February 26, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Stranger Things “The Vanishing Of Will Byers”

Season One, Episode One.

Apparently, this Stranger Things was something of a phenomena I’d managed to miss until now.  Granted, my plate was pretty full with other things, and I needed to wait for Rome to finish before I’d have some free time in my TV-watching schedule.  But I’m done now and eager to catch up with that thing everyone got into last summer.

Now, I won’t say too much about this first episode.  I’m still trying to get a general feel for the show, and Nancy Wheeler’s love life is about as interesting to me as dry, white toast.  I’m sure the character is being developed for a reason, but I don’t see it yet.

But I do want to take a moment to discuss nostalgia….again.  As a general rule, I hate the stuff.  I can be as sentimental as the next geek, and I’m not immune to the stuff, but I very much prefer to live in the now, so to speak.  That’s going to be a huge obstacle to my enjoyment for any Ready Player One movie, let me tell you, but it’s the truth.

But I’m not sure Stranger Things qualifies as nostalgia so much as it does a tribute to a storytelling style that has gone the way of the dodo.  The 80s, for all its strengths and weaknesses in terms of entertainment, did have one film genre that seems to have died out.  That’s the kid-friendly adventure film, where a group of kids go on an “adventure of a lifetime” and do the sort of stuff that the adult moviemakers thought the kids in the audience would think was cool.  As it turns out, many times they were right, but that genre produced a lot of films ranging from E.T. to The Goonies to The Monster Squad.  Stranger Things hits that sort of style, not only set in the 80s, but looking and sounding (with that synthesizer) like something from the time period that was neglected for some reason.

Story elements could come from then, too.  The aforementioned Nancy’s love life may not be all that impressive to start, but it does look like what the typical teenage girl storyline would be.  There’s an untrustworthy and dangerous government agency (the Department of Energy of all bureaucracies) that would be a hallmark of many a movie produced in Ronald Reagan’s America.  And with the central heroes clearly being a bunch of kids, with one, the mysterious Eleven, having some sort of special powers, a single mom going into Mama Bear mode, and a mysterious something that adults probably won’t believe is real, then yeah, this is a tribute, or at least a period piece on par with Mad Men and The Americans, neither of which romanticize the time periods they’re set in.  Granted, I think Stranger Things might do a bit of that romanticizing, but I’m somewhat fine with that at this point if the show continues to do it so artfully.

Besides, I’ve had a running gag going with my Simpsons write-ups every time a character originally voiced by Winona Ryder pops up somehow.  I clearly couldn’t skip this show for that reason alone.

I also flash this picture every time.
I also flash this picture every time.

So, what else can I say at this point?  Will Byers has disappeared, his mother Joyce is going nuts looking for him, an initially incompetent-seeming police chief is turning out to be a lot more on the ball than he appears to, and the people after Eleven will kill to get her back, but she can kill right back when threatened.  What happens when our Dungeons and Dragons-playing boys find the girl in the woods?

Eh, I’ll find out in episode two.