Friday, 17 November 2017

Latest Love: Stranger Things (spoiler free ramblings!)

Latest Love is a series of posts where I talk about a recent obsession. This could be a bookish obsession or otherwise - anything that has been making me happy recently that I feel like sharing. The important thing about this feature is that it isn't a review. This is just a way of me expressing a few reasons why I like something, and maybe find some more people to talk about it with. 😊

The Internet is no stranger to the kids of Hawkins, Indiana. Everywhere you go, the fascination with Stranger Things is hard to avoid. It's in our pop culture, it's in our Halloween costumes, it's in our memes. With the second season having been released on Netflix at the end of October, it's near impossible to avoid spoilers even in public spaces. My brother, who has never seen an episode of this show, has already been spoiled by a loud person reacting passionately over a plot point on public transport - much to the frustration of their fellow passengers.

The good news is that I won't be spoiling anything in this post for either season. I will talk about the synopsis of the show, but anything plot wise beyond what you can learn in episode 1 will not be mentioned. My focus is purely on the abstract qualities of the show that I love.

The mystery and converging storylines
I'm not familiar with a lot of 1980s pop culture, but I know that Stranger Things pays homage to a lot of classics. For that reason it's not a wholly original concept, but I think it's a combination of 80s movie influences and compelling storytelling that makes this show so effective, and provide a weird nostalgia to even people like myself who weren't around in the 80s. Although for a large part of the show, the different characters are grouped off doing their own things, their storylines do overlap, and slowly click into place together as each season progresses. It's one of those shows where a lot of the problems could be perhaps be solved if the characters just communicated a little better, but once you accept that that just isn't going to happen, it all becomes part of the mystery as you see the paths of the characters converge. I'd recommend going into the show knowing as little as possible, because it makes the mystery much more exciting.

The characters and the acting
I will admit that I don't find the characters to be very complicated. They aren't quite stock characters, but they do feel more defined by their roles (mother/police/school child) than defined by specific personality traits. Yet somehow it's very easy to become attached to all of them. The events happening around these characters are compelling in a way that makes you feel concerned for them, routing for them to achieve their goals. I think this is both thanks to the storytelling and the incredible acting, in particular from the kids. All of them are around 13 years of age, but their acting is incomparable to acting from any other child actors I've seen before. In the first season, the adults, teens, and kids are all doing their own things separate from one another, and while all storylines were compelling, the ones you want to see the most of are the ones focusing on Matt, Lucas, Dustin, and Eleven.

The aesthetic of the 1980s and cinematography and CGI
Stranger Things is beautifully cinematic, especially if you watch it on a TV screen. The sweeping shots of the town and the forests are really impressive - even more so when animated. It has been some time since I watched the first season, but in the second I think there is much more CGI scenery, giving the show a look that is very sharp and beautifully eerie. The lighting is also incredible at setting the tone for particular scenes, and the colour palette genuinely gives you the impression that you're inside an 80s movie poster that has been polished up and come to life. It is a very pretty show to look at, and the story feels so grounded in the era it is set. There are pop culture, music and film references embedded throughout, in a way that makes it impossible to untangle the story from how it has been shaped by the aesthetic of the era. Being outside of our own time also gives the show this other-ness, which really enhances the creepiness of what goes on.

Cool things you might like if you like Stranger Things

  • Paper Girls (comic book) - By the creators of Saga, Paper Girls is another 80s-based story of supernatural happenings. The colour scheme is dreamy and similar to the aesthetic of Stranger Things, just with a more blue-ish hue, and it also features creepy things happening to a group of kids on bikes.
  • Welcome to Night Vale (podcast) - Welcome to Night Vale focuses on another fictional town in the US that is unsettlingly creepy. Like Stranger Things it doesn't like to give you all the answers about quite how things work, but it's less about explaining the strange and more about embracing it.
  • Eerie Crests (web comic) - Eerie Crests is like Stranger Things with a dash Night Vale. It also focuses on missing boys and dark things lurking in forests, but is a little more creative in its narrative. Things aren't always told chronologically, so each update throws you somewhere new and you have to find your own footing, which really increases the eerie tone. Plus the art and colour palette are magnificent. (I don't have any pictures for Eerie Crests because the art belongs to the creator, but trust me, it's incredible. You can read it on tumblr or on tapas.)
  • Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas (book) - Comparing this to Stranger Things might be a bit of a stretch because they're thematically very different. But I read this book shortly after watching the first season of Stranger Things, and spotted the similarities between a part of Eleven's backstory and the pasts of these characters. 

What is your latest love? Whatever it is, I want to hear about it! Are you a fan of Stranger Things, or either of the comics or podcast that I mentioned? Do you plan to watch/read/listen to any of them? What are some of your favourite shows at the moment?


  1. I absolutely LOVED Stranger Things, and I don't like TV shows in general, so me saying that means a lot haha. I think what really pulled me in was the characters as well, and of course the plot. And the creepiness of it all.

    I also need to read Paper Girls at some point, because it sounds so interesting!

    1. It really is a magnificent show! I'm glad you love it too - the hype is absolutely worth it. Characters plus plot plus creepy is a wonderful combination, and Stranger Things does it so well.

      Paper Girls is really interesting. A little too weird, but I'm imagining some of the strange happenings will be explained in later volumes. I hope you enjoy it if you do get a chance to read it!

  2. I LOVED season 1!! I am going to watch S2 when my sister comes to visit for Christmas, because I need to convert her to it obviously.😂 I love the characters!! They're so cute and like such good actors ahhh. And it's genuinely freaky to me so that helps.😂

    1. I'm so glad you loved it too, Cait! Definitely convert your sister - I've actually been trying to convince my brother and sister to watch it with me too. They are around the same age as the Stranger Things kids so they're already familiar with the actors from interviews, and they've heard all the hype so they want to know what it's all about. It might be a little dark for my sister, but there's nothing wrong with introducing the creepy at an early age! I love the freaky in this show, especially because I can tolerate it (there are just some types of creepy that I can't sit through), plus I totally agree that the acting is incredible.