Number tattoos inspired by 'Stranger Things' spark backlash

Fans of the popular show Stranger Things have been tattooing numbers into their wrists, reminding many of the Holocaust.

 CEO of Netflix Ted Sarandos poses with show creators Matt and Ross Duffer at a special event for the television series "Stranger Things" at Raleigh Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles, California, US, May 27, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/MARIO ANZUONI)
CEO of Netflix Ted Sarandos poses with show creators Matt and Ross Duffer at a special event for the television series "Stranger Things" at Raleigh Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles, California, US, May 27, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MARIO ANZUONI)

With the fourth season of Stranger Things airing last week, a trend has risen of people tattooing their wrists with numbers as a nod to the show.

One of the main characters in the show, Eleven, is raised in a lab with other children from birth. The children in this lab are given numbers instead of names, and the numbers are tattooed into their wrists. 

This is where Eleven's name stems from. When the other characters meet her, the closest thing she has to a name is her number by which she is know throughout the show with some characters nicknaming her El.

Many fans have tattooed numbers on their wrists as a nod to the show and posted them privately on their social media, but the official Instagram page for Stranger Things brought the tattoo trend into more widespread attention when it put up stories showcasing the fans' photos of their number tattoos.

Why the tattoo is controversial

 HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR Artemis Miron shows her Auschwitz death camp number tattooed on her arm at her home in Kfar Saba in 2020. (credit: NIR ELIAS/REUTERS) HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR Artemis Miron shows her Auschwitz death camp number tattooed on her arm at her home in Kfar Saba in 2020. (credit: NIR ELIAS/REUTERS)

For many, this trend is disturbing, as is the fact that the official social media for the show is promoting it.

The discomfort with the trend stems from the Holocaust. When the Jews arrived at Auschwitz Birkenau, they were given numbers in an attempt to strip them of their identities and dehumanize them, and these numbers were tattooed into their arms.

For Holocaust survivors from Auschwitz, their number is a constant reminder of the horrors they were put through during the Holocaust and is therefore a sensitive topic to many.

Many took to Twitter to condemn the tattoos with some calling on the show's creators to discourage the trend while others addressed fans who had gotten a tattoo of that kind or were considering it.

One user replied to tweets where people showed off their tattoo with a thread explaining why it was insensitive.

The thread sparked a debate with various people responding to thread to ask whether specific numbers such as dates or time stamps were offensive as well.

Further backlash came after a prison used for filming was turned into a Stranger Things-themed Airbnb. Lukiškės Prison in Vilnius, Lithuania was used to film scenes in the new season in which one of the characters is in prison. The real prison was constructed in the early 20th century and was used a few decades later by the Nazis in WWII to incarcerate Jews.

When filming of the season was finished, the prison was redecorated to a Stranger Things theme, and now people can sleep there.

The Jerusalem Post reached out to the Stranger Things page as well as to the Duffer brothers who created the show for comment, but neither had responded by the time of publication.