Shit Got Strange — The World Got Television Gold
A look into the show that we all binge-watched in one day
This Summer has been a weird one to say the least, with Frank Ocean dropping his new album (finally), people tripping over whether certain superhero movies are good or not, and who can forget The Donald? Well, if shit wasn’t crazy enough for you, Netflix came out with another original series titled Stranger Things. This 80s-themed series was full of surprises, and since I’m about to blab all about how great it is, I need to inform you that there will be spoilers. OK, you’ve been warned!
Ahh, where to start? Everyone and their mother has gone over a million reasons why the show is so great. Vice has more than 11 (see what I did there?) articles about the show on the first page of a Google search. The Huffington Post, for whom I occasionally write, has a whole grip of them. Everything from explaining why gay men like Barb to a feminist comic for the show’s fans. No really, I’m not just trying to plug the site, there’s just so much that’s been done about it. It’s so popular that it released a soundtrack — which many fans such as myself are hailing as pure genius.
So why, then, does this show resonate with us so much? The fuck is the reason we feel oddly attached to Barb even though she gets very little air time, and does anybody else feel weird about Nancy and Jonathan Byers hanging out? He was taking pictures of her while she lost her V-card, stalker much? A lot of what makes most of us feel so strongly about the show is the way it uses nostalgia as a plot tool, something that isn’t easy to do.
While Joyce Byers falls into a memory of finding her son, Will, hiding in a fort we get a dose of that addictive nostalgic magic. Winona Ryder beautifully captured a mothers pure love of her son, and the warmth you get from a mothers hug. It resonates with viewers and allows them to experience all the emotion of the scene rather than just watching it. Ryder, has been receiving great reviews and applause for her performance. Stephanie Merry of the Washington Post wrote:
“Ryder is so ideal for the role, not only because she’s so good at exuding a certain brittle scrappiness but because she’s such a wistful presence, always reminding viewers of the past. She’s a human proxy for the 1980s and ’90s, partly because she’s been frozen in time since she was the Gen X poster child — she took years off from acting following that shoplifting arrest and hasn’t had a major role since.”
For me, the best part of Joyce’s character development was her descent into madness and her primal desperation to find her son. Ryder got that down perfectly and that helped sell the show to me.
But theres more to the show than the feels. The storytelling is phenomenal, and dare I say it, perfect. The way the writers used 80s pop-culture references as a way to capture the audience has driven fans wild. Everyone seems to be talking about how Dungeons & Dragons — a popular role-playing gay from the 70s and 80s — is pretty much the whole damn show. Fan-art is spreading like the plague on Tumblr, reddit, and Twitter.
Lane Jackson, a biologist from Astoria, Ore., just finished the show when I caught him for an interview. For Jackson, the 80s throwbacks are what helped him binge the show.
“[References] were perfectly placed. The show was a love letter to the 80s and nerd culture — They had the Kenner Yoda action figure. Amazing.”
Jackson also had praise for the way Netflix produced the show. He said that part of the magic of Stranger Things is the creative freedom the show runners were given to make the masterpiece they wanted.
He said he liked how Netflix allowed creators to experiment with the television format.
“They really went all in on being a show you can binge Its (relatively) short, flow between episode’s was quick, to the point of where I would have trouble saying where some ended and others began.”
“This show’s episode titles were chapters, and I think this was really fitting because the show truly felt like a book Each episode flowed together nicely. It’s hard to say ‘Oh that was the ‘blank’ episode.’”
But really, those throwbacks aren’t just some cheap reference to keep fans smiling. The way in which the whole show was built seemed centered around the decade of synth-pop and atrocious hairstyles.
Calling back numerous horror flicks and sci-fi themes from the 80s, the Duffer Brothers stocked the show with everything from an extra dimensional being coming from the wall ala A Nightmare on Elm St, to a group of children riding bikes away from government agents — a clear homage to E.T.
These little touches are what allows people of all ages to really get in on the thrills Stranger Things has to offer. You can easily jump in at any time and feel as if the show was made in the 80s, and a part of that is due to the amazing opening sequence.
The intro, which was given a grainy time-worn effect that leads viewers to believe they are actually watching something from the era. Right off the bat, you’re taking out of 2016 — or whatever year you plan to watch — and thrust backwards where you could easily be a 12-year-old up past bedtime watching the latest made-for-TV horror flick with the lights off and popcorn spilling all over your pajamas.
And can we talk about the kids? These kids are so fucking talented it’s scary. Millie Bobby Brown, the 12-year-old genius who stars as Ele — short for Eleven. With only a handful of roles under her belt, the young actress gave an exemplary performance many well seasoned actors could not compete with. In in interview for ELLE Magazine, Brown was interviewed by Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul and spoke on the role whole Paul gushed.
Brown, who remained humble throughout the interview spoke on the process of her audition and the role.
Paul inquired what it felt like playing one of the “greatest character” to ever be on television.
“You know, it was just something that sort of — it’s very overwhelming in the best way, I think. Obviously I am very grateful for it. I had a feeling — you know, myself, [the co-creators] the Duffer brothers, and the whole cast all knew what we wanted to achieve with this show.”
The interview goes on, and it is clear that Brown is primed to shine in her future endeavors.
There is so much to be said on the rest of the cast: from the passionate portrayal of a father struggling with the loss of his daughter (David Harbour), to the tragic sidekick who gets taken too early (Shannon Purser). It would take a whole other article for each character to discuss how amazing they are.
The only thing left is the lingering question: What happened to Eleven!?! No seriously, wtf happened and why did we get stuck with creepy Will Byers?
Whatever the answer, it seems fans will have to wait some time for a second season — but it is coming! Until then we can only guess at the cliff hangers, because there were a ton, and share theories on reddit and other social media. With the amount of people talking about the show, it wouldn’t be surprising to find some of those theories come to fruition — Stranger Things have happened.