Lunchtable TV Talk: Stranger Things


I never imagined, when he was young (or when I was young, for that matter), that Matthew Modine would, in middle age, come to play a range of (semi-)evil masterminds. But both here in Stranger Things and in the short-lived and flat Proof, Modine is just that. He is a behind-the-scenes kind of guy, pulling all the strings. Would you have imagined that when you saw him Vision Quest or Full Metal Jacket? (Well, maybe. In his long career, he has been and done almost everything.)

That’s not really the point, though. Where Modine fits into my brief and redundant narrative is that he, having been a fringe fixture in 1980s movies, fits well into a Netflix show that revives the 80s and its entertainment, its style and its feel down to the last molecule, Stranger Things.

I am once again hitting a wall in terms of finding an original thing to say about it – it’s been wildly popular (so much so that it took the Netflix platform down) and thus picked apart and analyzed to death. That happens with sudden phenomena such as these that feed so many different things:

  • Winona Ryder revival: a real one this time; for those who were not around in the late 80s and early 90s, Winona was a kind of offbeat ‘it’ girl; a shoplifting conviction and a lower profile made it seem as though she disappeared. She worked steadily but had both lost some of the indie/grunge cred that ignited her earlier career and, of course, aged out of the “it girl” title. She’s appeared in the Star Trek reboot and Black Swan as well as the lauded Show Me a Hero. She never went anywhere; nostalgia and the popularity of this show have just catapulted her back into the limelight.
  • 1980s nostalgia: oh, that dreadful fashion and hair; paeans to 1980s youth adventure films; nods to 1980s classic horror
  • Sounds: That unbelievable and dreamy soundtrack.
  • Immersion therapy: We have other 80s love stories on TV (Halt & Catch Fire), which are great, but you don’t really get to immerse yourself in the time and spirit as much because it’s a weekly. Stranger Things was nothing if not an eight-hour-long time-trip into 1983. And for those of us who were there, around the ages of the boys in the show, riding their bikes all around town looking for their lost friend, Stranger Things has brought that entire era back to life believably (perhaps nowhere more than in the wardrobes and sensibilities of the teens like Barb and Nancy).

All that said, I am not one of the people who loved this and gushed about it. I liked it, I binged on it. But do I anxiously crave another installment? Not so much. I was never THAT into the 80s as they happened, hated being a kid and being around the kinds of kids who are the protagonists of this movie, and I always thought Ryder was overrated.

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