80s movies are one of the few things that are right in this world.
I look back at all of my absolute favorite movies and 85% of them are 80s era classics. Stand By Me, The Lost Boys and The Goonies are the immediate three that come to mind, and let me tell you, it’s true that they don’t make movies like these anymore.
I hate to ever give credit to the overused saying of ‘back in my day’ and really- considering that I was born in ’92, I can’t even actually use that saying, but still.
Back in the day of 80s movies, there was an aesthetic so easily reached, that it has since slipped through media’s fingertips, and so far, not come back.
That is, until Stranger Things.
Now let’s be clear, I’m not saying that I want all television and movies to reek of the 80s, cause I don’t. One of the coolest things about the differences amongst the decades is, in fact, the different ways media is impacted throughout them. We would never have had a Sons Of Anarchy in the 80s. Or well—we would have, maybe, but it would have not been the same one I love today.
So it’s not about replication, but it is about paying attention to what did once work so well.
Stranger Things immediate success was because it wasn’t a 2016 take on the 80s, it was the 80s so intricately brought back to our screens. It didn’t feel inauthentic in anyway, and if anything, made clearer to me what exactly was so unique to that era of film.
The biggest aspect that I do believe has been lost, however, is the (not so) radical idea that kids are ready for an adventure.
Stranger Things came out swinging in more ways that one. Mike, Dustin, Lucas and Will from the start were deep into Dungeons and Dragons, which told us something really important—it told us that they held knowledge and tactics about fighting fantasy monsters.
I know it sounds kinda ridiculous, but this has always been a pet peeve of mine, because personally, I believe I’d have a solid shot in surviving the apocalypse. I can’t imagine that a world of people who watch shows such as The Walking Dead, or Supernatural would not gleam at least some knowledge to help them face a real life situation of the sort.
Think back to The Goonies—like yea okay, maybe that would never happen in real life, but if it did, I find it more believable that a group of kids who spend their time making up adventures on their own would be the most resourceful than any other person.
That’s what was brought back with Stranger Things. A melding of imagination and fight, in facing what every kid is in someway always preparing for.
It’s worth bringing up the difference amongst kids nowadays versus the 80s and 90s. I mean if we want to get really deep into it, we can argue that the adventure aesthetic amongst kids has been lost because kids, in general, have greater access to television and the internet. By default, they’re no longer looking for that outside, and maybe not exercising the innate urge to explore as much as they once did.
A quick pitstop to emphasize that I’m not in any way taking a stance on what is right or wrong in regards to how kids are raised, or what they prefer to do. Also, I can’t say that this is even true for kids right now; it is simply my perspective from my own personal experiences of late.
It’s funny because I was actually talking to my cousin about this only a month ago. She and I both shared memories of how we were out from sun up to sun down and wondered if it was the times that were changing or the people. And maybe one can’t change without the other, I really don’t know.
Let’s just say that all this is a bigger question that this article can’t handle.
But bringing it back down to Stranger Things in particular, it was a breath of fresh air to see these three kids not only go out to search for their missing friend, but to use the right kind of intelligence in doing so.
“Do you ever think Will went missing because he ran into something bad? And we’re going to the exact same spot.”
I was honestly even thrilled at Dustin’s apprehension because, again, it’s realistic. It’s thinking like the audience thinks when they watch a scary movie. Because in Stranger Things, I truly didn’t find myself yelling at these characters asking them what are you doing?
Except when Nancy crawled into that tree, I mean, c’mon Nancy.
That does, however, bring me to my next point about what seemingly worked so well in 80s fantasy and/or adventure movies—they didn’t make their characters stupid.
This seems like an obvious thing that you wouldn’t want to do, but let me tell you, it’s not.
I think it’s probably the trap of tropes that ever started this phenomenon of less than common sense worthy characters, but it’s something that I hope begins to go away.
There is a great difference between being misinformed, not informed at all, skeptical, or simply making a mistake than just being a flat, ill conceived character.
Watching Winona Ryder perfectly encapsulate the frantic, near manic fear of a mother who has lost her child became the catalyst for her to sound unbelievable. If she had come in insisting that Will was in the walls and there hadn’t been any sort of disbelief—that would have been unbelievable.
But the coupling of Hopper following his instincts (THANK YOU GOD) and the fact that they simply let characters put shit together, made for a believable and relatable trajectory of people being both proven right and wrong.
Not one character was left alone for too long in knowing the truth but having no one believe them. It was honestly, as a viewer, such a relief.
Because it’s stressful right? I mean I can’t be the only one feeling this way. I literally hate when the character who actually knows what’s going on, isn’t believed the whole time.
Having Hopper quickly get on board with the fact that weird shit was going on, while Nancy and Jonathan managed to also get on the same page, while Eleven and the kids were running around putting clues together, it was wonderful. It enabled not only a camaraderie amongst characters, but an actual avenue for them to then figure out the best way to survive.
The pairings also allowed for each group to have a different set of skills. Not to mention that the mix of kids, teens, and adults, elicited different emotional reactions and empathetic responses. Not one person necessarily had the same driving motivational force behind saving Will and killing the monster, but they all still wanted the same thing.
I’m curious to see where this show goes. Season one felt so complete aside from the obvious cliffhangers left for us in the finale.
One thing is for sure, if they are renewed for a season two, I will absolutely be there to follow these characters.