Stranger Things & White Evangelical Supremacy
Perhaps the most terrifying character in Stranger Things Season 4 is Jason Carver, the white, handsome, well-spoken, captain of the Hawkins High basketball team who is equally comfortable with a microphone or gun in his hand. Using his good looks and rhetorical skills, he is able to sway almost any crowd with vague language and a cadence that ears easily associate with truth. Whether at a pep rally or town hall meeting, Jason uses emotive communication that seems to cut through the complexities of life to create clear binary categories of black/white, good/bad, or normal/deviant. With passion, he stokes the crowd’s energy and then directs it towards a common enemy, like the rival basketball team or suspected cult leader Eddie Munson.
Jason has earned the trust of his faithful disciples who obey his calls to violence directed at his enemy who he vilifies through dehumanizing language (he refers to the Hellfire Club as a bunch of “freaks”). Informed by rumours and gossip, Jason’s analysis of the world is shallow and dangerous. He demonizes others and paints portraits of people with broad brush strokes.
What makes a character like Jason so scary is that he embodies the dangerous arrogance that is characteristic of a sort of white evangelical supremacy. This rigid, unwavering, fundamentalism is masterful in scapegoating those who do not fit their model of humanity that is often defined as pure, white, forceful, and stereotypically masculine or feminine.
This arrogance commonly finds expression in white North American evangelicalism and has been exported worldwide. White and religious supremacy sacralizes an image of maturity by lifting up western, white, evangelical values and beliefs and erroneously rooting them in the Bible. Straight, cis, white, male evangelical leaders label their narrow conceptual framework as simple, universal, unalterable “Truth” while using the Bible (Jason quotes Romans 12:21 at a town hall meeting) to convince others that their reading of what is good and evil is unquestionable.
Tragically, North American political, social, and evangelical groups are full of Jason Carvers.
Tragically, North American political, social, and evangelical groups are full of Jason Carvers. They lead political parties, grassroots organizations, and evangelical churches and denominations. What makes the Jason Carvers of the world so scary is that they are fully convinced of the importance and nobility of their cause. For white evangelical supremacists, the stakes are eternal. When conflicts are freighted with eternal weight, the righteous goals of good triumphing over evil, saving souls, and defending a sacralized image of the western patriarchal world are pursued by any means. Then ends justify violent means, as horrifically depicted by Jason taking up arms to defend a warped conception of Chrissy’s honour.
The Jasons of the world are quick to violently defend an understanding of purity attributed to white women (Chrissy and Max) which is threatened by so-called deviant expressions of humanity defined as “freaks” and embodied by those who defy the image of maturity exhibited in the straight, cis, white, stereotypically masculine male. Long-haired leader of the Hellfire Dungeons and Dragon’s club Eddie Munson and the thin, Black, smart, and sensitive Lucas Sinclair are seen as enemies of, and threats to, this sacralized godly and natural order.
While I do believe in the idea and existence of more-than-human principalities and powers that Stranger Things imaginatively explores, I am currently more afraid of the evil fueled by the white evangelical supremacy I see embodied in the fictitious character of Jason Carver and the all-too-real white male religious and political leaders committing violence in the name of good and God today.