Thoughts on Stranger Things.

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Hello Blogging Universe. It’s so lovely to have all this white space to look at as I type line upon line. Every empty screen coming to life. I have been watching Stranger Things for days I tell you, DAYS. I should have had more restraint but I don’t. I finally just admitted to myself that I was just too hyper fixated on the show to properly attend to regular life and could not move on until I finished it. It is done.
When I finally finished the last episode, I went outside and saw one of the most astounding sunsets I have ever seen. It was so surreal I was shook. I am talking vanilla sky, purple watercolor hues and clouds that were so gloriously iridescent they defied all description.
Part of me wondered if that sunset was for real or if I had just been in a dark room too long with red lights and flashing imagery experiencing the after effects of heightened sensory disturbances from the visual effects of Stranger Things. Upon going outside, I had left the front door open and called to my daughter, “Are you seeing all this? “ She came out and validated that she did. I was not taking crazy pills.

I still can not move on because I’m still processing the show, so of course I am blogging that sh*t. I overthink things (kind of like Robin on the show). I’ve been lost in the fandom. I’ve approached this from many angles and explored many fan theories. One of my favorites is that the entire story came from the imagination of a few kids who were playing D and D in their parents basement, epic imaginative child’s play. Mind blown. Wouldn’t that be something? Even the show’s characters who were reciting fan theories liked that one. The truth isn’t far off though. This was the imagination of the show’s writers and kudos to them.

I have to admit, I struggled with Season Four. Yes, I grew up in the 80s with the rise of horror films; Friday the 13th, Michael Myers, Freddy, the Amityville Horror, Poltergeist, and all that. Even then, I could only take it in small doses and certain elements of each still give me the heebie-jeebies to this day, so it was interesting to revisit. Yet, there were also part of that time period that filled me with awe and wonder such as First Encounters of the Third Kind, and all things Spielberg.

Kids on bikes make me nostalgic. Oh, the glorious days of the bicycle brigades and arcades. Stranger Things really struck me when they brought out the Light Bright or talked about long forgotten video games like Dig Dug. I grew up in a trailer Park across the street from a video arcade and water slide park with miniature golf and bumper boats. I’m telling you I lived it. My best friend’s mother across the street, was a single mom too, and I’m telling you Stranger Things nailed it. She drove a Pinto.

Growing up, the skating rink was our babysitter. We were kids who grew up on hostess cup cakes, Wonder bread sandwiches and tuna casserole topped with potato chips. I recall the denim jackets, gummy bracelets, and the Ratt t-shirts that had the logo, “if it’s too loud, you’re too old.” My, my, this all dates me.

Okay, I guess this is why I was able to become so easily hooked on the show that I was willing to look past the trigger warning of a gruesome scene of murdered children in concoction with the release date of season 4 and the Uvalde shooting. The producers of the show giving a disclaimer that they could not have known. If this really were the 80s, gory horror movies and all, I still could not have fathomed a need for such a disclaimer in the 80s of my time.

Those horrors primarily existed in the imagination. One thing that was not far fetched was how easily it was for youth to obtain warfare, how out of hand bullying has been through the ages, or how teens past and present still struggle with the same dynamics when it comes to popularity or being one of the outcasts.

The true magic of Stranger Things in my opinion, is that you have a bunch of kids fighting demi-dogs or the mind flayer who normally would not be affiliated with each other, and a kid who would normally be relentlessly teased finding himself in a triangle with two unlikely father figures who mentor him. The show has a lot to say about father figures and how one navigates through life without them. Of course, as a former single mom, that part spoke to me. Kudos to the makers of Stranger Things for letting it be known that the “Joyce Byer” moms of the world may be broken, but they are most certainly NOT fragile. In fact, we know what’s up despite societies efforts to crazy make us for “not having it together.”

There is another aspect of Stranger Things that really also spoke to me which wasn’t one of the greater plot points, but held my attention. I grew up in Utah and I’ve seen the nabs at Mormons or how Mormons are represented on T.V. I remember when I’d catch some Mormon wise crack on a movie or sitcom thinking, “WAIT. WHAT? Mormons are different?” I never realized the bubble I lived in, or how that bubble appeared to the rest of the world. So the character of Suzy the hacker had my attention. So we see this Pizza van pulling up to Suzy’s home in Salt Lake City, and immediately I thought, “Wow. The shows makers really spared little when it came to the fashion, or music of that time period, but they really went off the mark with their representation of the typical Mormon household of the 80s.

I’m not saying this because I’m offended, but growing up Mormon, their representation was just as foreign to me as it may have been to outsiders. I mean, it was off enough that I wondered if the Duffer Brothers had consulted any Mormons at all or anyone who grew up around them. The weird part of this, the absolute most creepy weird part of this, is that when I watched the scenes pertaining to Suzy and her “Mormon” life I was like, What is this? but when I watched “Papa” in business attire drawing circles on the floor addressing a group of children, choosing one to get the door etc; or promising an extra hour of free play time in the Rainbow Room as a reward , I was suddenly very much shook by this thought, Now that reminds me of growing up Mormon. I’ve been bothered by this ever since.

