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Chrissy Cunningham, portrayed by Grace Van Dien, was a recurring character in Stranger Things, appearing in the first episode of the fourth season.

A resident of Hawkins, Indiana, Chrissy fit the mold of an archetypal uber-popular girl; by 1986, she was lead cheerleader at her local high school and was dating Jason Carver, captain of the basketball team. However, beneath the seemingly perfect surface, Chrissy was struggling, desperately trying to hide her depression and issues with self-image stemming from her mother's emotional abuse.[2]

Things went from bad to worse for Chrissy when she began to see disorienting and disturbing hallucinations; in the final of these visions, Chrissy saw herself being chased by a terrifying humanoid hailing from another dimension. A friend of hers, Eddie Munson, tried to wake her from her trance, but he was powerless to intervene as the creature psychically killed her from across dimensions.

In the aftermath of Chrissy's murder, a gate to the other dimension slowly started to open up in the spot she had died. Meanwhile, Eddie and Jason both vowed to avenge Chrissy's death, but went about it wildly differently. Jason presumed Chrissy's death was part of Eddie's 'sick game', while Eddie joined forces with "the Party", who were already well-acquainted with the horrors of the Upside Down. After the opening of the fourth and final gate, the gate at Chrissy's murder site expanded to join the other three gates at the center of Hawkins.

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What is the name of the character Grace Van Dien plays in Stranger Things? toggle section
Grace Van Dien plays the character Chrissy Cunningham in Stranger Things. Chrissy is a popular cheerleader in Hawkins, Indiana, and appears in the fourth season of the show.
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Who is the cheerleader in Stranger Things season 4? toggle section
Chrissy Cunningham is a cheerleader in season 4 of Stranger Things. She's a new character introduced in this season and has quickly become a fan favorite.
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In season 4 of Stranger Things, Jason Carver is the captain of the Hawkins Basketball Team and the boyfriend of Chrissy Cunningham, the lead cheerleader at Hawkins High School. Their relationship takes a tragic turn when Chrissy meets an untimely death, leading Jason to believe that Eddie Munson was her killer.
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What is the significance of Chrissy Cunningham's character in the storyline of Stranger Things? toggle section
Chrissy Cunningham, played by Grace Van Dien, is a recurring character in Stranger Things, introduced in the fourth season. She is a resident of Hawkins, Indiana, and fits the archetype of the uber-popular girl. By 1986, she was the lead cheerleader at her local high school and was dating Jason Carver, the basketball team captain. However, beneath her seemingly perfect surface, there's more to Chrissy than meets the eye. She struggles with body image and an abusive mother, and seeks respite in Eddie Munson, who sells her drugs. Due to her trauma, Chrissy experiences strange visions and comes under attack by the mysterious Vecna.
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History[]

Background[]

Cunningham Family

The Cunningham family portrait

Chrissy Elizabeth Cunningham was born to Phillip and Laura Cunningham in either 1967 or 1968, and supposedly had a younger brother.

During Chrissy's time at Hawkins Middle School, she participated in the school's talent show doing a cheerleading routine alongside Eddie Munson, who played guitar in his band, Corroded Coffin. Though they were both impressed by their respective performances, their relationship didn't develop any further, in part due to the older Eddie starting high school shortly after.[5]

Over the course of her years at Hawkins High School, Chrissy became the "queen of Hawkins High", becoming the lead of the cheer squad and the girlfriend of Jason Carver, captain of the Tigers. However, despite her cheerful and confident outward persona, Chrissy began to suffer from depressive symptoms as a result of her mother's emotional abuse, developing an eating disorder due to issues with self-image.[2][5] By her senior year, Chrissy began seeing the school's counselor, Ms. Kelley.[5]

1986[]

On March 21, Jason held a pep rally in advance of the Tigers' game against the Falcons; during the speech, Jason exclaimed his love for Chrissy, who blew a kiss at him in return.

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. In the girls' bathroom, Chrissy threw up in a toilet cubicle, and was heard by Max, who asked if Chrissy was okay. Chrissy, irritated, lied and told Max to leave her alone.

Moments later, Chrissy heard someone knock on the cubicle door, prompting her to yell in frustration, believing it to be the same person. The lights above Chrissy started to flicker erratically; Chrissy suddenly heard her mother's voice, taunting her. When strange inhuman feet momentarily appeared outside of the door, 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.

