Stranger Things, Season One (USA, 2016)

stranger_thingsCreated by: The Duffer Brothers. This was the cultural event of the summer, but I didn’t get around to it until the fall. I could go on all day about the push-pull of major cultural events, the contrarian in me wanting to turn my nose up at it purely by virtue of its popularity, the naive person in me wanting to join the club so I know what all the kids on the playground are talking about, and part of me just really likes to enjoy things that are enjoyable. When I saw this, I was hooked within a few episodes, but now that I’ve seen it all, I’m not sure how much I enjoyed it. There are the standard objections—that length was uncharacteristically short for an American show, and for such a short run, it had the distinct feel of a show that didn’t know where it was going to end up when it first started. Honestly, the show was kind of a fucking mess, wasn’t it? It felt like it needed another 2 episodes to really get into the thick of it, to come up with something substantial other than…a monster. I have nothing against monsters, but it came up as a lot of hot air I think. First of all, if this thing was so terrifying, why could it just be vanquished by the telepathic girl in the end anyway? But I’m getting ahead of myself. Everyone and their dog was posting some meme about Barb, but when it came to it, the show gave very little shits about Barb, or her poor mother who we saw for five seconds and then never saw again. Barb is the center of what’s so damn unsatisfying about this show. They introduce her as a plot point, and then forget about her, so we can focus on the little kids. That’s cool and everything, but what the fuck? Especially when there’s only 8 episodes or whatever, it really wouldn’t have killed them to build a more robust plot to fill in that gap. Another thing that drove me absolutely insane was the soundtrack of this show. They had such an amazing original score with that synth soundtrack, yet they felt the need to jam every spare 10-second gap with a really clunky, obvious, and expensive nostalgia-80’s hit and derail the emotional resonance of each scene they did it to. There’s a larger gripe I have with this whole show, which can be summed up in one question: why was this show set in the 80’s instead of the modern day? This story could just as easily be told in the modern day. They’d have to switch the evil government Cold War search for Russians to an evil government War on Terror search for terrorists, but otherwise, no difference. The difference, I maintain, is that this show was never about sci-fi, other dimensions, government coverups, youth coming of age, the power of a parent’s love for their child, or any number of other legit themes that you can claim for this show. I took this show as being constitutionally made up of the snippets of 80’s movies, Spielberg and otherwise, a great big altar for 21st-century people to come and worship their fetishization of the pre-9/11, pre-internet world that some of them remember, but most of them don’t. This show had to be set in the 80’s because this show is about nostalgic retro-fetishism. I’ll leave it for another day to figure out if I think this is an inherently bad thing or not, but it sure seems like another part of a larger, decades-long cultural trend, starting with Star Wars in 1977, going all the way up to Star Wars in 2015, and the latest is Stranger Things, arguably the biggest cultural event of 2016. But, in imitation of the show, now that I’m at the end, I realize that I want to cram in a glowing appreciation of Winona Ryder, without whom, single-handedly, this show would have been a steaming pile of shit. Thanks, Winona! And remember, Hollywood, when female actors turn 35, they don’t turn to dust, they actually keep churning out great performances, if you write great roles for them! Crazy.

3 responses to “Stranger Things, Season One (USA, 2016)

  1. Pingback: List of Judgements, Anno Domini 2016 | Offhand Reviews·

  2. Pingback: The Nice Guys (USA, 2016) | Offhand Reviews·

  3. Pingback: Stranger Things 2 (USA, 2017) | Offhand Reviews·

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