‘Stranger Things 5’ Forced into New Restriction, Content Ban Enforced by Netflix

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Stranger Things

Credit: Netflix

Stranger Things 5 may have a lot of open-ended questions about what is going to happen to the gang, Hawkins, Eleven, Vecna, and more — and while we do not have all of those answers just yet, we do know one thing that we will not be seeing.

(L to R) Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin), Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo), and Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) dressed as Ghostbusters in 'Stranger Things' Season 2
Credit: Netflix

After season 3 of the show, a controversial report forced the Upside Down to turn into a cigarette-free zone, as did other Netflix shows. The streaming giant’s announcement follows closely on the heels of the release of the third season of Stranger Things and just days after the anti-tobacco organization Truth Initiative published its findings.

In its study, Truth Initiative specifically criticized Stranger Things for its portrayal of smoking, ranking it among the most problematic examples onscreen. The report also highlighted two other Netflix series, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Orange Is the New Black, for their increased depiction of smoking, which had tripled in the past year. In response to the report, Netflix has committed to making significant alterations to their content targeting younger audiences.

Bret Gelman with Natalia Dyer and Charlie Heaton in Stranger Things
Credit: Netflix

Truth Initiative wrote, “Our prior analysis found that Netflix programs depicted more smoking imagery than broadcast shows. In 2019, Truth Initiative researchers re-analyzed tobacco content in the same episodic programming most popular with young people between 15 and 24 years old and found that Netflix once again topped the list with nearly triple the number of tobacco instances (866) compared with the prior year (299). Broadcast/cable programming showed nearly two and a half times more tobacco imagery than the previous year. Overall, 92% of the shows analyzed contained images of tobacco in the 2016-17 season, up from 79% in the 2015-16 season.”

In the show, two of the characters that we saw smoking often were Billy and Hopper. With one having died and the other having been enslaved in a Russian prison escaping death, smoking became a much smaller focus.

“Netflix strongly supports artistic expression. We also recognize that smoking is harmful and when portrayed positively on screen can adversely influence young people. Going forward, all new projects that we commission with ratings of TV-14 or below for series or PG-13 or below for films, will be smoking and e-cigarette free — except for reasons of historical or factual accuracy,” a Netflix spokesperson told EW.

In its report, Truth Initiative monitored not only instances of cigarette smoking but also the use of any tobacco products. According to the anti-tobacco organization, the increase in depictions of smoking onscreen is indicative of a concerning trend that may contribute to a rise in youth smoking rates.

The cast of Stranger Things in a mall
Credit: Netflix

While tobacco use was cut down in Stranger Things, marijuana usage in season 4 was certainly at an all-time high when it came to Argyle and Jonathan Byers.

For close to eight years, Stranger Things has been a reigning force in pop culture and entertainment. Since the Duffer brothers presented their concept of a 1980s supernatural drama to Netflix, audiences have been captivated by the mysteries of the Upside Down and the allure of Eggo waffles. Currently, production is underway for the fifth and final season of Stranger Things, generating immense anticipation among fans.

Previously, Millie Bobby Brown had indicated that she would continue filming until December, implying a nine-month shooting schedule for her character Eleven. However, her wrap date did not necessarily coincide with the conclusion of the entire show’s filming. Now, a definitive timeline has emerged for the entire season, with filming scheduled to conclude on December 22.

Eleven and Will Byers in Stranger Things season 4.
Credit: Netflix

Recently, we unveiled Netflix’s 2024 highlight reel, which showcased major upcoming shows like Bridgerton season four and Squid Game season two. Notably absent from the reel was any mention of Stranger Things, leading many to speculate about its release date for 2024. It is now evident that due to post-production requirements, the series will not return to Netflix until late 2025 at the earliest, possibly even extending into 2026.

We know that the final season is being hyped up by many of the cast members; however, none of them seem to know how the story as a whole is going to end. Recently, Joseph Quinn, who plays the now-dead Eddie Munson, even teased he could return in season 5, which shows that we have no idea what is going to happen.

It does appear that things will come full circle, returning to Will’s connection with Vecna, as we saw at the end of season 4. Schnapp’s hints at an amplified role for Will in the forthcoming season underscore his centrality to the series’ narrative arc, stating that Stranger Things “started with Will, and it’ll end with Will.” Even Maya Hawke, who plays Robin, said it is exciting to watch these looming questions finally get answers.

Are you excited for Stranger Things 5? 


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