Part of what made the Netflix original series Stranger Things such a smash hit when it debuted last summer was it’s appeal to audiences of all ages. It spoke to older generations who came up during the 70’s and 80’s, people who grew up during the 90’s raised on 80’s cinema, and even the youngest of today’s millennials. But when the series was originally conceived as what was then called “Montauk”, The Duffer Brothers had plans to make the show much less kid-friendly telling Vulture:
“The Eleven character, the kind of powers she has and to have a young protagonist that’s violent — it’s not E.T. It’s not a happy situation. She’s killing people, and brutally murdering them. The original pilot was much more violent. It was originally like an R-rated thing.”
“Winona’s character was like, ‘Eff this, eff that!’ It felt a little bit unnecessary. I don’t feel like we sacrificed anything by toning it down a little bit.”
The original pilot also featured the death of Barb but as we saw, the creators made the choice to push that back a bit and flesh her character out a little more before buying the farm. It’s a good thing they did because if they hadn’t, Barb (Shannon Purser) may have not become the beloved character she is today.
The final episode also included a longer, grosser version of when Chief Hopper (David Harbour) pulled the tentacle out of Will’s mouth but Netflix had the Duffers cut it shorter. The decision to scale back the violence and profanity was smart, however. I would have liked to see Winona Ryder drop a few f-bombs. It’s a nitpick, but one of my only complaints in the series (which I absolutely love) was when Joyce said “Screw you” to Dr. Brenner in the opening scene of the final episode. It didn’t feel genuine and interrupts me from suspending my disbelief in that moment, reminding me I’m watching a television show in the middle of having a magical experience like watching E.T. or Jurassic Park for the first time again. Here is this sick, twisted man who performs experiments on children asking her for help after her son has been taken by an interdimensional monster thanks to his research. Joyce should have lunged across the table and bit out his jugular.