Stranger Things, my childhood nightmare

I watched Stranger Things (a miniseries on Netflix), and it was like having a nightmare about my childhood. That’s supposed to be a snappy way of saying I loved it.

Stranger Things
Yes, Barbara, there really is a demogorgan.

The story’s fun and creepy. The characters are mostly adorable. They nailed the trappings of 1983, with only a few forgivable music nods out of the timeline. The story opens with kids playing D&D in the basement. They ride dirt bikes. Missing children. Cold war paranoia. Grainy intro titles and a synthesizer soundtrack. The Thing references.

The episodes hold up. It’s creepy and tense when it’s not lovable and sweet. It’s a love letter to moms, and a complicated message about dads.

I can point to pieces of Tupperware and cars and movie posters and electronics brands and toys and say, “I remember those.” It was like I could smell the food cooking in the houses and feel the heavy plastic of the radios.

There are fabulous nods to beloved movies like E.T. the Extra Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Goonies, and especially The Thing. (Man, I love The Thing!). The Stephen King nostalgia and references are thick.  It’s Stand By Me on LSD. His books literally appear in the show as nods and references.

But most of all, it was the first time watching anything that I felt like my stereotypical Midwestern childhood was legitimate grounds for storytelling. I don’t know who the Duffer brothers are, but they seem like all my pals from when I was about the age of the kids in the movie. Radical, man.

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