Do you ever see a movie or a TV show and think – man, my childhood was boring. Not that many of us would actually want to experience the Home Alone or Chronicles of Narnia kind of story perhaps, but in a way that makes you feel extremely ordinary? This is exactly what I haven’t been able to stop thinking about ever since I marathoned Stranger Things a couple of weeks ago. How cool were their adventures? In a very disturbing way, of course, but still!
As much as the technological development and progress of the past couple of decades made film-making more fun and definitely more visually interesting, it also robbed us of many things that used to facilitate interesting adventures. I hate cell phones. Both in real life and in films, especially in films. Yes, they can fail you on occasion – low batter or no reception add a certain element of thrill, but there’s still nothing quite like a story set in the time where there are no extra means of communication to make the characters’ lives easier.
There are not that many projects these days that willfully reject the convenience of the modern day life for the sake of a better storytelling. I guess we all remember Freaks & Geeks (1999-2000) and its unorthodox setting that led to an interesting result. It didn’t exactly start a trend, but it apparently gave the showrunners an idea or two. The most notable recent TV shows that also take place in the 80’s are The Goldbergs (2013-), Dead of Summer (2016-) and, of course, Stranger Things. And I‘ve got to admit, the absence of communication the modern world relies so heavily on adds a layer of suspense and uncertainty, which makes the storylines particularly fascinating.
Imagine how much more boring Stranger Things would be if the boys could just call El at any time, or if Wynona Rider’s Joyce Byers used an iPhone to talk to a thing that took her son. One buzz for yes, two for no, and why don’t you just type up your message on the touch screen?
Despite the fact that the show uses basically every trope employed by the films and TV series made in the 80’s, it is surprisingly refreshing and neat compared to just about everything you can find on TV there days. It gives you a slight Jumanji vibe with the help of incorporating a board game and adds a perfect finishing touch with its gripping OST.
The casting, for the most part, is spot on. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to know some of the characters well enough as it often happens with the ensemble cast, but there’s hope for an even more compelling Season 2. What I did appreciate as a viewer was that all characters were flawed, some to a rather interesting degree, which made following their development and transformation so much more exciting.
Basically, my wishlist for Season 2 comes to “SAVE BARB!” although I’m more than certain that we will enjoy whatever the brothers Duffer will throw at us. Bring it on!
Yes, Nadin! Yes!
I saw the trailer for Stranger Things a few weeks ago and was IN. Big time. When we started watching, the boyfriend was easily distracted away from the pilot. He didn’t get hooked until the fourth episode, which is a real trend for Netflix television. In general, the pace of the show didn’t feel right until about half way through, and then we were crashing forward into that epic finale.
A lot of people love the nostalgic nods, some people feel the show is too much of a copy rather than 80’s homage. Whichever camp you’re in, there’s definitely a background base of media knowledge required to get Stranger Things. Even the title font is rooted in meta data that most of us are still storing away in the little grey cells. If you think that’s cool, you probably like the show. I do. And I like cool things. Who doesn’t?
My big troll-rage is the science teacher. Who answers their phone to talk to kids when they have a smokin’ hot date over in the prime banging hours of the evening? Too convenient, writers. Just, no. I get that you want to remind us this is sci-fi, and not fantasy, but we get it. WE GET IT.
Looking back, I grew up with a surprising amount of the 80’s stuff, partly because I had two older brothers showing me all the cool stuff from their childhood, partly because, at the time, I was living on a tropical island and we got some 80’s programs pretty late. It got better as I grew up. Whatever. That’s not the point. The point is: I get the 80’s nostalgia, just like I get the 90’s nostalgia. But as I age, I find myself looking more critically on the stuff that was part of my childhood. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t entirely in on the hype around Stranger Things.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of super cool things going on in that show. I love the John Carpenter feel of the Upside Down, I love the gooey, slimy stuff, and most of all I loved seeing the little people fighting against good old fashioned big government-related organization conspiracy. That’s my jam, down to the hazy details around Eleven. What the hell was going on at the end of that big climax? I have a theory that I would love to share with you but I don’t want to spoil anything.
No, really, what I want to discuss more than anything else is the characters, because that’s where the writing showed the most weakness to me. Out of all the people involved in this story, I only really liked Eleven, Barb, and Dustin. Nancy was okay but her relationship with Steve got me throwing things at the screen. Why? WHY?! That guy is the worst. And seriously, who invites their best friend to a party only to ditch them to have sex? That’s just rude. As for Hop, I guess my only problem with him is that he was too much of a generic 80’s dark and rugged hero for me to really get attached. Just like Wynona Ryder’s character was the archetype of the mom whom everybody thinks is nuts, and of course Nancy ends up in a bad situation because Jonathan was in her room at some point and then Steve was a complete cliché of a brooding boyfriend who thought that his girlfriend was cheating on him despite not having seen anybody naked together and… I think you get my point, so I won’t even talk about the very liberal use of the word “queer” in the show.
I like the 80’s nostalgia just fine. I just think we ought to be honest with ourselves and update what has to be updated.