August 24, 2016

Stranger Things Puts the Science (And Much More) Back in Science Fiction

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When you watch Stranger Things, you are immediately transported into a relic of the 1980s. It was a time when adventure was sought out, science was deemed cool and heroism was somewhat synonymous with nerdiness. We are introduced to our heros — four boys around ten years old who strive for scientific exploration, fantastical adventure and unbreakable friendship — and, as viewers, immediately become attached to them. From the beginning of the first episode, there is an underlying element of supernaturalness that becomes much more overt later in the hour. However, unlike most shows for which the basis of the storyline is made up of supernatural events, this show isn’t nauseatingly cheesy or predictable. The monsters aren’t random, irrelevant or redundant. They aren’t taking over the world in hordes, or trying to wipe out the human race. The supernatural aspects of Stranger Things are explained and relevant. More than anything, they are novel. Nowhere before has a “demogorgon” (the type of monster in the show) been utilized. This is the first supernatural horror thriller in which you feel intelligent watching it and gripped for the right reasons. The show pulls together accessible science which is appealing to wider audiences with its theories of alternate realities, as well as plausible historical mystery. The historical backdrop of the show utilizes a cold-war intensive CIA program which is eager to leverage its scientific discoveries over America’s cold war enemies, the Soviets.

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The show is a beautiful blend between horror and humor, keeping you on the edge of your seat with its more thrilling aspects, but letting you relax here and there with much needed comedic relief. The characters in the show are not only heroic, multi-dimensional and amusing, but they are also relatable. The pangs of fear the adults feel for their missing loved ones resonates with any audience, while the tenacity and curiosity of our four young boys brings us all back to our childhoods. The love and romance of our young adult characters caught in the midst of conflict and trauma brings back feelings we probably all have felt (even if our conflict doesn’t involve our friends being whisked away by monsters). We become attached to these characters because, even in this supernatural and almost-unrealistic world, somehow we see genuine glimpses of our reality projected into theirs; all their fears, anxieties, victories and joys become palpable emotions for us as if we are living them as well.

The most important aspect of this show is that it champions the idea of human curiosity. It is rather riveting and novel to have a show so deeply rooted in the positivity of human curiosity, especially when it seems like we live in a society which often fails to question what is and what could be. We are trapped within our social apps, mundane classwork and resume-boosting extracurricular activity. We never stop to question or ask why certain things are the way they are. Our four main characters live and thrive off of never taking for granted what science has proven, or what society tells them is fact. Stranger Things provides an alternate way of looking at the world, and after each episode you want to live with the same curiosity as those in the show do. To an extent, every major character in the show ends up opening up to different realities, different explanations and alternatives. This leap of faith only stems from those who believe that you must question everything and cannot believe everything that is spoonfed to you.

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But there is even more from this show from which we learn at a human level, and that is the value of friends and family. Throughout the show, communication and strength is only successful for these characters once they show emotional support, belief and forgiveness to each other. Especially with the younger members of the show, the audience sees how even through all their conflict, strife, and misery they still are able to see each other’s perspectives and come to compromises about opinions and decisions. Their maturity and perseverance are more than just admirable, but heroic given their age and their abnormal scenarios. The show displays a love between characters that is different from the type of love between friends and lovers we usually see in television. There is a level of purity in the relationships between the main characters, especially the five children, that induces feelings of both nostalgia and yearning.

Stranger Things introduces a reality to viewers that is different from what is normally seen. The reality that Stranger Things provides us with is one in which people are unbridledly curious, unwaveringly loyal and unfathomably kind and pure. It gives us a glimpse of a world in which we have an unflinching perseverance to go after those we love, genuine forgiveness for those we conflict with and a steadfast trust in those we care about, regardless of how crazy they sound or seem. Above the horror thriller and the 80s nostalgia, Stranger Things provides audiences a reason to question what already is, and makes us wonder what could be.

Harini Kannan is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].