Friday, September 23, 2016
The retro charm of Stranger Things
I wrote about Stranger Things this week for Sequart. Go there to read my more thoughtful and nuanced ideas on the series, but stay here first to read me geeking out about it. And let's address the elephant in the room: Stranger Things is so last month, man. I know! But I just watched it (having young children gets in the way of binge watching shows as often as you'd imagine it would) and I need to talk about it, man. First of all, there were times it was like watching myself on screen. I've been in those basements, playing those games, reading those comic books, riding those bikes round and round the neighborhood, seemingly forever. The younger kids in Stranger Things were clearly meant to connect with people my age, and even the teens—especially Nancy and Jonathan—remind us of our teenage selves. I'm duly impressed with not only how much Stranger Things got right about the time and place—1983 in small town America—but also with the ways in which it nails being an adolescent and a teenager.
Stranger Things hooked viewers immediately with the retro appeal of references like Uncanny X-Men comics and seeing The Thing posters hanging on basement walls. When I tuned in, I was keeping myself at a distance—the show's slow build contributed to that, as well as my concern that it would lack depth behind all of those nostalgic trappings. After a few episodes, it just clicked for me, and I was a fan. I especially remember feeling addicted to the show around the time Hopper broke into Hawkins Laboratory (badass!) and Joyce started receiving serious communication from Will (the lights!). The show kept viewers like me watching by being a bighearted and thoughtful series about the power of love—between a parent and a child or between friends or siblings. In other words, the series hit most of us right in the feels, but without being manipulative. That's because it delivers a smart and heartfelt science fiction/fantasy/coming of age/love story like few others out there today. It'll remind you of dozens of 1980s TV shows and movies, and comic books for that matter, but what it does with those influences creates that lasting impact on viewers.
And now thanks to Stranger Things I have a fantastic question to ask someone, sometime, in the appropriate situation: "Why are you keeping this curiosity door locked?" Long live Dustin!