Okay, so there it is, the weird creepy part of Stranger Things that got into my psyche. The part the Duffer brothers probably never intended. An unintended consequence that pertained to me the viewer. Questioning the cult of my own childhood. Papa in business attire, who had all the right mannerisms, who desired for power and control. Everything appearing so uniform and in order, but beneath it all there was something sinister. I grew up in congregations where people were addressed as “brothers or sisters, ” “sons and daughters” and “boys and girls.” I can almost hear the greetings now. “Good Morning brothers and sisters, Hello boys and girls.”

I KNOW now that the truest definition of a cult is someone trying to take your power away. The “hive” mind. As a female especially. I was supposed to be submissive and subservient to patriarchal men in business suits. White male patriarchy to be exact. The cannons of white male patriarchy, the old dudes. They had “keys.” I did not. I was conditioned to fit that mold even though it went against my nature, and then I was dubbed a menace, “wild,” a non-conformist, a problem, someone who was “lost.” I was supposed to uphold their dominion over me and teach my children to do the same as I remained teachable and malleable without question.

There was another aspect of Stranger Things I found to be interesting. The hysteria and the “satanic panic” of the 80s. I decided that whether or not it’s the Salem Witch Trials, the satanic panic, etc. It’s all part of the same recipe with varying degrees of consequential outcomes throughout history. The hysteria itself turning out to be more sinister then the actual culprit. I remember last year amid the protests that were popping up all over the country, rumors flying all over the internet (from actual police departments here even) telling people ANTIFA was coming door to door to shoot people in the face, and I was like P-lease. It did feel comparable to the 80s satanic panic reminiscent of times when I was told devil worshippers would be coming for virgin sacrifices.

Then there came the Q crew of this era who have been veering their head with their presumptuous, preposterous elucidations. People have died over this. I enjoyed watching Stranger Things because it reminded me of a time that was not this time, but in the same token I was reminded, the 1980s, the 2020s, some recipes are still very much the same. Even weirder, a while ago it would seem preposterous to consider a Russian invasion, a nuclear bomb shelter in the desert or anything bordering on Red Dawn, and yet, here we are. It’s as if things have gone full circle and we’ve circled back to the Soviets again.

Real life filming for Stranger Things was halted for a long period due to the pandemic. That is the bonus for me coming to the series late, I was not one of those people hooked on the show stuck in the waiting place. On another note, the kids of the show were not kids anymore which allowed the creators to take more liberties with the horror aspect, which they most certainly did. Was that aspect a testament to the underlying horrors of our day being channeled into the show? An underlying release in the subconscious psyche over the fear and anxiety that unfolded in the real world during the peak of the Pandemic? It’s possible.

Stranger Things has helped me entertain the notion that time marches on, and I ponder the possibility of some future hot item show revisiting this time and what it would say about this era. Which parts of the present I am living now would come off as nostalgic and which parts would be considered absolutely absurd. Personally, I find a lot of absurdity in my time. I’m just waiting for it all to to catch up. I know what I secretly wish for when I contemplate a sobering up of all the absurdity of this present day.

Some absurdities I won’t mention, but one of the biggest absurdities I see in our day are the detriments of social media, the damage we are doing to ourselves and society via social networks that tap our psychology and the rise of the internet as a tool for division and a means to commodify every aspect of our lives as if we are products to be sold. It’s as if we are living an alternate reality. It is bizarre.
I keep hoping a time will come when any random from the the general population stumbles across a Trump flag or anything MAGA related and remembers these somber times and asks, “What were we thinking?” Like a one hit record no one listens to anymore or a fanatical favorite everyone tired of that was so yesterday and everyone moved on.

I would like to see a future without the flag at half mast or even having to ponder what type of American Flag I am looking at. Is this one loaded? I’d like to see a change in collective habits that are more earth based so if we saw people doing it the old way, we’d be astonished and say, “Did people really do that?” I’d like to see people collectively get off their phones so we could question, “Wow, were people really that fixated on their phones?” One can dream.
So for now, I just have to ponder old cassette tapes, actual file folders, phone booths, ghetto blasters, old school recording devices, Radio Shack, VHS tapes, paper maps, or dial up internet.
It was refreshing to ponder these and not the heavier machinations and nuances of today. The world of the upside down in Stranger Things is an imagined hell, in this time, we have our own versions of terror, some of them not so imagined, not to the extent that they would have been perceived in the 80s. In our time we have come to associate certain atrocities as the new normal. The new Upside Down.
So yes, I am grateful for the escapism Stranger Things allowed, all the reminders of nostalgic times that are no more, and the distractions of an imagined fictitious hells cape that differentiates from the non- fiction realities of today.
I am reminded of the coming of age aspect of the show. The youth who bravely take matters in their own hands because they have to. I think of the state of our youth now, the transfixed fandom of Stranger Things that is easily becoming a timeless classic phenomenon and cult classic . Then I am reminded of a quote, “Never apologize for raising Dragon Slayers in a time when there are indeed dragons.” I hail the youth of today. I have hope that they will create a better tomorrow and if they are inspired by the strength, grit, and the comradery that defines a generation in an imagined world where there are indeed monsters I am all for it.

Until Next Post!

Rachelle Whiting

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