Oh, Stranger Things. I wanted to love you with all my heart and soul. My friends kept telling me in hushed tones about a show so evocative and unashamed in its expressions of love for the eighties that I felt you were almost made with me in mind. I caught glimpses of your BMX, your bad bowl cut, your D&D obsession, your dark streets and subtle manipulation of my childhood fears and something deep within me stirred.
When you proffered your mixtape with the handwritten liner notes and cracked case, I was helpless to resist.
But there’s a fine line between love and parking outside someone’s house and staring into their bedroom window through a pair of binoculars. And while your opening episode was indeed an homage to a time in my life when the most important things were my bike, trading cards, Atari and roaming about in dark forests specifically because my mother had told me not to, your attention to detail was distracting. Honestly? I felt a little played.
I might just be old. I lived in the world reconstructed in painstaking detail by The Duffer Brothers and while I can only admire their attention to detail, the place that Stranger Things inhabits feels as though it was created by people who knew the time through consumption of culture from that era vs. experience.
People who watched Nightmare on Elm Street, Aliens, ET, The Goonies and all the John Hughes movies as many times as I did. Who devoured Stephen King novels (and their cover fonts) while their minds were still malleable enough to be deeply influenced by the tropes of small town America. For whom recreating scenes from Stand By Me was an actual summer pastime, apart from the bit where they found the body. And my failure to do so wasn’t for the want of trying.
If this had been a drinking game based upon shots taken for every eighties reference spotted, I’d have been hospitalised after ten minutes. Some of you might think this would have been a good thing. This was as joyless an experience as it sounds, particularly for my viewing companions, and I’m sure they’d have had a lot more fun if I’d have been unconscious and unable to shout “TWO JAWS REFERENCES IN AS MANY MINUTES!” every time a typewriter appeared on the screen.
But in my defence, the Duffer Brothers should take their share of blame. Casting Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine is shameless and while I’m planning to watch the whole series (probably alone) it’s only because I want to see if they’ve made any more catastrophic factual errors.
Because I’m telling you now. No one in the 80s ever had a romantic moment while Toto’s Africa played in the background. JD from Scrubs did, but that doesn’t count. Firstly, that was 2006.
And secondly, he was on his own at the time.