Like it or not, it’s hard to deny that the film and TV industries are becoming increasingly unoriginal. Whether it be an adaptation of a young adult novel or a remake of an old television program, film producers and studio executives seem to have run out of good ideas. And despite this summer’s lackluster movie lineup (which was full of unnecessary sequels and re-hashings of twenty-year old movies), we still watch them, and some of us may even enjoy them. However, it’s hard not to feel like we have exchanged the wonder of cinema for guilty pleasure flicks put together purely for profit.
And then a show like “Stranger Things” comes along.
Barely a month out of the gate, “Stranger Things” has received acclaim across the globe, with fans and critics alike praising its structure, well-developed characters, and throwbacks to 1980s culture. This phenomenon has spread to students and teachers alike.
“I think it’s a really fun show,” senior Grayson Piershale said. “It was well-written and the otherworldly aspects of it really make it intriguing. It seems to me that the show doesn’t rely on its references to ‘80s subculture, but uses them to enhance its own plot, which I appreciated.”
The show also speaks to the critics, people who not only study movies but also analyze the stories they tell. Assistant professor of English, Dr. Heath Carpenter, notes the archetypes the show repeats from older movies and TV shows.
“I think it’s kind of kitschy,” Carpenter said. “If you watch this show, and then watch an old Steven Spielberg movie like ‘E.T.,’ the similarities are uncanny. The archetypes are a group of kids going on an adventure and a human or alien with strange abilities. It’s interesting to watch even just as a showcase of archetypes. For lack of a better word, it’s Spielbergian.”
However, Carpenter does not think “Stranger Things” is a game-changer among television shows.
“I don’t think it’s anything revolutionary in storytelling or filmmaking,” Carpenter said. “Certainly fun to watch, and more than a little bit of throwback, but that’s all.”
This seems to be the general consensus among other critics as well, including Arkansas Democrat Gazette film critic Philip Martin.
Martin said he thought the show was fun and well-made, but not especially important. However, he also found it very interesting to see how pop culture reverberates across different generations. Martin believes some of the biggest fans of “Stranger Things” were alive in 1983, with many younger fans introduced to ‘80s culture by their parents.
It is clear, however, that the ‘80s cultural references are just some of the many components to which “Stranger Things” owes its rave reviews. But will the show be able to keep its acclaim? A second season has been greenlit; it seems we will find out soon enough.