When will I shut up about Stranger Things?
If you’re like me, you’ve seen the promotional photos and videos for Stranger Things on Netflix and thought it was a show about a scary little girl who kills people while wearing a hospital gown. Well, we are right, folks, but the show is about so much more than that. It is about the friends she makes along the way. Since its release date on July 15th (the only hype I heard in the leadup to this date was from a girl from Russia who I follow on Tumblr), Stranger Things has ensnared people with beautiful cinematography, a nostalgic setting, and the people around which the plot revolves. Since watching the show (the first time), I’ve read plenty reviews of the show, explaining why “we,” as a collective society like and respond to Stranger Things, and why, with little to no promotional hype, it has expanded into a cultural phenomenon.
The Duffer Brothers, the creators, writers, and directors of the show, knew what they were doing when they set the story in a small town in the 1980s. They already had “us,” those who fondly remember E.T. and Super 8 (J.J. Abrams’ attempt to remake E.T. without remaking E.T.), as a willing audience, receptive to the place and time in which Stranger Things is set. Add to that those cute (and insanely talented) kids (I’m looking at you specifically, Millie Bobby Brown), virtually unknown, yet instantly memorable Teens™ (20-somethings), and adult actors who know what they’re doing (Winona Ryder played an incredible Joyce Byers and David Harbour made me cry), and you have a cast that makes us care. But something I (and so many others) noticed was that none of the scenes were simply filler scenes. Every moment in every episode forced us to invest ourselves more in the emotions of the characters or furthered the plot. The fat trimming that led to eight, well-executed episodes kept us (read: me) desperately searching for flaws, but as the first season wound to a close, we emerged from our bedrooms empty-handed in the “flaws” department.
Stranger Things may have lured us in by doubling down on the nostalgia of the now heavily-romanticized 1980s, but it made us stay with the love between the characters. The kids are forced to explain their values and what they consider to be the definition of “friendship” when they meet Eleven, a young girl with superpowers (telekinesis), who had lived trapped in a lab for her entire life up until the point where the show begins. The teen plotline makes us (the audience) understand the difference between loving someone and loving the idea of someone. The teens must deal not only with high school drama; they must also confront feelings of personal loss and discover bravery within themselves. The adults also face so much; Joyce has a break down, but remains a feisty mother who loves her sons more than anything else in the world. The image of her clutching a bunch of Christmas lights through which she communicates with her son Will, who is trapped in a parallel universe, stuck with me for a very long time. All the plotlines, though beginning separately, become more interconnected so that, by the end, every character is working together to stop the monster and find Will.
The internet played its part in the promotion of Stranger Things as well, with memes circling around, fanart to excess, and the question of what’s going to happen in season 2 spreading like wildfire. The kids did their part to promote the show, as well, appearing on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and onstage at the Emmys to sing “Uptown Funk.” I am doing my part to promote the show as well. Please, watch it. Use the Netflix account of someone you consider your friend, even if you don’t know him/her that well (like I did), and watch the show.