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Chrissy Cunningham was a recurring character in Stranger Things, being introduced in the fourth season. She was the head cheerleader and most popular girl at Hawkins High School. She was portrayed by Grace Van Dien.

History

Chrissy Elizabeth Cunningham was born on June 13, 1968, to Phillip and Laura Cunningham. She had an unnamed younger brother. Chrissy began attending Hawkins Middle School in the fall of 1979. During her time at Hawkins Middle, she participated in the school's talent show doing a cheerleading routine alongside Eddie Munson, who played guitar in his metal band, Corroded Coffin. Though they were both impressed by their respective performances, they were not close, and their relationship was essentially severed once Eddie began attending Hawkins High in the fall of 1980, though they shared no animosity. Over the course of her high school years, Chrissy became the "queen of Hawkins High", becoming head cheerleader of Hawkins High Cheerleading Squad and also the girlfriend of Jason Carver, a star member of the school's basketball team. However, alongside her cheery and popular nature, Chrissy began to suffer from an eating disorder as a result of her mother's berating and the pressure of the Hawkins High Cheer Team. By her senior year, Chrissy began seeing the school's counselor, Ms. Kelley.

1986

On March 21, after the pep rally, she left counselor Ms. Kelley's office and passed Max Mayfield in the hall, who was on her way to the office. She later threw up in the bathroom and was heard by Max who asked her if she was okay. She lied about her condition and told Max to leave her alone. When someone banged on her stall door, she yelled in frustration, believing it to be the person that asked. But instead, she heard her mother's voice, taunting her and mimicking Chrissy’s psychologically distressing memories. When feet with rotted flesh appeared in front of her stall, she screamed, landing backwards on the floor. The door shook and as Chrissy continued to hear her mother's taunting voice, she sobbed on the floor with her hands covering her ears. As soon as the voice fell silent, she fled the room.

Later that day, Chrissy left the school grounds, walking to a clearing in the woods where she had arranged to purchase drugs from Eddie Munson. To her surprise, she heard a clock strike. She turned around and saw something truly bizarre: it was a grandfather clock, lodged in the side of a tree trunk. She then watched in horror as its glass face shattered, countless tiny spiders emerging from within. Frightened, Chrissy backed away and bumped into Eddie. He apologized for scaring her and asked her if she was alright. She turned around to find that the clock had disappeared.

Eddie and Chrissy discussed the sale of marijuana to Chrissy. Eddie told Chrissy that he would sell her a half an ounce for $20. Still in shock from her vision, Chrissy did not give him her full attention and was startled by a squirrel. Growing impatient and believing his presence was the cause of her unease, Eddie told her that she didn’t have to buy anything and that he could leave. Chrissy protested, however, and then asked him if he had ever felt like he was “losing his mind.” Eddie jokingly replied “on a daily basis," and admitted that he had not expected Chrissy, a popular head cheerleader and "the queen of Hawkins High," to do a drug deal with him. He and Chrissy talked about how they had met before in middle school and the two relived old memories of the talent show they had both participated in. Eddie ended up offering her a discount on the half-ounce of marijuana, but Chrissy hesitated, then asked if he had anything stronger.

That night, Chrissy and Eddie were seen by Max Mayfield as they exited Eddie’s van and entered his trailer. Inside, Eddie apologised to Chrissy for having a messy house. She asked him if he lived there alone and he explained how he lived with his uncle who was not at home. Chrissy asked Eddie how long it took for the drugs to kick in and he answered that it depended on how she used them. She then asked him if he was sure that he had the drug she wanted and Eddie left her to search for it. While he was gone, Chrissy heard the clock again. She slowly walked towards the noise and looked out of Eddie’s window. Closing the curtains in terror, she called to Eddie and asked if he had found the drugs. When she received no response, she cried out again. After being met with silence, Chrissy rushed into the corridor, searching and calling for Eddie. Chrissy was now no longer in the small trailer but instead in a larger house. She saw her mother sitting in a chair, sewing a dress, and called out to her in desperation. Her mother's voice changed into a deep, creepy groan. When the woman turned around, she revealed a demonic face. Chrissy found herself in another corridor, hyperventilating as she stood by the door. Chrissy tugged at the door to keep it shut when her “mother” tried to open it. Her mother yelled at her to open the door and Chrissy screamed in terror at her horrific voice. When the door broke, Chrissy fled down a flight of stairs where she found her dad. Chrissy’s father was sitting in a chair, but when he turned around, his eyes were gouged out and his mouth was sewn shut. Chrissy screamed.

