An analysis of all four seasons of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” has allegedly found that the ‘TV-14’-rated program has steadily introduced more explicit adult content with each new season, resulting in an increase of uncensored profanity and graphic violence, according to new data from The Parents Television and Media Council, which describes itself as a non-partisan advocacy group.
“Stranger Things” has become a hit with multi-generational appeal, with subscribers having viewed 286.7 million hours of season four, according to the PTC.
“For a program with such multi-generational appeal, we were shocked to see the rapid rise of explicit adult content that includes profanity and graphic violence without Netflix increasing the ‘TV-14’ age rating to ‘TV-MA’,” Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television and Media Council, said in a statement.
Winter contends that words like ‘f*ck’ and ‘sh*t’ — which air uncensored in “Stranger Things” — were once unthinkable for dialogue on programs rated as appropriate for 13- and 14-year-old children.
“But on Netflix they have become ubiquitous,” he said.
The Parents Television and Media Council analyzed the program content of each episode of all four seasons of “Stranger Things” utilizing content filtering data from the streaming video company VidAngel.
VidAngel, which identifies in specific detail every kind of explicit content that may be found in select entertainment content programs streamed across the internet, was successfully sued in 2019 for $62 million by Hollywood studios, which claimed its software had illegally violated their copyrights.
The major findings of the PTC’s report, Stranger and More Explicit Things, include:
- A 217% increase in profanity from season one to season four.
- A 739% increase in the frequency of the word “sh*t” from season one to season four.
- The show did not introduce the “f-word” until part-way through its second season, but then used it six times in season two, and five times in season three, and nine times in season four. It is useful here to remember that under the TVOMB content ratings system, the use of a single “f-word” on basic cable and expanded-basic cable television programming has traditionally triggered a ‘TV-MA’ content rating. And on broadcast television and radio, a single use of the “f-word” has run afoul of indecency laws enforced by the Federal Communications Commission.
- A 307% increase in violence from season one to season four. Of note, season four’s first episode contains depictions of dead children.
- A 705% increase in graphic violence from season one to season four.
Winters said the PTC report suggests that Netflix has opened the “profanity floodgates” for children — a finding he finds particularly troubling because Netflix streams programming to cell phones, laptop computers, pads and other devices that are routinely outside the purview of a parent. And setting parental controls on those media devices based on a content rating will fail to do what parents expect, according to Winter.
“Netflix’s apparent desire to attract a broad audience would explain why the company — which has never shied away from the ‘TV-MA’ rating — rated ‘Stranger Things’ ‘TV-14,'” Winter said. “However, either the content is being rated inaccurately, or there has been considerable ‘ratings creep’ with the criteria used to determine an age-based rating. Neither option allows parents to do their job effectively.”
He said parents deserve a ratings system that is transparent and consistent across platforms.
“Our report suggests there to be a vastly different standard between streaming content and broadcast content — even if that content is similarly-rated,” Winter added. “If a ‘TV-14’ doesn’t mean the same thing on Netflix as it does on CBS, it is of little to no value to parents. Netflix must re-evaluate its content ratings for ‘Stranger Things’ immediately.”
A Netflix representative was not immediately available for comment.