Have you ever had a vivid memory of something that apparently didn’t happen? You could be experiencing the Mandela Effect. This phenomenon has existed since the 1980s, when a large population of people believed Nelson Mandela died in prison, even though he actually died in 2013. Since then, there have been countless examples of false memories — events that didn’t occur, logos that seemingly changed, or spellings that people remember differently. The latest Mandela Effect example comes from Netflix’s Stranger Things Season 1, which debuted back in 2016. Here’s what fans are debating.
A TikTok rumor claimed the Duffer Brothers removed a Jonathan scene in ‘Stranger Things’ Season 1
It all started, as many things do, on TikTok. Fan theories suggested that Stranger Things creators Matt and Ross Duffer may have retroactively removed scenes in season 1 that could have painted Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton) in a negative light. In particular, many fans insisted that a scene once showed Jonathan photographing Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) shirtless without her permission. However, that scene doesn’t appear to exist now.
The scene in question allegedly hailed from season 1 episode 2, “The Weirdo on Maple Street.” While searching the woods for clues about his brother’s disappearance, Jonathan spotted Nancy at Steve Harrington’s (Joe Keery) house. He photographed her heading to Steve’s bedroom, where she started to undress. Many viewers believed Jonathan then hesitated before raising his camera once again to snap the shirtless photo. In reality, he turned his attention to Barb (Shannon Purser) at the pool.
This fan theory gained so much traction that GQ even included it in an article questioning the morality of retroactively editing a TV show. However, the Stranger Things writers have since cleared things up — sort of.
‘Stranger Things’ fans are debating a Mandela Effect after the writers denied the scene removal
As seen above, the official Stranger Thingers Writers’ Room Twitter account shared a PSA that “no scenes from previous seasons have ever been cut or re-edited. And they never will be.” When a fan asked if that included the “Jonathan spying” scene, the account said it did. This has debunked theories of the Duffers removing the Jonathan scene completely, but it also sparked an entirely new debate.
Now, fans wonder if this is an example of the Mandela Effect. A large population of viewers seem to agree that they remember the scene, but it’s not shown anywhere — not even on DVD copies of Stranger Things Season 1.
“I feel like y’all are gaslighting me saying Jonathan didn’t take those pictures of Steve and Nancy,” one fan replied.
“I think everyone believing you cut those Jonathan scenes from s1ep2 is just an example of the Mandela Effect,” another person added. “The scene hasn’t changed at all, but people’s memory of it has.”
On the flip side, other fans insisted the scene was always that way. One user provided a possible explanation for all of this: Viewers never saw Jonathan take the photo of Nancy, but he did have a shirtless photo of her developing in the darkroom. So, fans could be merging those moments together in their memories.
“They’re telling the truth. Just pulled out the Blu-Ray (purchased the day it was released), watched the scene: WE NEVER SEE HIM TAKE IT,” another person tweeted.
The Duffer Brothers previously admitted to ‘George Lucas-ing’ moments in the show
Of course, some fans had a hard time believing the Writers’ Room because of a previous statement directly from the Duffer Brothers. In a June interview with Variety, the creators admitted they’ve “George Lucas’d” — or went back and changed — Stranger Things scenes. They planned to do so again to fix a continuity error regarding Will’s birthday.
“We have George Lucas’d things also that people don’t know about,” the brothers said.
Stranger Things is now streaming on Netflix.