The 80’s… Where the kids of Generation X came of age. The forgotten younger kids of the baby boomers. The product of the 60’s free love and the 70’s hangover. When the nuclear family and patriarchy were still the dominant societal building blocks remaining from the traditions of the 40’s and 50’s but were badly damaged from the two previous decades.
Ed Harcourt sums it up best in his song born in the 70’s where half way through the song as he melodically sings ‘born in the 70’s’ over and over again and a high refrain of ‘No we don’t really give a F@#$ about you‘ is heard answering him back.
And because no one gave a F@#$ about us and there was not as many creeps around, we rode our bikes everywhere and stayed out all day. No cell phones. No tablets. Maybe just a few video games
Stranger Things is a nostalgic foray for Generation X and anyone who grew up with the movies of that especially creative decade. From narrative driven thrillers from King (like Firestarter) and epic adventures from Spielberg (like Goonies). Stranger Things tries to recreate the optimism created by the dead cat bounce after the 70’s and the expectation of the technological 90’s. Big cars, big hair, big plots – this series does it all but with an interesting twist.
You see the 80’s movies didn’t have the luxury of having the perception of the next 30 years of history to reflect on. So when they were made, it was cool to be a rebellious mouthy teen – a way of ‘sticking it to the man’ because there still was a man to stick it to. Religious traditions were still there to make movies about that ‘shocked’ everyone because people still had religious beliefs. Now, its 30 years later and postmodernism has infiltrated our culture (kinda like the upside down). We have seen every horror, sex and violent act with every special effect in 1080p high definition detail. ‘Everything is permissible and nothing shocks us anymore – let alone 80’s ‘horror’ movies with marginal CGI graphics.
Then why is this series popular?
It is because it captures a time when there were fewer options, but the options that existed – were real (or at least believed to be real). Conservationism, the gender roles, the boys chasing the girls, the nuclear family, the pursuit of the white picket fence – that is the twist I am talking about. It used to be assumed that those things existed and misfits and outsiders struggled with them. Now, it is assumed those things don’t exist and it is oddly fascinating that there was a time they once did.
Look at Hopper – Aggressive, male, domineering, the ‘Father’ figure of the series, protector, capable, knows how to use a gun, knows how to punch yet is human enough to be devastated by the loss of his daughter. Where has this character been the last 30 years?
Look at the distinct line between good and evil – the normal peaceful town and the mirror image – upside down. The upside down is evil (there is no good there). The upside down is chaos, it is the abyss – it is Milton’s hell. It is a picture of what the town could be metaphorically.
It reminded me of one of Jordan Peterson’s lectures in which he talks about how someone feels when they are betrayed. Their whole world which they thought was good has now been ‘turned upside down’. Even the house they live in becomes like a tomb to them – like the upside down.
In other words, there is a psychological state that matches that upside-down metaphor and resounds subconsciously as an archetype. In a Christian sense it is the spiritual dimension – the ‘Prince of the Power of the Air’. Millions feel they are in this dimension. Some call it mental illness. Some go in to save a child from an eating disorder. It is a warped reality. Reality and goodness can’t be found there. You only rescue from there.
In a philosophical sense the beast – well the beast is Nietzsche’s beast – Nihilism.
In 2017 we now know that beast well. Quite possibly we are a society in its clutches. All traditions (religious included) deconstructed, we now search for a purely existential meaning. We destroyed belief and in so doing opened the gate to destroy all belief. Now, the beast of nihilistic depression and anxiety hunts us as a by-product.
But let’s look at what the series writers say the upside down is and where it came from. For the enlightened 2017 audience you can no longer use demons and supernatural powers (Christian language). Instead, you go to your science teacher (aka the new pastor), and he gives a very convincing argument called the multiverse, (Endorsed by Bill Nye) that is not scientific at all. It is science fiction, however, but it has a weird feeling to it…like it is a metaphor for a spiritual dimension.
There is not one experiment that comes close to proving this of course, and philosophically, it does nothing to solve the beast of nihilism.
A more philosophically reasonable cosmological argument by far is the uncaused cause.
I mean, look at how the gate was opened to this multi-verse. A ‘scientific’ experiment using psychokinesis, the gateway drug to spirituality.
Achetypes and Biblical References
The ‘perfect’ Indiana town of Hawkins invaded by demon looking creatures from another dimension. Or… A peaceful village invaded by ‘demonic’ outsiders. If you want to read the original version pick up a copy of Dostoevsky’s Demons.
Eleven is the ‘sacrificial lamb’ who in sacrificing herself saves them from the beast. There always has to be a sacrifice of goodness to defeat evil.
Did you notice the David vs. Goliath theme as Lucas has 5 stones that he attempts to defeat the beast with. Yet it was El’s supernatural power that ultimately defeats it.
I am sure there are tons more and feel free to mention them in the comments.
This series has been a pleasant surprise for me having been born mid 70’s. The director’s nailed the childhood freedom and feeling of the decade and the smartly inserted philosophical elements did not ‘break the metaphor’. They learnt well from Steven King
I just finished binge watching Season 2 and it is interesting to see how the writers developed the characters and maintained the quasi-spiritual themes. Will write a blog about that next.