Opinion: Stranger Things

stranger things poster

@lcfremont gives us her thoughts…

Stranger Things premiered under an aura of heightened expectations and, overall, it has been very well received. The days after it’s premiere on Netflix, my Twitter feed was a giant love letter to the show. Growing up in the 80’s, I was definitely looking forward to this show and everyone’s effusive, glowing words about it had me feeling pretty optimistic. Before I proceed with my thoughts, now is a great time to remind you that I am a very hard sell when it comes to Science Fiction. Unless Tom Cruise is in it and, yes, I know how that just plummeted some people’s opinion of me. Hey. We like what we like.

Stranger Things is a gorgeous, perfect little jewel box of 80’s nostalgia. Not one single beat was missed, all the way down to the paper cup dispenser in Joyce’s bathroom. The synth soundtrack mixed with the actual cool hits of the decade pairs beautifully with the on point, and not overly kitschy, hair, makeup and wardrobe. Every time the opening credits appeared, I was reminded of how much I loved Amazing Stories. Which makes complete sense because to say that this show is influenced by Steven Spielberg and Stephen King would be the biggest understatement since, well…EVER.

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It’s rare to have an ensemble cast of kids be truly endearing rather than loud and obnoxious, but Stranger Things even pulled that off. The biggest name star, Wynona Ryder, does a bang up job, but she’s the least compelling and that’s saying a lot. Mike, Dustin and Lucas are all of us nerdy kids growing up in the heyday of Eggo waffles and afternoons spent riding bikes. If Eleven doesn’t just melt your heart, then I fear you may not have a soul. Even the token teenage characters end up being just as complex. In fact, big ups for letting Steve redeem himself from being another run of the mill 80’s jerkface. Rather than just being the guy who sweeps the leg, he grows a heart and a conscience and it’s truly touching. Matthew Modine’s version of Conal Cochran from Halloween 3 was delightful, but for me, David Harbour owned this show. A character actor who has been quietly creeping you out for years playing baddies in gritty crime dramas, his portrayal of Chief Jim Hopper is a perfect blend of jaded gruffness hiding a broken heart that will, ultimately, bring out the best in him and help save the day. Everyone comes together to navigate a fun, albeit not necessarily original, sci-fi story involving men in suits, conspiracies, telekinetic children and an alien that looks like a walking Venus Flytrap-which I found to be very cool.

Despite all of the lovely things I just said, I am sorry to report that I was in no way emotionally invested until the very last episode. Why? Because the whole thing felt far too familiar. Every component of this show is great, but the fact that it relies so heavily on nostalgia makes it feel ordinary. I never felt as though I was seeing something new or groundbreaking. Preying on people’s fond memories of their childhood is a cheap and easy ploy and I think this trend has finally jumped the shark. The Duffer brothers clearly have the chops to supply a visually stunning story, so why not do something that is 100% unique? We have survived the torture porn era, the seemingly never ending found footage heyday, the numerous and unnecessary remakes of 80’s favorites and now we have original stories being presented in an old school esthetic. I crave something new. Entirely new. I lived through the 80’s and they were a plastic fantastic, neon colored time that I hold very dear to my heart, but I’m over it. I don’t want to be in love with a series simply because it harkens back to a simpler time. I want to be in love because it is challenging me and and itself by trying new things.

Lisa Fremont

Twitter: @lcfremont

Images: IMDb

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