Note: The views and opinions expressed in blog/editorial posts are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the views or opinions of Misbar.
“Stranger Things,” the sensational Netflix serial has been lauded as one of the most watched TV series in the history of television. The show made history with 1.3 billion hours of viewing time during its first 28 days on the streaming platform.
A TikTok conspiracy theory about the show has been blown out of proportion. The misleading rumor has recently found an echo in an article by the British Magazine GQ, which sparked a heated debated online.
Video Accusing the Duffer Brothers of Retroactive Editing Goes Viral
The Duffer Brothers, the creators, and executive producers of “Stranger Things,” have recently been accused of retroactive editing. A TikTok video that has gone viral, accused the Duffer brothers of secretly edited previous episodes from the show's previous seasons. The video claims that the show’s directors changed scenes that show the character of “Jonathan Byers” stalking “Nancy Wheeler” and taking photos of her without her consent. “They took out the scene where Jonathan stalks Nancy and takes photos of her,” the text reads. “Are they doing it to make their relationship more appealing?”
The GQ Article Criticizing Retroactive Editing Backfires
GQ imprudently based their article discussing The Duffer Brothers’ editing techniques on the TikTok Rumor. It turns out that the scene in question was never in the show to be edited or recut. The article put GQ in a difficult situation after the show’s writers and several fans denied the rumor.
In an ironic turn of events, GQ, which was discussing the ethics of retroactively editing TV shows, ended up having to edit their article.
Photo Description: First note of editing the article.
After the writers of “Stranger Things” made fun of GQ editing the article, the magazine had to edit it a second time to make the situation more light-hearted.
Photo Description: Second note of editing the article.
Misbar’s team searched for the unedited version of the article and found that the original article is misleading.
The original article reads: “Viewers who still have physical copies of Stranger Things season one noticed something odd having gone back for a rewatch on Netflix: a scene wherein one-time weirdo Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton) takes spying, lewd snaps of now-lover Nancy (Natalia Dyer) from a bush has been erased on the platform. And it's not the first time the Duffers have gone back to the cutting room after the fact.”
The edited version deleted this paragraph after they realized it was based on a rumor.
Another edited paragraph highlights how gravely misleading the original article was, as can be seen below.
Photo Description: Original paragraph.
Photo Description: Edited paragraph.
Even the title of the article was edited from “Netflix retroactively editing Stranger Things is the beginning of a dangerous TV trend” to “Why retroactively editing Stranger Things would be the beginning of a worrying TV trend.” Both titles reflect no cognition of the fact that the article is self-incriminating in this case. The article that deems retroactive editing a dangerous and worrying trend has been retroactively edited, twice! A mistake that was widely ridiculed on Twitter.
The GQ article also decontextualized quotes from a Variety interview with the Duffer Brothers. When asked about a mistake in the show where the writers forgot the birthday of “Will Byers” while the fans remembered it, Ross Duffer replies: “Here’s what I think. I think what we’re going to do is we’ll go and George Lucas it.” The answer clearly shows that retroactive editing is a mere possibility that is still being assessed.
Many fans of the show remember that while the episode does not show “Jonathan” snapping photos of “Nancy,” the following episode shows him developing photos he took without her consent. Others are sure that the episode has been edited as it originally shows “Jonathan” directly snapping photos of “Nancy.” This controversy has led some internet users to ponder upon “the Mandela Effect” as a potential explanation.
What is the Mandela Effect?
The Mandela Effect is a phenomenon that explains how false memories can be shaped and shared collectively. The name of the phenomenon was first coined by Fiona Broome, a paranormal researcher, after she noticed that a significantly large number of people believed that Nelson Mandela had died in prison during the 1980s. Mandela, in fact, died in 2013, after serving as the president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.
There are many other examples of the Mandela Effect. The spread of misinformation online is rising as an influential enabler of this phenomenon. The over exposure to false information can create an alternative memory that potentially distorts or even replaces real memories. According to Medical News Today, this is because memory is “malleable,” in other words, it is flexible and impressionable.
The reason why so many people remember the scene, although it was never on the show, might be a spontaneous response to allusion. The original scene alludes to the fact that “Jonathan” was snapping photos of “Nancy” without her consent. The fact that viewers see the photos being developed in another episode bridges a gap in memory that might get distorted with time.
Another famous Mandela Effect example is from The Star Wars franchise. Although many fans remember the character of “Darth Vader” saying: “Luke, I am your father,” the original line is “No. I am your father.”
The Mandela Effect and Conspiracy Theories
The Mandela Effect can be used to spread false information and promote conspiracy theories online. The simple principles of collective false memory can be used as an argument to propagate irrational conspiracy theories. Even more, the unrelenting spread of false information can distort the memory of the people exposed to it.
The row about the edited scene from “Stranger Things” serves as a good example of how the Mandela Effect can be used to spread misleading content online.