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Stranger Things: How to capitalize on Nostalgia?

*Some spoilers, so an alert is in order!*

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Netflix released season 2 of Stranger Things, needless to say it was much better than the last one, adding more layers to the characters and a very interesting plot line.

But this article is not a review of the season or the series. I would like to focus on the mass hysteria associated with it. Why are all of us nuts about this simple story of a group of friends and their adventures?

Answer: Nostalgia

The core audience for the show is in the age demographic: Mid 20’s to late 30’s (Duffer Brothers said this themselves). Which leads to the point that the 80’s and 90’s was when everyone in that demographic was either a kid or a teenager.

And like most kids of that time, I spent my time watching genre defining sci -fi movies and their imaginative universes. Tron’s arcade dimension, Star Trek’s inter planetary setting, Blade Runner’s dreary Los Angeles of the future, to name a few were just amaze! (That is not grammatically correct but you get what I mean!)


gurdianStranger things took me back to those days and the shows and movies of those times, more importantly it took me back to a time when I was a kid and life was a lot more simpler. I guess Nostalgia does that to all of us, it transports us to happier times. However, evoking nostalgia without an overkill is an art. Many shows and movies have tried to do this and failed, they would evoke cringe instead (Watch some of the latest Adam Sandler movies, you’ll know what I mean!).

In today’s days of hyper references to popular tunes of that era(Grown Ups, Guardians of the Galaxy, Pixles; All these movies use the same gimmick to evoke nostalgia) all they could have done was plug in a few songs from the time and it would’ve been done(They do this in a few instances, but just when it is required).

Instead, what they did is create a new score from ground up. It is very true to its 80’s roots, with a heavy focus on: Over dubbed vocals, Gated Snare Sounds, Heavy Synth and a lot of Keyboard. Although everyone is raving about the title track, I recommend “Kids” which perfectly incorporates all the aforementioned aspects.

It plays for the first time right at the beginning of S1:E1 as the party heads out after a game of Dungeons and Dragons.

I personally experienced a deep connection to this track, It took me back to 1995, when my dad bought a Casio Keyboard for my sister, the sound from that instrument was so distinctive, It was mechanical yet soulful. Very much similar to the entire soundtrack of this show.

Kyle and Dixon, the composers, said that they were aiming for a Retro, Dark yet upbeat BGM. The Duffer Brothers let them get as creative as they could. The end product is a masterpiece and plays an important part in recreating the 80’s ambience.

The other key part is the visual element. Sticking to the aesthetic of the era is the least that the show could do, and it doesn’t disappoint. But what is really intriguing is the level of rigor.

For instance, the 80’s was when the board game Dungeons and Dragons had released, people were really crazy about it. The Duffer brothers cleverly crafted a major portion of the show’s narrative around this. Infact each creature from the upside down (Mind Flayer, Dema-Dogs, Demagorgans) was introduced using the game!

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Even the openings credits is a throwback to the title fonts of the 80’s and Stephen King especially, take a look at the fonts across all of King’s novels v/s Stranger Things Title Sequence and notice the uncanny similarity!

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In addition the Duffer brothers’ keep paying homage to a host of 80’s trends, Movies and personalities which keeps the Nostalgia train going on and on!For starters, The party on their bicycles with eleven is essentially a throwback to the most iconic sci-fi movie of the 80’s, E.T.

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And the final boss move is the casting!

Season 1 saw the introduction of Winona Ryder. She was quite literally the break out star of the 80’s with memorable hits like, Heathers, Beetle Juice and Edward Scissorhands. Season 2 has Sean Astin and Paul Reisner, both famous stars of the era.

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Wait, there is something else as well. The late 70s and early 80s saw a massive boom in alien oriented movies, a few famous ones are: E.T., The Thing, Aliens, The Fly, Predator, Ghostbusters and Gremlins. All these movies dealt with a similar premise of an alien species(Demogorgogns, Mind Flayers, Demadogs in this show) from a distant planet or alternate dimension (In this case, “the upside-down”), who for no apparent reason have targeted earth and its citizens. Even though, these aliens were the main antagonists they never were the central theme, infact the focus always remained on testing the bonds of friendship and love in times of duress. Eventually this would push the character arcs and the plot forward. The entire setting for Stranger Things is more or less the same.

Mind blowing isn’t it?!

However, a possible upside-down (Lol, stupid pun) for the series as a whole, could be expected. The Duffer brothers need to maintain this fine balance of Nostalgia and hopefully end the show with a Season 3 otherwise it most likely will turn out to be a nostalgia-over kill.

Probably they should get Maya to team up with El and shut down the omnipresent Mind Flayer (A mushy everyone likes it all kind of finale) or maybe the mind flayer takes over Hawkins and we have a post-apocalyptic terminator like ending!

The possibilities are endless!

By: Vaibhav Anday

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