Stranger Things Is Making Me Grow Up All Over Again — and I Don’t Like It
The hit Netflix show has entered its awkward adolescence, and it’s dragging me along for the ride
For me, Stranger Things is less a TV series and more of a time machine.
I know its many fans dig the show’s retro setting and style, but that’s not what I’m talking about — not exactly. See, I’ve watched a lot of TV series and movies inspired by the entertainment of my youth, primarily because ’80s nostalgia makes up a significant portion of pop culture now. I’ve seen remakes of ’80s movies (too many to list), sequels made 30 years too late (Blade Runner 2049), action films set in the ’80s (Bumblebee), stuff content to simply list things people used to like (Ready Player One), and… you get the picture. I’ve seen every homage, allusion, tribute, and straight-up rip-off of ’80s entertainment possible, ranging from charming to blatantly pandering. Stranger Things is different.
When I first began watching Stranger Things when it came along in 2016, I was one of the many who benefited from knowing nothing about the retro horror series other than a small but increasing buzz. I’m still grateful for that, because the experience of watching the show’s first season without really knowing what to expect was magical. The story of a group of schoolkids and a psychically powered girl/escaped science experiment known only as Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) who come together to rescue their friend Will (Noah Schnapp) from the Upside Down, Stranger Things was made up of pieces of many ’80s classics, to be sure, but they felt like part of the show’s own DNA. It’s as if the series came out of the same cultural source material that generated Goonies, It, Stand by Me, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and more, instead of being a modern show doing a karaoke version of the past.
When I watched it, I felt like I had gone back in time. I was watching something actually made in the ’80s, which had just been unearthed. I was not just reminded of my childhood — I relived it. I felt the exact same feelings and sensations I felt watching those earlier classics as a 10-year-old in suburbia. Stranger Things made me feel like a kid again, an…