I love this so much. Let’s start there. Spoiler-free review.
The storytelling on display in Stranger Things is so entrenched in who I am as an adult that there was no way for this not to feel personal. At a time where pop-culture references get tacked on to token pseudo-geeks, the dialogue between the friends in Stranger Things felt like an honest necessary foundation for these characters. As someone who grew up in that era and defined my sense of self from the pages of King, Tolkein, and First Edition, I recognized a truth in this storytelling. It was a handshake between viewer and show-a promise between friends.
I can’t imagine how difficult it is to tell a story like this and not have it feel derivative or trivial. It takes elements from so many revered properties that it pushes through mere homage and becomes something wholly new. Elsewhere, you can look at something like Super 8 and instantly recognize it as JJ’s love letter to Spielberg, but here… there’s just too much. It doesn’t feel like there was a singular event or defining piece of art that inspired the Duffer Brothers to write this. It’s as if they were molded by an era of experiences, and this is a story they had to tell.
I could go on about how this story speaks directly to me. About how I was raised by my mother, and how that informed the badassery on display by the women in this show—specifically Joyce (Wynona Ryder). Or about how I was picked on for being nerdy and strange, and how all my closest friendships were built around a table littered with dice. I could even point to the constant refrain of The Clash’s Should I Stay or Should I Go, and how it dug its heels into years of rebellious teenage angst that bound me, not only to my younger brother, but to a greater community of like-minded outcasts.
If any of this sounds like it speaks to your coming-of-age experience, then you must watch this show. It bares its brutally awkward adolescent soul before walking you into one of the densest forests of terrifying science-fiction adventure I’ve ever seen on television.
Stranger Things is a love letter to all the kids who never knew the luxury of being geeky and cool, and found the best friendships of their lives because of it. It’s a show about acceptance and what it takes for love to triumph in a world constantly struggling with its own darkness.