We Need To Talk About Jim Hopper And What Toxic Masculinity Actually Is In Stranger Things

Jim Hopper does some questionable things but that doesn't necessarily make him toxic.



Stranger Things served up quite a few things with its latest season of 80s nostalgia and creepy monster tropes, some of it good if predictable and some of it not so good.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect that was tackled in season three was Jim Hopper and how his character development dived into what toxic masculinity actually means.

So what exactly is the definition of toxic masculinity? Researchers have defined it in part as a pattern of beliefs and behaviours, such as suppressing emotions and “acting tough”, that will be harmful to others if expressed. It manifests from a place where a man is trying to overcompensate in an attempt to claw back some sense of “manliness” and/or self-worth.

Throughout season three, we see Hopper do some questionable things, like telling/threatening Mike to stop dating Eleven and getting jealous over Joyce talking to other men after trying (and failing) to ask her out before being (unintentionally) stood up at a restaurant by her. This is a pretty different side of Hopper to the ones we’ve seen and his behaviour has been called into question by some people.

These are definitely bad behaviours but they don’t quite fall into the “toxic masculinity” category. For Hopper, his behaviour has nothing to do with his “manliness” and trying to overcompensate. Rather, it’s a manifestation of all the collective trauma he’s gone through.

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.”

Hopper suffered some serious emotional turmoil when he lost both his wife and daughter before the show. Throw in a heavy dose of PTSD caused by the events of Stranger Things and it’s no surprise that he acts the way he does, especially in season three.

His most important relationships were forcibly torn away him prior to the show so it’s understandable why he is not responsive or expressive of emotion. When he manages to find proxies for his lost wife and daughter in the form of Joyce and Eleven respectively, it makes sense that he would want to hold onto them dearly out of fear of losing them, even if it means acting irrationally and questionably.

It’s difficult to process and respond to things properly let alone opening up to people when you’ve faced as much trauma as Hopper. We’re shown that he is capable of warmth and compassion, it’s just incredibly hard for him to express it though no fault of his own.

Perhaps the most important difference between what Hopper did and toxic masculinity is that he recognises what he does is wrong, how Joyce and Eleven aren’t the same as his lost family, and how his behaviour is reactionary to what he’s been through.

Most toxic men aren’t generally privy to this kind of self-awareness or self-improvement without some serious prodding but Hopper is clearly trying to understand and change his behaviour for the better.

If he were truly a toxic male, he wouldn’t have made up with Eleven and Joyce or allowed Mike to continue seeing his step-daughter by the end of season three.

No talking, please.

We’re shown just why Hopper does what he does in season three but it doesn’t mean it’s right in any way. However, we need to be careful in how we throw about the “toxic masculinity” label without fully understanding what it actually means.

Is Jim Hopper a flawed and damaged man with some serious trauma? Absolutely. Has he done and said some bad things? 100%. Is he a toxic male? Nah, definitely not.

The Stranger Things 3 Post-Credits Scene Is Important, Even If It's A Little Bit Of A Cop Out

Let Stranger Things 4 figure all this out.



Well Stranger Things 3 was quite the ride wasn’t it?

My big theory about Daddy Steve didn’t quite pan out the way I expected but we got a heap of gems to make up for it, like the surprisingly well written LGBTQI+ representation moments, and the latest Jim Hopper meme being his fascination with Hawaiian shirts.

But the biggest gut punch of the season wasn’t the many Steve copped when he was captured by the Russians. No, it would be Hopper’s sacrificing himself to shut down the big energy machine thingy that’s opening a portal to the Upside Down in the season finale.

At least the shirt looks good.

It was a huge moment that we weren’t quite expecting but Hopper’s sacrifice worked well on a thematic and emotional level. The scene during the finale’s epilogue where Eleven breaks down after reading a heartfelt speech her foster father wrote for her but never got to give was one of the highlights of an entertaining if uneven season.

The gate’s closed again, the gang remain tight but get physically separated as the Byers family and Eleven move away from Hawkins, and the future is a little downbeat but cautiously optimistic.

And then the post-credits scene rolled around.

One popular horror trope is no character is out of play until you see them actually dead and it seems like Stranger Things played that card with Hopper since we actually don’t his body after his apparent sacrifice.

During the post-credits scene, we’re taken to some prison facility in the snowy mountains of Russia. Two Russian soldiers walk past a cell door and one decides to open it, only for the other to say, “no, not the American.” The pair open the cell next door instead and drag the Russian prisoner inside to a caged area where he is devoured by a full sized Demogorgon.

This basically confirms two things:

  1. The Russians and the Upside Down are threats again for future Stranger Things seasons.
  2. Hopper may actually still be alive.

As tantalising as the tease is for the future of Stranger Things, I can’t help but think it’s a bit of a cop out.

Yup, you just undid all that great emotional work.

One big theme for Stranger Things 3 is the idea of growing up and moving on from the past no matter how difficult it is. By keeping Hopper around, not only does it undermine that powerful scene where Eleven finds Hopper’s note to her, it sort of goes against the thematic engine of this season.

But while the post-credits scene may be a little cheap, it does set up some important things for Stranger Things to explore in future seasons. The Duffer Brothers have previously said they know where they want the show to end up so perhaps I should give them the benefit of the doubt with what they’re trying to do with Hopper.

At the very least it means we’ll still be getting funny Jim Hopper memes with each remaining season of Stranger Things still to come.

Still the best one so far.

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