Eddie found Chrissy standing in the same room where he had left her, but now she was in a catatonic state. Eddie approached her, trying to awaken her, but Chrissy was unresponsive. He yelled her name, trying to wake her from her trance; his attempts were unsuccessful. The lights in his trailer began flickering. In Chrissy's trance, she also saw the lights flickering. Chrissy heard an ominous voice calling her name. She watched as a fleshy creature walked down the stairs. Chrissy ran, leaving her mumbling “dad," and stopped when she heard loud buzzing coming from what looked like a dining room. The room was infested with spiders and flies covering various dishes of food on a table. She ran past the room and pulled open a set of doors, finding a barricade that prevented escape. Chrissy banged on the barricaded door, screaming for help.

Eddie was still calling her name and trying to wake her from her catatonic state. He shook her and told her to wake up. He told her that he was starting to feel afraid and that he did not want her to play jokes on him. Back in her trance, the voice calling out to Chrissy began coming closer. She saw the silhouette of a tall creature coming towards her. It groaned as it stomped through the hallway. Chrissy watched it, trembling in fear. When it reached her, it touched her face and told her to stop crying. The creature told Chrissy that it was time for her suffering to end and reached its claw over her face. Back in Eddie's trailer, Chrissy began to levitate, and was slammed to the ceiling, back first. Her limbs began to violently twist and snap, as well as her jaw before her eyes then burst. Eddie fled in terror as her body dropped to the floor.

Legacy

As her body was discovered in Eddie’s trailer, Eddie was considered the prime suspect in her murder, as well as in the recent murder of Fred, and as such, the entire town launched a manhunt against Eddie, especially Chrissy’s former boyfriend, Jason who believed Eddie used a Satanic ritual to kill Chrissy and Fred.

Later, Max Mayfield, Steve Harrington, and Dustin Henderson snuck into Ms. Kelly's office in search of Chrissy's file. They found it along with Fred's and analysed the symptoms she has been experiencing before being murdered by Vecna. One of the shown symptoms was headaches, which was also shared with Fred when Max compared the files. Additionally, both Chrissy and Fred had had traumatic experiences and were seeing the same counselor before they died. Max had also been seeing Ms. Kelly due to her nightmares of Billy's death, and she, too, had been experiencing the same kind of symptoms that Chrissy and Fred had. Realizing that Chrissy's symptoms forewarned her death, Max recognized that she would likely face the same fate if she and her friends did not find a cure in time.

Sam Owens showed Eleven a picture of Chrissy's corpse along with Fred Benson and Patrick Mckinney, suggesting that Vecna was letting them know he was back.

During his time in the Upside Down, Eddie dedicated his solo of "Master of Puppets" by Metallica to Chrissy, which he played in order to lure the Demobats away from the old Creel house where Vecna lurked in.

Personality

At first glance, Chrissy was a typical super popular cheerleader type; upon closer inspection, however, she was holding onto a deep-rooted darkness as she suffered from an eating disorder, most likely bulimia (though possibly binge-purge anorexia). Her mother is seen to be the root of her eating disorder and body image, forcing her to maintain a “perfect” image while criticizing any perceived flaws. This presumably led to the development of Chrissy’s eating disorder, as her mother was constantly wanting Chrissy to have a good appearance while keeping her under a tight thumb.[3]

Chrissy would hide her inner struggles from her friends and especially from her boyfriend, Jason. Though on the surface, the two appeared to share a loving relationship, in reality, they were fairly distant from one another. While Jason was unable to discern that something was bothering Chrissy, Eddie Munson made note of it immediately during their drug deal, despite not having had a conversation with her in years.

