Stranger Things cast in season 4

The Concern Over the Ages of the ‘Stranger Things’ Cast Is Starting To Get Silly

The concern that audiences and crew members are expressing over the ages of Stranger Things’ cast is starting to get a little silly. While this has been a topic of conversation for a while, some are now going as far as to suggest using AI to de-age the actors for the series final season.

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Stranger Things premiered in 2016 and, at the time, centered on a group of middle-school kids. The kids get wrapped up in supernatural occurrences in their hometown of Hawkins, Indiana, after their friend, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), goes missing. Over the seasons, the characters have aged, with season 4 following them as high school students. However, time has passed more slowly in-universe than in real life, especially considering that production hit delays during the COVID-19 pandemic and the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes.

The young stars—Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Caleb McLaughlin, Gaten Matarazzo, Sadie Sink, and Schnapp—revealed their ages were already a bit difficult to hide in season 4. Now, with most of them being between 19 and 22 and season 5 not having begun filming yet, viewers are starting to wonder how plausible it is for them to keep portraying high school students. While it is important for the cast to be able to portray their characters realistically, it does seem that this issue is being treated as more serious than it really is.

Stranger Things does not need to artificially de-age its cast

Dustin, Eddie, and Mike laugh in the Hawkins High cafeteria in Stranger Things season 4

Both the cast and crew have acknowledged the age discrepancies that Stranger Things season 5 will have to deal with. Initially, there were discussions of a possible time skip to explain the ages, but this idea was always a bit iffy given season 4’s cliffhanger ending. Most recently, director Shawn Levy indicated that production would simply do whatever it could to make the aging less noticeable. However, some took that to mean that the production would go as far as to use AI to de-age the actors.

Levy was asked if this was really what he meant during an interview with Deadline, and he quickly debunked the rumor. He stated, “No. I kind of was surprised that one sentence I said around this topic traveled so widely. The bottom line is, we know what we’re doing on this show. Our cast is brilliant. And these characters that the Duffers have created are so vivid. I’m not worried about everyone suiting back up and bringing them to life.”

However, we need to back up here a little bit because, even before Levy debunked it, how did people really see nothing off about the idea of de-aging a 20-year-old to look like a 16-year-old? Yes, this process is becoming more frequent in films and TV shows, but only in cases where significant de-aging is needed.

For example, in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, certain scenes de-aged Harrison Ford by about 40 years, to how he looked when the franchise first began. This process is believed to be very costly, though, and may have contributed to the film’s staggering $300 million budget. The lowest amount of years someone has been de-aged is probably Orlando Bloom, who was de-aged about 10 years for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. It’s questionable whether this process could even be fine-tuned enough to reflect such a slight age difference of four or five years.

Not only does de-aging not seem financially or even technologically feasible, but it’s also not necessary whatsoever. Yes, the younger cast looks a little bit old, but people might be getting carried away with how old they think these actors are. They’re in their early 20s or late teens. However, the way everyone’s carrying on, you’d think they’re going on 40 and couldn’t possibly portray high schoolers. It’s interesting how everyone has also forgotten that Charlie Heaton and Natalia Dyer were both in their early 20s when playing high school students Jonathan and Nancy, respectively, in Stranger Things’ first seasons.

Older actors playing high schoolers is nothing new. Jason Earles was almost 30, playing a high schooler in Hannah Montana, and Andrew Garfield was 28, portraying teenage Peter Parker. More recently, Tom Holland and Zendaya portrayed high schoolers in Spider-Man: No Way Home while in their early 20s, and there were no suggestions of de-aging. The point is it’s not that uncommon for someone in their 20s to be able to pass as a high schooler or vice versa, since no one ages the same way.

So, yes, the Stranger Things actors might look a bit old, but it’s not entirely implausible for them to play high schoolers. With the SAG-AFTRA strike ongoing and concerns over AI usage in film, there are a lot more pressing issues in Hollywood than worrying if the Stranger Things cast will look like whatever a high schooler is supposed to look like.

(featured image: Netflix)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.