The Strangest Thing About Stranger Things is That My Son Looks Like the Girl in Stranger Things
My family just binge-watched Stranger Things, a deft and super-compelling derivative mash-up that perfectly channels so many great shows and films: E.T. and The Goonies and Freaks and Geeks and Poltergeist and eXistenZ and The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Stand by Me and Super 8 . . . and while this is a good thing, to see our family-favorites blended together in one eight episode mini-series, it also makes me think that we've come to the end of some of sort of artistic road-- and I'm having these kinds of deep thoughts about things I shouldn't think so deeply about because I just finished Chuck Klosterman's new book, But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking About the Present as if It Were the Past, which proposes exactly what the subtitle suggests: that we look at the present as if it were the past, and so from a future perspective, only a few movies and TV shows will be remembered,and--sadly-- Stranger Things probably won't be one of them (in my opinion) because it's so derivative, and the original works will take precedence . . . but I could be wrong, perhaps Stranger Things will be the perfect vehicle to remember all the tropes of the realistic/spooky/horror/teen/noir/government conspiracy/alternate universe/sci-fi/kids-band-together-and-take-on-the-supernatural-and-corrupt-world-of-adults genre . . . but I also found it interesting that I received multiple texts, from friends and colleagues and my brother, all advising me to watch this show with my kids . . . and most of these texts were from people who did not have children of their own . . . which is spooky in itself, but this also probably stems from nostalgia for the days when we had shared TV experiences, Seinfeld or Dallas or whatever . . . and people were saying that this show would be a perfect one to enjoy that shared experience, not only with the general public but also with your family, and they were right (if you can endure your kids having a few nightmares) but nostalgia for that "normal" time might not be so normal either . . . that was just a small window when people were on the same page, watching three networks, in the pre-internet, pre-DVR, pre-streaming, pre-Youtube, pre-plethora of shows age, but before that, way before that, everybody was doing their own thing-- just like now-- in pre-literate society, when everyone was around their own fire, telling their own version of the Ur-story about saber-tooth tigers and cave bears . . . I suppose there were a few classics, Homer and Beowulf and Gilgamesh, but most of the programming must have been very unstructured and primitive and unique, stick puppets, Dunt and Thok doing their schtick, song parodies very specific to a particular clan of people . . . anyway, that's how it feels now-- everyone is watching their own private pantheon of entertainment, and it rarely coincides with anyone else, but I should get off my high-horse and just recommend this show, because it will remind older folks of a by-gone era of TV and film, and it will scare the shit out of younger viewers, while also immersing them in a world before the internet, of microfiche and rotary phones, a world where there might be vast conspiracies and things beyond our understanding, unlike the world we have now, where if you've got a hunch about something like that, you just Google it, and voila, you were right: there is a vast conspiracy and there are things far beyond our understanding and aliens have come to earth and they live among us and of course our government planned 9/11 and dinosaurs live right beside us and they're chickens . . . Stranger Things delivers what it promises, that even in the suburbs, if you're brave and adventurous and loyal and have an imagination and a bike, then there is adventure right out your door . . . the series begins with D&D, and it ends with the mention of an Atari . . . perhaps Atari is the harbinger of the end of an era, the end of kids out in the world, depending on themselves, alone, unstructured, off the grid, fighting epic forces; anyway, my wife and I loved it and my kids claim it's the "best show ever" and there's one more creepy thing, just for folks who know us: Eleven is the female version of my son Ian, they look nearly identical and also make the same expressions and have the same eyes, it took someone else to point this out, and once she did, it made me look at my son in a totally different light (as in, I think he might be able to move things with his mind and squish bad people's brains).