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'Stranger Things' Star Caleb McLaughlin Opens Up About Experiencing Racism From Fans

Photo: DFree / Shutterstock / Netflix
Caleb McLaughlin

As the only Black person in the main cast of "Stranger Things," Caleb McLaughlin was exposed to the ugly side of the show's fandom from an early age.

At the Heroes Comic Con Belgium convention, McLaughlin, 20, spoke during a live Q&A with fans about the racism he experienced from "Stranger Things" fans.

"It definitely took a toll on me as a younger kid," McLaughlin said.

"My very first Comic-Con, some people didn't stand in my line because I was Black. Some people told me, 'Oh I didn't want to be in your line because you were mean to Eleven.' Even now some people don't follow me or don't support me because I'm Black."

Caleb McLaughlin says the success of "Stranger Things" exposed him to widespread racism.

"Sometimes overseas you feel the racism, you feel the bigotry. Sometimes it's hard to talk about and for people to understand, but when I was younger it definitely affected me a lot."

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McLaughlin was only 14 when he made his debut as Lucas Sinclar on the hit Netflix series during season one, and his character quickly became an integral part of the plot as well as a central character.

During the early episodes of season one, Lucas was depicted as being wary of Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown, and her telekinetic abilities.

However, by the middle of the season, he learned to accept Eleven's place in their friend group and even apologized to her for how cold he had acted around her. 

Despite McLaughlin's character being a part of the main cast, the actor has the least followers out of all of his other cast members and isn't as well-liked among the fandom.

During the live Q&A, McLaughlin admitted that the treatment he received in comparison to Noah Schnapp, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, and Millie Bobby Brown “affected” him “a lot” when he was younger.

His parents told him that he was “the least favorite” and had fewer followers because he is the “Black child” on the show.

“When I was younger, it definitely affected me a lot because — this is a deep conversation right now — you’re like: ‘Why am I the least favorite? The least amount of followers? I’m on the same show as everybody from Season 1,’” he explained.

As of September 2022, McLaughlin has 15.4 million followers, the least of all of his other cast members.

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Millie Bobby Brown leads everyone with 58.5 million followers, while Schnapp has 27.6 million, Wolfhard has 26.3 million, and Matarazzo has 18.7 million.

Even actress Sadie Sink, who joined the cast in season two has more followers than McLaughlin, with 24.9 million.

“My parents had to be like: ‘It’s a sad truth, but it’s because you’re the Black child on the show,’” McLaughlin recalled.

“Wow, that’s crazy. Because I was born with this beautiful chocolate skin I’m not loved?”

Despite all of the racism and hate that McLaughlin experienced from fans of the show, he refused to let it deter him.

“That’s why, with my platform, I’m going to spread positivity and love because I’m not giving hate back to people who are giving hate to me.”

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Brooklyn. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Keep up with her on Instagram and Twitter.