Stranger Things, and Growing Up in the 80s
I was born in 1975. This means (of course) that I was five in 1980, and fourteen in 1989. For this reason I tend to look back on the 80s with a lot of nostalgia, though I realize that for many people there were better decades.
My fond memories of the 80s led me to the Netflix series Stranger Things, which I watched in its entirety last weekend. As of May 2017 it's still in its first season, with a second season on the way in October.
Going in, I was a bit skeptical. It seems very fashionable to wear the 80s influence on one's sleeve these days, and I wondered whether the references would be painfully obvious (things like Thriller and breakdancing), or if they'd be more subtle. A lot of movies and TV shows set in the 70s will bring you right out of the narrative with some jarringly inaccurate disco scene, or a car that doesn't belong in that decade. Since I know the 80s even better than the 70s, I figured there'd be similar anachronisms in the show.
Thankfully the show is true to its decade, and I'm happy to say that Stranger Things is pretty good. I'm not saying that it's perfect, mind you. It's not nearly as good as Westworld. But it is a solidly crafted homage to 80s horror movies, with just the right number of references to things like Dungeons and Dragons, John Carpenter's The Thing, and Chris Claremont's Dark Phoenix saga. And it doesn't hit you over the head with these references - they're just there, usually in the background, where they should be.
It's also good to see Winona Ryder on screen again. Yes, she's been in movies, but her role in Stranger Things is so much better than most of what she's done in recent films. I thought she was great as Michael Shannon's love interest in The Iceman, but that movie was a while ago.
Next season, to make things even more 80s, Sean "Goonies Never Say Die" Astin will be making a regular appearance on the show. Having Astin as Ryder's boyfriend should be fun, and one can only hope that other 80s stars will pop up at some point. I know Tom Cruise is too much to hope for, but B-listers like Val Kilmer, Anthony Michael Hall, Phoebe Cates, and John Cusack seem within the realm of possibility. My personal choice would be John Murray, brother of Bill, because you just don't get more 80s than that guy. Anyone else remember Moving Violations?
Now that they've established the "reality" of this show, more 80s trappings could be introduced without overwhelming the plot. We've already heard the Atari mentioned in the last episode, and with the second season set in 1984, it's high time to introduce the NES and (even better) the Sega Master System. Many of us gave up Dungeons and Dragons for Super Mario Bros. during that year, so it makes sense.
Oh, and there's also the album of the same name by Van Halen. And if you're going to do that, you could also do the song of the same name, "(Wake Up) It's 1984" by Oingo Boingo.
And... what about toys? Masters of the Universe? G.I. Joe? Transformers? Food? Chuck E. Cheese? Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" "Avoid the Noid?" Reaganomics? Star Wars (as in the defense system)? Cyndi Lauper? Billy Joel? Prince? Those shoes with the pockets? MTV? Early thrash metal? Hair metal? Stallone vs. Schwarzenegger? The ninja fad? David Cronenberg? VHS tapes?
I could go on, and on, and on, but I'll stop for now. It's not good to get too caught up in nostalgia, and it's a while before the next season of Stranger Things appears on Netflix.