In July 2016, streaming media service Netflix quietly unleashed an eight-episode period drama to little initial fanfare. The drama, a show titled Stranger Things, focuses on a group of ordinary kids living in the ordinary American Midwest (the fictional small town of Hawkins, Indiana) who experience some decidedly extraordinary events. The period is the early 1980s.
During the course of the first season of Stranger Things, the main cast of kids, including Dustin, Mike, Lucas, the mysterious girl known as “Eleven,” and teenagers Jonathan Byers and Nancy Wheeler, investigate the disappearance of local kid Will Byers, who vanishes one night following a “Dungeons and Dragons” showdown with his pals. The quest to find Will steadily unveils a host of supernatural events that involve, among other things, an interdimensional monster, a shady government agency, and a creepy alternative universe dubbed “the Upside Down.” Oh, and lots of callbacks and Easter eggs to 1980s culture, from a synth-based soundtrack, to references to films like The Empire Strikes Back and E.T., to VHS tapes, to John Carpenter. Not to mention kids on bikes.
The effort by series creators/producers Sean and Matt Duffer paid off: Stranger Things became a word-of-mouth sensation and one of Netflix’s most successful shows ever. The show’s unabashed “love letter to the 80s” aesthetic was a massive part of its appeal. On October 27, 2017, the much-anticipated second season of Stranger Things only further piled on the 80s domination of contemporary culture, forwarded by an ad campaign that placed the show’s characters smack in the middle of classic 80s horror films. If Stranger Things demonstrated nothing else, it provided yet further evidence that the 1980s, a decade that ended twenty-eight years ago, will live forever. Continue Reading