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SYFY WIRE Stranger Things

'Stranger Things' writers shoot down TikTok fan conspiracy claiming early episodes were edited

Is Stranger Things getting a very specific touch-up? Not according to the show's writers.

By Matthew Jackson
Stranger Things Season 1

Stranger Things is one of the most-watched shows of the past-decade, a megahit for Netflix that seems to inspire new waves of fandom with each new season. Stranger Things 4, which ended its run earlier this month, was no different in that regard, propelling the supernatural series to new viewer records and even making a Kate Bush classic a hit on the charts once again. Now, that same fandom has inspired the show's writers to publicly deny a theory that past episodes are being re-edited to tweak character arcs. 

It's no secret that Stranger Things fans obsess over key details of the series, developing their own theories about where it's been and where it's headed, but lately a very specific conspiracy theory has emerged among the fandom, one involving a specific scene in Season 1 that played a pivotal role in the first major story arc. 

In Season 1, Episode 2 of the series, "The Weirdo on Maple Street," Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton) is out in the woods with his camera, looking for any clues that might point in the direction of his missing brother Will (Noah Schnapp). When he hears a scream, Jonathan follows the sound thinking someone might be in danger, only to find a very small party at Steve Harrington's (Joe Keery) house that includes Jonathan's crush, Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer). Jonathan hesitates for a moment, then begins snapping a few pictures of the pool party, which is when he notices courtesy of his telephoto lens that Nancy has gone upstairs to undress after being pushed in the pool. 

Here's where the conspiracy comes in. Some fans online, as Insider reports, have begun to claim that in the "original" cut of the episode, Jonathan lowers his camera when he realizes Nancy is undressing, then raises it again to take picture of her through the upstairs bedroom window. In the cut currently streaming on Netflix, Jonathan does lower the camera, but when he raises it again, he instead turns the lens on Barb (Shannon Purser), who is sitting by the pool alone, soon to be attacked by the Demogorgon. The fan claim is that Jonathan actually kept taking photos of Nancy even after she started to undress, and that the "new" cut is designed to make him "look like less of a perv." 

While series creators Matt and Ross Duffer have not yet weighed in on the theory, the official Stranger Things writers room account on Twitter has responded somewhat obliquely to the controversy, writing on Tuesday: "PSA: no scenes from previous seasons have ever been cut or re-edited. And they never will be."

So, that seems like a pretty clear-cut end to the controversy, right? Not so far. One of the reasons the conspiracy theory exists in the first place is an interview with the Duffer Brothers back in June, in which they admitted they'd actually forgotten Will Byers' birthday overlaps with key events in the fourth season. To fix the discrepancy, the brothers said they might have to "George Lucas" the show, meaning go back and make a quick tweak to previous mentions of Will's birthday to move it from March to May. 

In the same interview, Matt Duffer admitted that “We have George Lucas’d things also that people don’t know about,” while Ross Duffer noted that early seasons of Stranger Things were released on Blu-ray, and invited fans to compare the set-in-stone physical releases to the ones still streaming on Netflix. 

So, the writers claim nothing has been re-edited, but the show's creators have admitted to making some tweaks. Who's telling the truth? It's possible they both are. Using VFX magic to tweak a monster's design or perhaps change some anachronistic background detail isn't necessarily re-editing a scene. The progression of shots might be the same, but the shots themselves might look a little different due to some quick digital wizardry. We might never know for sure exactly what's been tweaked and how much, but hey, if you've got those Stranger Things Blu-rays at home, and you've got the time to do a side-by-side comparison of every second, be our guest.

Looking for more horror in the meantime? Peacock has the recent remake of Firestarter streaming now, as well as SYFY and USA Network's hit series Chucky (which returns for Season 2 later this year).