While Jason expressed irritation towards Eddie’s antics, labelling him a “prick” and a “freak”, Chrissy was kind to others despite pre-existing bias. Though she was harsh to Max Mayfield, she acted friendly towards Eddie Munson despite the labels given to him by their fellow classmates. Chrissy's good attitude and typically sweet nature would affect the people around her, making her death at the hands of Vecna even more tragic.

Relationships

Familial

In the visions of her trauma induced by Vecna, Chrissy’s mother appeared both mentally and emotionally abusive towards her daughter - and it’s implied her comments about Chrissy’s figure caused her daughter to develop her eating disorder. It’s unknown if Laura was also physically abusive to Chrissy, though in one of her visions Chrissy heard her mother threatening to “gut her like a pig”.

In spite of the abuse she inflicted upon her daughter, Laura spoke at her funeral and appeared devastated by her death - believing the rumors that her daughter’s murder was at the hands of a Satanist cult.

Not much was known about Chrissy’s relationship to her father. Her mother Laura appeared to be the more active parent, being the one to speak at their daughter’s funeral why he silently stood by her side. His meek nature was further implied by Chrissy’s vision where her father’s eyes were gouged out and his lips sewn shut - implying he turned a blind eye to his wife’s abuse of their daughter, and never spoke up against it.

Non-Familial

Jason's relationship with Chrissy was only initially believed to be healthy and loving. It is revealed however, that he might not have known her as well as he believed. While she reciprocated Jason’s declaration of his feelings at the pep rally and he made an affection gesture towards her during the basketball game, the two did not share any on screen onscreen interactions beyond that. Despite their love for each other, it is revealed she never mentioned her troubled home life and inner struggles to Jason. After Jason and his team won the championship game, they celebrated on their own at the abandoned Benny's Burgers restaurant, Jason believed that Chrissy went home after the game and would perhaps meet back up with them. However, she instead planned to buy drugs from Eddie Munson to help her cope with her headaches and psychotic episodes. Though she did not realise it, these episodes were the fault of Vecna preying on her trauma, and eventually led to Chrissy being killed by Vecna, leaving Jason devastated over her death and desperate to avenge her death. While ignorant to Chrissy’s trauma and personal struggles during her life, Jason’s love for her, guilt, grief, and anger over her death sent him spiraling - and he believed that Eddie had killed Chrissy in a Satanic sacrifice.

In middle school, Eddie and Chrissy first met during a talent show when he played in his band Corroded Coffin while she did a cheerleading act. Years later, they met again in a forest for a drug trade, where it is revealed throughout high school she has forgotten who he is. When he realized she was uncomfortable (due to having seen the grandfather clock), after assuring her that she could leave, Eddie attempted to make her laugh and feel at ease throughout their interaction. Ultimately, it worked. Unlike his previous attitude in the school cafeteria, Eddie was genuinely friendly and caring to Chrissy; in the forest, he picked up on her fear right away and attempted to redirect her to distract her from her anxiety, and when she became unresponsive in his trailer, he was terrified, and attempted to bring her out from her trance. In turn, Chrissy also appeared to be genuinely caring of Eddie, laughing at his attempts to make her laugh and happily recalling the memories of them in middle school. Eddie was naturally horrified when Chrissy was killed in front of him, and later expressed his survivor's guilt at having run away from the scene instead of attempting to help her. In the end, he dedicated his solo to Chrissy while in the Upside Down.

Appearances

Season Four appearances
The Hellfire Club Vecna's Curse* The Monster and the Superhero
Dear Billy* The Nina Project The Dive
The Massacre at Hawkins Lab* Papa The Piggyback*

*Can be seen via corpse in "Vecna's Curse"
*Can be seen via flashback in "Dear Billy", "The Massacre at Hawkins Lab", and "The Piggyback".