Chrissy sees the clock

Chrissy sees the grandfather clock

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 the strike of a clock upon reaching the clearing. 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; she had been hallucinating.

The drug deal

Meeting with Eddie

Sitting at a bench, Eddie and Chrissy discussed the marijuana purchase, with Eddie telling her he could sell 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 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 was in attendance at the basketball game, in which the Tigers prevailed against the Falcons. However, Chrissy chose against spending time with Jason following the game, and decided to meet Eddie and follow through with her drug purchase. Max Mayfield, who lived in Forest Hills Trailer Park, witnessed Chrissy and Eddie exit Eddie's van and enter his trailer. Inside, Eddie apologised to Chrissy for the mess, before realizing he had lost track of the "Special K" he was planning to sell her, prompting him to scour the rest of the trailer looking for it.

While Eddie was gone, Chrissy heard the eerie clock strike once 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, guttural groan, and when she turned around, her face appeared skeletal and dissicated. Horrified, Chrissy dashed down another corridor, tugging at a door to keep it shut when her “mother” tried to open it. When the door broke, Chrissy fled down a flight of stairs where she saw her father sitting in a chair; however, when he turned around, his eyes were gouged out and his mouth was sewn shut, prompting Chrissy to scream.

Back in the real world, Eddie found Chrissy standing where he had left her, but now clearly in a strange trance. Eddie approached her and tried to wake her, repeatedly yelling her name, but to no avail. The lights in the trailer began flickering.

In Chrissy's hallucination, she also saw the lights flickering, while also hearing a guttural voice calling her name. She watched as a fleshy creature walked down the stairs. Chrissy ran, and stopped when she heard loud buzzing coming from what looked like a dining room. The room was infested with black widow 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.[5]

Legacy[]

ChrissyCunningham Corpse

Chrissy's corpse in Vecna's Mind Lair

Since Chrissy's body was discovered in Eddie's trailer, Eddie quickly became the prime suspect in her murder, as well as the subsequent murder of Fred Benson.[6][7] Jason and his basketball teammates believed Eddie had killed Chrissy "as part of his sick game", and with little hesitation, launched a manhunt against Eddie. The Hawkins Police suspected Eddie was involved in Chrissy's death, though Chief Powell was reluctant to jump to conclusions. However, Eddie's uncle, Wayne Munson, maintained that his nephew was innocent.[6]

In Vecna's mindscape, a presumably illusionary version of Chrissy's corpse was on display, tied to a pillar via vines.[6] Vecna would later do the same to Fred Benson and Patrick McKinney.[8]

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.[7][9]

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.[7]

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 Creel House, where Vecna dwelled.[8]

Personality[]

At first glance, Chrissy seemed like a typical super popular cheerleader; upon closer inspection, however, she held onto a deep-rooted darkness as she suffered from an eating disorder, most likely bulimia (though possibly binge-purge anorexia). Her mother was seen to be the root of her eating disorder and bodily 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 constantly wanted Chrissy to maintain a good appearance while keeping her under a tight thumb.[10]

Chrissy would hide her inner struggles from her friends and especially from her boyfriend, Jason. While the two appeared to share a loving relationship on the surface, they were fairly distant from one another in reality. While Jason was unable to discern whatever was bothering Chrissy, Eddie Munson immediately made note of it 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 slightly 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 affectionate gesture towards her during the basketball game, the two did not share any public 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 realize 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 the end, Jason's grief over Chrissy's death led him to become incredibly deranged where he refused to believe or accept that his girlfriend had struggles, thinking Chrissy would only turn to him for help rather than anyone else, leading Jason to eventually be killed.

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*

*Appears as a corpse in "Vecna's Curse"
*Can be seen via flashback in "Dear Billy", "The Massacre at Hawkins Lab", "Papa" and "The Piggyback"
*Can be seen in a photograph in "The Monster and the Superhero" and "The Nina Project"

Family tree[]

note: family trees are only visible on desktop.

PhillipCunningham
Phillip Cunningham
 
Laura Cunningham
Laura Cunningham
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Chrissy ST4
Chrissy Cunningham
 
Chrissy's brother
Chrissy's brother


Gallery[]

View Gallery For this subject's gallery, see Chrissy Cunningham/Gallery.


Trivia[]

Chrissy's age[]

ChrissyFileHD

HD screen capture of Chrissy's guidance file, listing her possible birth date.

