Dungeon and Dragons

The monster snatches Will from his garden shed and takes him to the upside-down world.   When Will goes missing after his encounter with the monster, he is presumed dead by the police and citizens of Hawkins.

Will’s single mother Joyce, played by Wynona Rider, is convinced her missing son is alive.  Will is able to communicate with his mother while trapped in the Upside Down World by using his mind.  He sends messages to his mom at their home by making lights pulsate and through manipulating household appliances like the phone and boom box.

 In one very moving scene, Joyce is nestled inside a cabinet in her living room.  She cradles a bundle of flashing Christmas lights close to her heart.  The lights convince her that Will is alive.  She is desperate to rescue him from danger and won’t let anything stop her. 

Joyce declares:

“I don’t care if anyone believes me; I won’t stop until I find my boy.”

Others in the small Hawkins Indiana community think she has lost her mind with grief and is unable to accept the death of her son.

The Abortion Monster

A series like Stranger Things can serve as a vehicle to express what is kept hidden in a community and culture.   Stories can help give a voice to buried grief and painful emotions.  They can touch those dark shadowy places in our own Upside Down Worlds

The episodes have a number of references to the politics, music, and culture of the 1980s.  But the themes of missing and endangered children found in Stranger Things plugs into another disturbing fact about that decade. 

In the 1980s the national abortion rate was rising.[1] In towns and cities across the U.S. – millions of children were missing:

  • Abortion crossed the 1.5 million a year mark for the first time in 1980 with 1,553,900 procedures.
  • The U.S. abortion ratio reached its peak in 1984, with 364 abortions for every thousand live births.
  • The high mark since the legalization of abortion in 1973 occurred in 1988 with 1,590,800 procedures.

Every day in abortion centers across our nation, abortionists do a procedure that is very similar to the methods used by the monster of Stranger Things.  The doctor uses a vacuum abortion machine that enters the womb of a woman and sucks out a living unborn baby.   In later-term procedures, the abortionist dismembers the living child in the womb and removes the body parts of a fully formed boy or girl.

And then there is the impact on the mothers and fathers who participate in the death of their unborn children.  Listen to a woman who had an abortion freshman year of college and her experience of watching Stranger Things:

“When I watched the separation of El from her mother at birth, it connected me to so many painful memories and anger about my abortion that were buried deep in my past.  It brought back to how the abortion procedure separated me from my baby.”

A woman who felt pressured by her parents and boyfriend to abort her child shares:

“I was really drawn to Joyce.  She knew her son was alive.  In that scene where she is holding the Christmas lights and trying to connect with her son…I found myself weeping once again for my child I lost to abortion.  For many years after the abortion, I was drinking too much and in bad relationships.  I was missing my child.  I needed to connect with my baby and know he was ok.  I did find that peace when I went through a healing program for abortion loss.” 


Learn more about our latest book: Rivers of Blood/Oceans of Mercy

On This Silent Night

Finally I want to share a music video of a Christmas song I wrote with Henry Gennaria, a professional musician, and producer.   The lyrics of our song, “On this Silent Night,” communicate two themes.

The surface story is that of a young man estranged from his beloved, and his longing for reconciliation and coming home; this is a strong emotional theme for many at the Holidays.

But on a deeper level, it about the relationship of each person’s heart and soul with their Heavenly Father.   This relationship can be injured by sin, and by the challenges faced in life.  But like the woman in the song, God is waiting to welcome you back, to forgive your sins, bind up your wounds, and have you enter into His presence.  The Lord is saying, “Come be transformed by the fire of my Divine Mercy and Eternal Love.”

May that fire burn brightly for you, On this Silent Night.

[1] O’Bannon, R. (2003).  Abortion Statistics and Trends over the Past Thirty Years.


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