Monday, 22 August 2016
Stranger Things: a dream inside a nightmare
I absolutely loved Stranger Things. I've always said if you start getting nostalgic for your own life, you're in big trouble, but so much of it did ring so many bells. It borrows shamelessly from films and stories of the decade, making people old enough to remember them feel the way they did so many years ago. ET, Nightmare on Elm Street, Stand By Me... so many things came back to me while watching this. It made it very hard to assess the series, because I couldn't detach it from all the things it was reminding me of.
It was interesting talking about the programme with my friend Matt, as he's not actually old enough to remember that part of the 1980s. He felt it was perfect. I feel it's too perfect – not that I didn't love it, but in its perfection, it isn't real. It's like an HDR photo of the era, every detail sharp and brought out. From the music to the film echoes to the game of D&D the kids play, Stranger Things is made up of things that have survived from the 1980s to today, the things we all think of. Even nerdy Barb is the picture-perfect nerdy girl, somehow cool in her mum jeans and frilly jumpers. What's missing is all the mediocre stuff.
Stranger Things, in style and setting, is a sort of collective dream of the 1980s, stripped of the mediocre music and removed from the serious politics (AIDS, the anti-apartheid campaigning, and pretty much any other major news event you could name didn't come into it). It's not the 1980s. It's better than the real thing.
* Given that in 2016 we're the same distance in time from the 1980s as we were in the 1980s when there was a big 50s revival, I say let the 'young folks' class the 1980s as vintage if they want. Ain't my vintage, but it could be theirs.