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Hop. The Chief. Single dad of the year. Whatever name he goes by, people have strong feelings about Hawkins’s Jim Hopper. The small-town sheriff from Stranger Things is gruff, occasionally goofy, and always on call. Now that Stranger Things 3 has been binged by millions, it’s the perfect time to revisit the suffering service of Jim Hopper. For all his flaws, Hopper offers a template for holding on to hope in a fallen world, especially for those desperate to right wrongs.
In Season 1, Hopper is a trope. He’s a burnt-out cop, a mess. He rinses his mouth with beer, sleeps around town, and pops pills like Lifesavers. This is not the man anyone wants keeping their children safe. Nevertheless, Hopper is the sheriff in town and, when Will Byers goes missing, he is in the middle of it, trying to help Will’s mom, Joyce. Not surprisingly, he initially dismisses Joyce’s fear. But we quickly learn the outline of Hopper’s past and the abyss he’s stared into. His daughter snatched away by death and his marriage consumed by grief, Hopper keeps his pain—and others’—at arm’s length with self-preserving lies.
He is slow to imagine the danger present in the safe retreat of Hawkins and falls into procedural police work. He believes himself safe from loss and fear in Hawkins. He’s convinced Will is “probably just playing hooky.” To a search party volunteer, Hopper pulls back from an offhand comment about how his daughter loved science and stars with a lie about how his daughter “lives in the city with her mom.”
It requires death, not just its spectre, to move Hopper from his stupor. The suspicious suicide of Hopper’s friend and local diner-owner prompts him to face the truth: He hasn’t run far enough to escape the darkness. No stranger to his inner demons, Hopper is now confronted with the brokenness all around him. Joyce’s boy is missing, Benny is dead, and a deeply damaged man is chief of police. Under the weight of this responsibility, it’s no wonder he asks the unnamed woman warming his bed, “Do you ever feel cursed?”
Hopper is indeed cursed, as are the rest of us who live under the sun in a fallen world. The blessings of life are too often shadowed by sin’s upside-down perversion of the good, present in both the death of a child and broken promises.