  • Chrissy's exact age and date of birth is a point of contention:
    • It is generally agreed that Chrissy is either 17 or 18, for the following reasons:
      • She wears an '86' necklace, indicating she was set to graduate in 1986. Going off this alone, this would suggest Chrissy would be 17 or 18 at her time of death.
      • A 17-to-18 age range was suggested by Grace Van Dien on one of her Twitch streams.[citation needed]
    • In "The Monster and the Superhero", Max looks through Chrissy's counseling file, which lists her birthday as June 13, 1968, which would make her 17 years and 9 months of age at her time of death.
      • Though there was some initial confusion about the exact number due to blurry screenshots, enhanced screen captures eventually confirmed the presented date to be June 13, 1968.[1]
    • However, the original casting call for various Season 4 characters, dating back to 2020, described Chrissy as being 18.[2]
      • Van Dien has maintained that Chrissy already turned 18 before the events of "The Hellfire Club"; she has cited the casting call as evidence for this belief, specifically stating that Chrissy was born between February and March 1968. In since-deleted posts on her Tumblr account, Van Dien suggested the counselor file date was a production error, and a result of miscommunication between the writers and the prop department.[11]
Due to the wiki's rules surrounding canonicity, Chrissy is listed as between 17 and 18 years of age.[canon-rationale 1]

General trivia[]

  • Chrissy's first name may be derived from Chrissie Watkins, the infamous first victim of the shark in the 1975 film, Jaws, one of the Duffer Brothers' 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. Like Tina, Chrissy is the first seen onscreen to be suffering from dreams. Both Chrissy's and Tina's deaths also wrongfully implicate the man that was with them at the time of their deaths.
  • 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 - going so far as to say they may have spared the character her fate had they filmed their forest interaction prior to her death scene.[12]
  • Although she was dating Jason Carver, it has been confirmed by Netflix that Chrissy developed a small crush on Eddie over the course of their interactions with each other.[13] The company’s Italian social media accounts went so far to describe the dynamic as love at first sight.[14] Both Joseph Quinn and Grace Van Dien 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.[15][16]
    • Joseph Quinn has elaborated in an interview 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.[17]
      • 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."[18]
        • 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."[19] 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.[20]
  • 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.[21] 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.[22]
  • The similarly named Chrissy Carpenter is name-dropped by Hopper in "The Vanishing of Will Byers". The name is also present in the script for the Montauk Pilot.

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.[23]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 In "The Monster and the Superhero", Max looks through Chrissy's counseling file, which gives her birthday and address.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "Stranger Things Casting Plenty of New Roles for Season 4". What's on Netflix. March 2nd, 2020.
  3. Dr. Owens's files in "Papa"
  4. "Grace van Dien and Mason Dye at Montreal ComicCon"
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 "The Hellfire Club"
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Vecna's Curse"
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "The Monster and the Superhero"
  8. 8.0 8.1 "The Piggyback"
  9. "Dear Billy"
  10. EXCLUSIVE: Details on Some New Faces Set to Appear Around Hawkins High in ‘STRANGER THINGS’ Season 4
  11. Grace Van Dien’s now-deleted Tumblr post which addressed the discrepancies surrounding Chrissy’s age.
  12. ‘Stranger Things’ Showrunners Now Regret Killing Off A Character, Again
  13. Every Crush in Stranger Things
  14. L'incontro tra Eddie e Chrissy | Stranger Things 4 | Netflix Italia
  15. "Grace van Dien and Mason Dye at Montreal ComicCon"
  16. Did Eddie have a crush on Chrissy?
  17. Stranger Things: Eddie Actor Joseph Quinn on Dustin, Demo-bats, and If He Had a Crush on Chrissy
  18. Stranger Things | Joseph Quinn on Eddie's Arc, Dustin Friendship and...Chrissy Love Connection??
  19. Context for Joe calling Chrissy and Eddie a “weird couple” he ways it would be lovely to see them together and does not use “weird” negatively.
  20. Stranger Things' Joseph Quinn Reveals the 'Most Daunting' Part of Eddie's Arc
  21. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6-GjNGmVWY
  22. https://www.tiktok.com/@anazurmom2/video/7127740941099699498?is_from_webapp=1&sender_device=pc&web_id=7130499414867674666
  23. Official Instagram post revealing new season 4 characters. June 9, 2021

CanonCanon hierarchy[]

  1. Various sources, including multiple Tier 2 sources, paint an unclear picture of Chrissy's age. Since the Tier 2 sources are equally weighted, a possible age range is in effect on this page.
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