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Vecna in Stranger Things: the symbolism in the series' true villain

Stranger Things is an American science fiction horror series set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, in the 1980s.

Launched by Netflix, the fourth season of the series introduces us to Vecna, a true bogeyman that feeds on traumatic memories and distorted thoughts, making its victims directly from the Upside Down.

The time has come for you to dive into this character with me and understand why every scene of his in the series deserves your full attention (contains spoilers).

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Vecna in one of his brutal scenes in the Upside Down

Vecna in Stranger Things

Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower) is the biggest and only true villain of all seasons of Stranger Things. The series reveals to us that he is the driving force behind everything strange that happens in Hawkins.

As in other seasons of Stranger Things, the antagonist's name is an allusion to the popular RPG Dungeons & Dragons, fever in the 1980s.

The villain has an old relationship with Eleven, very well explored in the new season and with a great depth of the character:

Vecna's childhood

Vecna's real name is Henry Creel, a child with psychokinetic and mind-invading powers who moves with his family to Hawkins in 1959.

Henry comes to appreciate and identify with a black widow nest that he finds on the floor of his new home. Inspired by the predatory abilities of spiders and driven by psychopathy, Henry begins taking the lives of animals and eliminates his family when he realizes his secret is threatened.

The boy ends up in the hands of Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine), being called One at the Hawkins National Laboratory, where he begins to be studied. As soon as it becomes clear that it is impossible to control the boy due to his strong powers and his psychopathology.

The links between Vecna and Onze

Eleven is Henry's tenth clone, one of the Soviet Union's attempts to create humane and controllable weapons. Over the years, Henry has had his power suppressed and begins to act as a monitor for the new children at Hawkins Lab.

After manipulating little Eleven and freeing himself from the collar that suppresses her powers, Henry commits a massacre in Hawkins' laboratory in his own style. This sets off a trigger in the girl, which opens a portal to the Upside Down and traps the villain in that reality.

The true antagonist of the series' seasons

In his new home, Henry discovers how to manipulate all the monsters (Demogorgons, Tendrils and more) that inhabit it.

The big villain of the fourth season of Stranger Things creates the Mind Flayer – introduced as the antagonist of the second season of the series – a dark, nebulous and intelligent mass, capable of imprisoning the consciousness of all life forms in the Upside Down in a species Hive Mind (Collective Mind)

Vecna grows stronger with each victim, feeding on the traumas and ruin of its prey. His motivation is instinctive: to become the predator he was born to be, bringing ruin to Hawkins and the world.

Vecna in Stranger Things: the symbolism in the series' true villain
Vecna in a trance state while stalking his victims

Reality in the metanarrative

Vecna and Onze's narrative awakens deep thoughts about how villains help create good guys and vice versa.

In a distorted way, the natural aggressiveness of the Inverted World brings Vecna a sense of belonging and a favorable scenario for developing her own skills, building a strong duality that enriches the narrative with a powerful message.

Duality and antifragility

Vecna, in most aspects, is the exact opposite of Eleven, except for the fact that they share several powers and abilities. The villain is a version of the girl made directly for the Upside Down. The biggest challenge she could face to transcend her traumas and finally become a superhero.

The counterpoint between these two fantastic characters has even deeper ties in terms of values and vocation: she wants to save, he wants to destroy; she learned to socialize and receive support from friends to achieve her goals, he learned to dominate the minds of other monsters to do so.

Being antifragile means evolving in the face of adversity, and that is Onze and Vecna's greatest strength. The duality and antifragility of the characters allow us to draw parallels with the constructive or destructive uses we make of our own skills and the tools we have at our disposal:

One do It can facilitate the preparation of a meal or be used as a weapon. One aerospace engineer can project rockets or missiles. One brilliant mind It can begin work to mobilize nations to improve hunger indicators in the world or to start a war for global power.

Vecna in Stranger Things: the symbolism in the series' true villain
Henry and Eleven in Hawkins' laboratory

Vecna is also a message about mental health

In the series, all of Vecna's victims have some history of serious trauma and/or mental health problems. The villain searches for the perfect prey in an almost homage to the Brain, a device used by Professor Xavier in X-Men.

In the moments when Vecna invades people's already compromised minds and puts them into a trance, he begins to corrupt memories and thoughts, in addition to triggering triggers to destroy them psychologically. Once deeply shaken, people become easy targets for the villain's ritual sacrifice.

Vecna's main targets are teenagers, people at a crucial stage for development and maintenance of socio-emotional habits that are important for a healthy mental life.

Reality and fiction collide when we understand Vecna as an allegory for anxiety, depression and many other silent psychopathologies that compromise the perception of the world and motivation for life.

A art is a lens that makes us look at reality from a symbolic point of view.


Stranger Things is not about the supernatural, but about ordinary people. The series portrays, through its metanarrative, the psychological and emotional experience of children and adolescents in very difficult situations. And he does it masterfully.

Vecna will still be talked about a lot as people discover more of its nuances. The high number of people talking about this character on social media and in articles demonstrates the strength of symbolism for metanarratives in audiovisual experiences and its potential to convey powerful messages.

Guilherme Godoy

Guilherme Godoy

FILMMAKER • MUSICISTA • TECHX ARTIST • MARKETING

Tenho interesse em vários assuntos, mas o que me chama a atenção é a conexão entre arte, ciência e tecnologia. Adoro a ideia da internet e seu potencial de reunir o mundo em um só lugar. Sou inspirado pelas coisas que se desenrolam diante dos meus olhos, e é isso que me impulsiona a trabalhar duro e criar algo a partir delas.

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