What is the controversy around getting Eleven’s tattoo from ‘Stranger Things?’

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Netflix’s sci-fi mega-hit Stranger Things is one of the best television shows on the streaming platform, and as a result, the series has a tendency to influence its viewers to copy its themes – which include Halloween costumes and folks buying lots of Eggo Waffles. And while those imitations are light and harmless, a new trend is raising some serious concern.

The new trend, which has been seen on multiple social media apps like Twitter and TikTok, includes folks getting numeral tattoos that match Jane “Eleven” Hopper’s “011” tattoo in Stranger Things – which is seen very early on in the first season and is located on Eleven’s inner wrist. And while the devotion from fans is usually seen as admirable, this latest trend is undoubtedly troubling.

Why is the tattoo harmful?

The problem is that these wrist tattoos are similar to Holocaust numbering tattoos, where Jewish people were given the tattoos in concentration camps and prisons to strip away their value as a person; meaning the tattoos were used to dehumanize them. Instead of seeing Jewish people as actual human beings, they were referred to as their numbers and purposefully stripped of the very identities and names that made them who they were. Which is why it’s incredibly harmful that folks are now getting tattoos of numbers on their own wrists. This thread by user @sapphicsvoid on Twitter explains its harmful nature:

As more of Eleven’s backstory is revealed, fans learn that Eleven was given the “001” tattoo while she was a test subject at Hawkins Lab under the direction of Dr. Martin Brenner, who tattooed Eleven himself, along with many other children that were test subjects in a government experiment.

Just the same as Jewish people in the Holocaust, Eleven was stripped of her personal identity and forced to join a group of others who experienced the same abusive treatment. Her birth name, Jane, was never mentioned to her by Dr. Brenner, and instead she was referred to as Eleven – making her the eleventh test subject at the lab.

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Image via Netflix

By branding his subjects, Dr. Brenner was effectively dehumanizing the children that were trapped in Hawkins Lab and forcing them to undergo tests. So while getting a tattoo to show admiration for a television show is fair, getting a tattoo that represents a realization of past genocide and a reminder of dehumanization is definitely harmful. Besides, there’s plenty of other Stranger Things tattoos that members of the fandom can get that are not harmful in any way – like a Demogorgon or of Steve Harrington’s massive head of hair.