Trivia

  • Chrissy's first name might be derived to Chrissie Watkins, the infamous first victim of the shark in the 1975 film, Jaws, one of the Duffer Brother's favorite films. Her surname might also be a reference to Arnie Cunningham, a character from the 1983 film Christine, another movie that inspired Stranger Things.
  • Chrissy’s role in the conflict between Jason and Eddie is possibly inspired by the 1990 film Edward Scissorhands, one of the breakout films of Stranger Things star Winona Ryder. In the film, Anthony Michael Hall’s character of “Jim” is the boyfriend of Ryder’s character “Kim”, and perceives the titular character as a “freak” - similar to Jason’s perception of Eddie. Like Jason does with Eddie, Jim comes to believe Edward intentionally hurt Kim and leads an angry mob against him - resulting in his own death during the final confrontation.
  • Her death mirrors the death of Tina, the first onscreen victim in 1984's A Nightmare on Elm Street.
  • HD screen capture of Chrissy’s guidance file, clarifying her birth year.

    Although her birthday is given in her medical file, there was initially some debate among fans about her age given the blurry nature of the numbers. Some fans believed her birth was in June of 1969, which would have made her 16 years at the time of her death. However, the belief her birthday is listed as June of 1968 is more likely, especially when you consider key character details, such as her position as captain of the cheer squad, her '86' necklace, and the fact that she and Eddie Munson were in middle school at the same time. As Eddie was repeating his senior year for a third time, this would indicate her being in 6th grade when he was in 8th grade, and would also mean that she was less than three months away from her 18th birthday at her time of death. The 17-18 year age range was also confirmed by Grace Van Dien on one of her Twitch streams.[4] 4K screen captures of her file eventually confirmed the 1968 birth year.
  • The Duffer Brothers admitted they wished they had written more scenes with Eddie and Chrissy, as they didn’t expect the chemistry between the two to be strong, and also didn’t anticipate how well Joseph Quinn and Grace Van Dien would get on with each other during filming.
  • Both Joseph Quinn and Grace Van Dien[5] confirmed in recent interviews that Chrissy and Eddie were romantically intrigued with each other, which is why Chrissy felt safe to walk with Eddie to his trailer on the night of her death.
    • Joseph Quinn has confirmed in an interview[6] that Eddie had feelings for Chrissy, stating "I think he might have done! I think kind of…yes, I think he did [have a crush on Chrissy]. I think, playing with archetypes, especially in American high school, I don’t think you’d ever put those two together. But they get to know each other more in episode one and there’s kind of potential there, and then something horrible happens. I think the concert, for him, was more about avenging her as a person rather than anything romantic but I think there could have been the potential for a liaison of some kind. I think he did," when asked. [7]
      • Quinn reaffirmed the sentiment in another interview, confirming it had been his intent to portray romantic chemistry in his character’s scenes with Chrissy - stating “She had to feel safe enough with him to go back to his trailer. And he’s a pretty intimidating guy when you first meet him, so I think it made sense for there to be some romantic intrigue there. And to also spark Mason’s character Jason’s suspicion. It felt like the right way to go there, I think.” [8]
        • When asked about the relationship at the Showmasters Comic Con, Quinn stated that although the two may seem like a “weird couple”, he was pleased that people picked up on the romantic undertones of their scenes. When asked if he felt they should have gotten together had they survived the season, his answer was “They should. It would be lovely to see them.” [9]. In an interview with Netflix, Quinn elaborated that “ Eddie would have to step on Jason’s shoes pretty intensely. It would be lovely if there was a world in which [they could] be a pretty uncouth couple at Hawkins High that I think might shake things up a little bit.”
          • Quinn also described the pair in an interview as “having been on the outskirts of falling in love”, stating that is how he and Van Dien interpreted and played the interactions between the characters. [10]
  • When asked at the 2022 Montreal Comic Convention if they thought Chrissy and Jason truly loved each other, Grace Van Dien and Mason Dye expressed the belief that while they did care for each other and were each other’s high school sweethearts, it was not unlikely that Chrissy could have been swayed by Eddie, as the Chrissy that Jason loved was his own incomplete perception of her. In the same response, Dye stated his personal opinion that Chrissy deserved better than Jason.[11] Van Dien later remarked at Galaxy Con Raleigh 2022 that had Chrissy lived she likely would have left Jason for Eddie by the second episode of the season. [12]

Behind the scenes

Her character was officially revealed on June 9, 2021 via the show's official social media accounts along with several other new characters.[13]

References

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