An ode to Vecna: Stranger Things’ instantly iconic villain who became a cultural phenomenon
Season four belonged to One man and One man only
There was one addition to season four of Stranger Things that stood head and shoulders (and tangled vines weaving through a shoulder) above the rest as the best inclusion from The Duffer Brothers. It wasn’t Eddie Munson, despite the fact Joseph Quinn made him the most likeable tragic character of recent memory. It wasn’t Argyle, obviously, because he’s insufferable. No – it was Vecna. Vecna rolled into Stranger Things 4 exactly the way they intended: Iconic, terrifying, memorable and game changing. I present to thee an ode to Vecna, a character who has changed pop culture forever within the space of two months.
The whole world is under Vecna’s curse
I think at this point even my nan could tell you who Vecna was. And she’s dead. That’s how much of a cultural phenomenon this villain has become. Already, in the space of a few months, he’s become the figurehead for Stranger Things villains and has overtaken the likes of Demogorgons and Mind Flayers and Papas to become the villain of all villains when The Upside Down and Hawkins are brought into the equation.
What’s Vecna’s charm? Honestly, a huge part of it is down to the choice to get Vecna to speak. He feels like a real and tangible villain, compared to the sort of mindlessness or omnipresence of Demogorgons and The Mind Flayer. With Vecna, he has an accessibility that makes him both scarier and a villain who our heroes can physically scrap against.
Add into that the fact he can taunt, he can torment, he can verbally go right for the jugular – you’ve got Vecna easily becoming Stranger Things’ most recognisable and memorable foe in the space of a few episodes. The world is under Vecna’s curse. If you hear the clock chiming, run away.
He’s at the centre of a cultural phenomenon
This season, Stranger Things has had its largest impact on wider pop culture yet. And who is at the epicentre of that impact? Vecna, of course. Kate Bush having her resurging number one on the UK Singles Chart with Running Up That Hill after its heavy featuring in season four is unprecedented – and that song has been changed forever the way I listen to it now. Because all I will ever visualise it with is the sight of Max fleeing from the grips of Vecna.
With Running Up That Hill fever gripping the nation, Vecna’s impact takes hold wider. With the assistance of Spotify, the entire social media fandom of Stranger Things has been sharing the songs that would save them from Vecna. I love when a villain and his actions cross over into the popular discourse and where pop culture references just go hand in hand with the show. Like, people can reference Vecna now and even if you aren’t watching Stranger Things, you probably know exactly who he is. That is IMPACT.
Jamie Campbell Bower is amazing as Vecna
I think many people thought Vecna was CGI at first, but nope. Vecna is actor Jamie Campbell Bower in full prosthetics, and he’s all the scarier for it. When Jamie is playing Henry Creel / One as Brenner’s orderly in the flashbacks, he’s amazing – and the excellence of his performance is only amplified when you realise it’s him under all the prosthetics too.
Let’s face it, he’s camp
There’s a camp whimsy to Vecna that’s irresistible. On a show like Stranger Things, your villain needs a touch of camp. It’s the 80s and we’re doing sci-fi horror, camp is INTRINSIC. Vecna brings a Doctor Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer-esque quality to his villainy that Stranger Things has been sorely lacking.
The Mind Flayer was a great villain, but Vecna is better. He’s tangible and present, and now knowing that he has been pulling the strings the whole time makes his menace greater. The Mind Flayer was too all knowing and all powerful to have this impact, whereas Vecna has a personal vendetta against Eleven which means he is what the show needed: Her nemesis. Her true foe, and both of them hate each other perfectly. It really feels like two titans up against each other. I can’t WAIT for season five.
Stranger Things is available on Netflix now. For all the latest Netflix news, drops, quizzes and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook.
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