With his ability to excite both impassioned TikTokers making girlfriend POV videos and legendary heavy metal bands in the same breath, it’s clear that Stranger Things’s Eddie Munson is the moment.
Played by newcomer Joseph Quinn, Eddie appears midway through the opening episode of Stranger Things’ fourth season like a surge spike through an amp. Holding court in the high school cafeteria, flanked by his fellow Dungeons and Dragons players collectively known as The Hellfire Club, Eddie is all flowing locks and BDE. He stomps about in beat-up Reeboks and talks about society’s condemnation of kids like himself, nodding to the Satanic Panic crisis of the 1980s and the West Memphis Three’s Damien Echols, whom Eddie is loosely based on. His high-octane entrance is punctuated by his mockery of the mean jocks with a highly gif-able devil horns face, followed by exaggerated grace and an impish grin as he steps aside while two cheerleaders cross his path. “He’s so charismatic that it’s like, ‘How can you not like Eddie?” cocreator Ross Duffer asked Netflix.Com.
But it’s not just the swagger that makes Eddie so intriguing. There’s an urgent physicality to him that’s part rambunctious child, part Steven Tyler in his heyday. As the season progresses, Eddie climbs on things that could literally kill him in the Upside Down and leans a tad closer to Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) than what might be considered socially acceptable. He loves to gesticulate, drawing our attention to his hands—a body part that is undeniably erotic, just ask TikTok—which are adorned with a variety of no-nonsense rings that Quinn advocated for. Tattoos are a big thing with Eddie, too, and he makes sure haunted queen of Hawkins High Chrissy Cunningham (Grace Van Dien) gets a good look at the ones on his chest during their scene in the woods by casually pulling the neckline of his shirt down mid-convo. Slutty move, quite frankly.
Joseph Quinn as Eddie Munson.
Eddie Munson is that anomaly of a person you had a fixation with in high school because they seemed like a decent human being despite a rough-around-the-edges exterior. Eddie Munson will flirt with you by chewing his hair, then give you a discount on weed because you told him he was a nice guy, and he likes that you saw beneath his rebellious bravado. Eddie Munson is the reason straight men use the words man crush. They can project the best parts of themselves onto characters like him because he’s not Hollywood attractive in that who-is-the-best-Chris type of way. Story points like the estrangement with his father and his academic struggles make Eddie relatable, and man, he can really shred.
It’s true that this sensitive-bad-boy archetype has been a sexy staple in pop culture for decades, and it’s not difficult to draw a leather-jacketed through line from James Dean via Dylan McKay (Luke Perry, Beverly Hills 90210) directly to Eddie Munson. His most obvious fictional counterpart is caustic stoner John Bender (Judd Nelson) in The Breakfast Club, a character that Quinn couldn’t help being mindful of when preparing for the role. But despite his getting the girl in the end, Bender’s redemption doesn’t feel earned the way Eddie’s does. Perhaps this is because Eddie didn’t need to be redeemed by anyone; he was perfect to begin with. It’s why the grief over his death hits different, as Eddie goes to his grave a man falsely accused of murder and our hearts are still broken.
Audiences tend to gravitate toward characters like Eddie because the universal truth is that nobody ever feels like they fit in. But, unlike cute loner onscreen counterparts such as Dan Humphrey (Gossip Girl) or Jess Mariano (Gilmore Girls), who ostracize themselves because they feel superior, Eddie is just a self-effacing nerd at heart who is happiest shooting the shit with Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo).
It also helps that handsome actor Joseph Quinn seems like a sweetheart in real life, which can unavoidably bleed into the alchemy of a character and deepen our relationship to them as fans. An emotional video showing the actor tearing up at a recent Comic Con in London while a fan was kind to him following gross mistreatment by Con organizers went viral a couple of weeks ago. He’s been utterly charming on the press tour—specifically when paired with Jamie Campbell Bower—is considerate of shirtless costars, is an ostensibly good cook, and wears a chain necklace that could rival Connell Waldron’s. The drama surrounding Doja Cat sliding into Noah Schnapp’s DM’s to ask for Quinn’s Instagram handle began with this factual tweet, that honestly could have been written by any of us.
Eddie will be a character that remains in the cultural consciousness for decades to come. As of right now, the change.Org petition for him to come back from the dead in season 5 has over 77,000 signatures. And while we’re talking statistics, a cursory glance at TikTok reveals that the #EddieMunson hashtag has been viewed 9.8 billion times, compared with a more conventional leading man like Anthony Bridgerton at 1.2 billion or the internet’s latest unlikely it-boy Jeremy Allen White in The Bear at 85 million. Whatever Joseph Quinn does next (Bridgerton season 3?!) will be noteworthy, but Eddie Munson will always be the master of hearts.