It might be a bit cheesy at times, and it might recycle its best ideas a little bit too much in each season, but even so, a lot of people are big Stranger Things fans – myself included. So, I went and assumed that it applied for everyone. Well, not really. A couple of weeks ago, I was having a discussion with an acquaintance, and upon being asked if she was looking forward to the new Stranger Things season, she said ‘nah, I couldn’t really get into that, I guess the setting is not for me’. My first thought was ‘what is there not to love about the 80s?’, but the response itself brought me to the point where I conducted a self-analysis in order to figure out why I like the series so much. Since I would guess it applies to others as well, here are my main points.
The 80s were a fun time, unless you were living in Eastern Europe and any other part of the world that was going through a particular troublesome period. While Chernobyl explored the dark side of the 80s, Stranger Things taps into the bright, vibrant and fun side – and that’s exactly what we need, even those of us who weren’t alive in the 80s even for one second. The series really gets its homework done every time, and builds a believable environment, not just thanks to the arcade machines, cars and gadgets, but also to the larger socio-political context. Many similar projects do the same, but Stranger Things puts a lot of emphasis on the small details, and thus its version of the 80s simply feels more vibrant than others which may more or less simply be regarded as a backdrop to the plot.
It’s a funny thing that one can experience nostalgia even if one cannot directly relate to the experience in question. I was only born in the 90s, and yet I feel that my childhood experiences have much more in common with those of someone growing up in the 80s than with those of one growing up after all humanity lived to tell the tale after the y2k scare came and went. This includes the exclusive use of landlines, the classy handheld game consoles, the way music was stored and played… and many others. So, it’s a reminder of sweet, simpler times, when people were more concerned with what was right in front of them, and didn’t spend all day staring at minuscule screens and swiping up, down, left and right. The good ole days.
If you like the 80s, and even more you feel nostalgic about such times, then you for sure also dig the music. And oh boy, does Stranger Things have a treat in store for you. The soundtrack is totally exquisite, and will surprise you time and time again, either by stringing some awesome glam rock, pop or metal songs together, or by playing that one song which you used to have on repeat in secondary school, but completely forgot about in the meantime. From TOTO, Bon Jovi and The Romantics to The Scorpions, The Police and The Clash, whoever made the final song selection for each season has to be eternally praised for their fine taste in music.
While it doesn’t always offer the best story, and while the sci-fi on display is not exactly top notch, Stranger Things knows ever so well how to wrap everything in mystery, and how to serve it up to the audience. By connecting the lovable cast deeply and personally with the looming uncertainty, and by ending each episode in a plot twist which challenges your ability to wait until your next allocated viewing time, the series more than compensates for its misgivings. It’s the type of easy, casual mystery which you can digest in a couple of sittings – you don’t need the short bursts technique that something more complex might warrant.