Friday, August 12, 2016

Stranger Things lovingly deconstructs the 80s

While I don't watch a whole lot of TV, too many friends told me I had to check out Stranger Things and I ended up having a good time when I did.

I really want to limit my spoilers here. I did my darnedest to not spoil Stranger Things for myself. The basic premise is that after a middle schooler disappears in the woods, his friends find a mysterious girl with psychic powers. Mysterious government agents and an even more mysterious creature stalk them as they try to find their lost friend.

Stranger Things is set in 1983 and very much an homage to 80s films, ET and the Goonies in particular. As my gray, thinning hair will attest, I was around when those movies first came out and I still think they are pretty darn nifty.

However, what I really took away from Stranger Things is how it didn't slavishly imitate those films but it examined and explored elements from them, to the point of deconstructing them. Not in a disrespectful way but it used them as a foundation to build on.

One of the biggest examples of that for me is the character Joyce Byers, the mother of the missing boy. She initially seems to be going insane from his disappearance and looks like she will shape up to be a useless adult who will give the kids a hint.

Instead, she proves to very intelligent and very observant. Joyce ends up being a strong character who helps drive the plot and has as much claim to be a protectionist as any of the kids.

Really, looking at virtually all of the characters, they all subtly subvert the archetypes that inspired them while never rejecting the kind of movies that inspired them.

A lot of carful thought and consideration clearly went into Stranger Things. 

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