Once again, Netflix has proven that the reason why they are owning the TV industry of ou day an age is because they are able to produce high quality shows that engage with people in a very deep level. The latest hit is the fan favourite, viral hit Stranger Things. You haven’t seen it? You re in this blog, therefore you ought to watch it. It will not let you down. Why? Because Stranger Things is a show for geeks – amongst others who may just suffer from 80s nostalgia.
I did not have Netflix until recently, so I heard about it from my friends collective who really encouraged me to get on to it because: “it is totally your thing”. Well, they were right. But first, let me tell you about some of the ways the show had been described to me, and maybe then you will get why this is cool. “Stranger things is like playing very trippy DnD with your friends, but stuff actually gets real, like , for good, and super quick”. “Just imagine DnD meets Silent Hill, in the 80s”. “I mean, it is Winona Rider”. “Just so many references to absolutely everything, ever”….I am sure you get the picture, right? Well then, in the very best ManaBurnt style, I’ll give you my piece as to why this is a great show and why i liked it -and don’t worry: no spoilers, just in case.
First of all, let me tell you that the acting is SUPERB. There is not a single character in the entire series that is not well delineated and well established from their first appearance. Winona is particularly amazing, and more importantly, credible. The children are seriously relatable: if you play RPGs, you know straight out each of them play their role in the party to the core. Moreover, they actually struggle with real problems everyone can relate to: being bully at school, being misunderstood, ignored, or underestimated…and of course, lets not forget the deep connotations the show throws at you about depriving children from their childhood, child abuse…Violence – and not just guns or weapons, but the brutal reality of events that can just creep in at any moment of your life, suffering…All these things are very real and well transmitted by the entire cast. Period.
Then of course you have the never-ending tasteful references to absolutely “everything”: the 80s vibe has been 100% nailed down – the soundtrack does wonders for this, in the same way that certain items of clothing, the bikes, I could just carry on. Now, the biggest fear some of you may have is that with so many references to other sci-fi/fantasy movies and icons this may well be a pastiche. No worries then, because it certainly it isn’t: and the references make it ever more enjoyable if you can identify them. Personal favourites?: The ET and Alien moments. Why? Because these things form an intrinsic part of my childhood memories. They are dear to me, even formative experiences that I remember sharing with my parents, who experience the 80s during their youth. This show almost feels like looking into a mirror and seeing the story of your life you did not live, because it simply did not happen…But it may have been all too real in your imagination, and you were always part of it. Day dreaming. Writing. Creating. Thinking. Gaming.
A particular aspect of the show that I thoroughly fell in love with was their concept of friendship. This is why the show happens. These children are friends, and as the main characters have an important role to fulfill. This took me back to the Goonies all over. You don’t leave a member of the gan behind, you look after each other, you stay together and even if you fight, you sort things out. These are Values. Values that in our individualistic, capitalistic modern society, are often missed or left for dead. Their friendship is based on respect and tolerance. And they are only able to face their destinies because, although young, they are able to respect and tolerate that the circumstances surrounding them are not what could have been expected and far from usual. In general, the show really compels you to keep an open mind. Not just with regards to yourself, but towards others and what they may feel and perceive to be true.
But the show also reminds us of our vulnerabilities. Just because we stop looking for monsters under our beds, it does not mean they do not exist. Whether these are physical, metaphysical or imaginary things that haunt us, it is very much down to the individual, and not every single character in the series experience this in the same way. Whether it be an actual monster or fear of the unknown, there is an eerie feeling that reality is just what you make it, but for as long as the sun spins around the Earth, shadow will creep upon it. How you deal with the shadows, however, is entirely down to you. Some of the characters, such as Winona’s persona are very up front about this, almost heroic and selfless. The children present a combination of uncertainty mixed with determination, as key ingredients used in this journey to fight darkness and find oneself. In the meantime, the teens/young adults learn that the courage of youth must be mastered by caution, intuition and responsibility. Remember what I said about values? Insert same comment here.
I guess I could have just spent the last few paragraphs telling about how well filmed the production is, or how fascinating the script was…But that is not the point. Because in fact, at the end of the day is the message and those subtleties hidden in the viewers subconsciousness that make this show great. The plot to a degree could be considered a generic trope. But it is the thoughtful cohesion somehow achieved by creating a metastory where the audience is key for this technique to work that really makes Stranger Things one of the best shows of 2016 – if not the best I have encountered so far.