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Stranger Things - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Stranger Things
So, I binged the season, and I've been binging reactions to the season. Anyway, spoilers abound.

I like season 2 better than season 1 even, and I liked season 1 a lot. This one feels more like they know what they've got, and now they're seeing what they can do with it.

Hopper and Eleven are definitely the highlight. I've seen people talking about "Oh, it's borderline abusive" but... no. This is an extreme situation, in which two volatile people are both getting a bit of cabin fever, and yes, at one point have a huge, all-out fight. It's not like she has anywhere to vent things, or that he's wrong about how dangerous it is for her to step out. It's just emotionally tense, and it boils over once or twice. That will happen when two people are alone in keeping a dangerous secret. Now that they both have some escape valves (Mike for El, Joyce for Hop), they'll be able to vent their anger at something other than one another now and then. Or just, you know, get out of the house. Basically, I don't care how good a relationship is, there are going to be moments when both people blow up. That's the point when I, like El, tend to go into my room and slam the door, even now, before I say something dumb. Only I'm not telekinetic and prone to power spills.

The kids knock the acting out of the park again. The Duffer brothers really cast them well, and found people (including themselves) who know how to direct kids. From the sounds of their interviews, they're given enough space to develop their characters to make them realistically kids, too, which helps.

Former eighties teenager here (I'm one year older than these kids, actually): This NAILS growing up in the 80s. Yes, so far it hasn't gotten into the job losses and farm losses, but then again, it's fantasy, so it's symbolic. The sense that the adult world randomly went haywire, and was screwing around with things without much thought for the consequences was very much what it felt like. It didn't feel like someone was driving us in the wrong direction. It felt like we were on a fast-moving truck and everyone was so busy doing other stuff that no one was bothering to drive the thing.

Because most of the stuff that came out in the 80s was developed by older generations, it often got the dynamic quite wrong, assuming some kind of adversarial relationship with parents. Ferris Bueller probably came closest to the right vibe at the time -- parents were fine. We mostly liked them all right (along with loving them, of course). Aside from the kind of aberrations that occur in every generations and the minor blow ups that occur in every relationship, we actually got along quite well with our elders. But they didn't really factor into daily plans all that much. Because our parents had been taught to basically treat their parents as omnipotent, they raised us to see them as people with a lot of failings and weaknesses, on the thought that we'd see them as human beings. It worked. We tended to think of ourselves as human beings, too, and therefore, we were free to do whatever, and we tended to be genuinely surprised at those times when parental feet came down. Not having been a parent during the current era, I'm always taken by surprise by things like pick up lanes at elementary schools. I walked home and had a key to the house, for crying out loud and so did everyone else I knew. There was nothing even remotely extraordinary about it. Parents worked, kids looked after themselves after school. The first time I was at an elementary school at closing time lately, I was flabbergasted. Getting picked up by a parent after school would have been super weird, as episode 1 showed when Joyce picked Will up and everyone in the halls stared at him. Parents showing up at school would mean some kind of family emergency, or a weather emergency, or some kind of other serious shit. It would not be an everyday experience in need of special lanes and arrangements. Or parents speaking in their children's place in public (with the child right there, saying, "My son needs ____"). Or kids not having the litany of addresses, phone numbers, and parental contact information memorized and handy at all times -- that was memorized before kindergarten in case we got separated, but now, I have kids twelve and thirteen years old asking their parents where they live. I always want to scream, "That's dangerous! Learn that stuff, what if you need help?"

The relationships? I like the way they handle the first-love plots. Yes, it's funny and awkward and confusing, but it's also very real to the people in it. Absolutely no one, including Hopper, tells El or Mike that they're cute or they'll get over it or whatever other nonsense people say. It's played as seriously as any of the other kinds of relationships, and that seems true to the characters, who -- whatever the shape of their relationship -- clearly loved each other a lot.

Let's see...

I care a lot less about Jonathan-Nancy-Steve this year. I mean, I didn't care extensively last year, either, but I kind of zone out during their scenes. Jonathan as Will's big brother, though, is AWESOME.

Emo-Mike went a little overboard, but I didn't mind. He had a bad year. I loved when he lit into Hopper at the end. That was a whole year's worth of worry coming out of his fists. Hopper's lucky he's still pretty little. He may not have that luxury next year; Finn Wolfhard seems to have hit a huge growth spurt, judging by the interviews. Ah, the joys of working with kids. :D

The plot is like a Stephen King novel, in that mostly, it's an excuse for stuff to happen for the characters to react to it. I'm fine with this.

I like Max a lot, though I have a feeling she's in reserve for more stuff in the future. I wish Mike and El hadn't been such asses to her, but, yeah... hard year. They owe her a huge, groveling apology in Season 3. Get on it, DufferBros! :P

What does the shadow monster represent? I feel like there's some spider symbolism to be had there, and it's still in its web. It unleashes chaos in the form of the Demodogs and crop rot, and that what it wants is to turn all worlds into something like the Upside-Down, but in the more meta symbolism, what is it?

My God, Winona Ryder is tiny. Those fourteen year old boys dwarf her.

I was watching the interviews after the show. Sean Astin sent an audition tape to an open call along with everyone else. The Duffer brothers said they were watching it absently and then realized that it was Sean freakin' Astin. He wanted to be on the show. Bob Newby, Mikey Walsh: Superheroes!

Sean Astin, Winona Ryder... I want some of the others to at least guest spot. Pull Henry Thomas out of retirement! Or Noah Hathaway and Barrett Oliver! Get Drew Barrymore... she seems to be up for a lot of this stuff! The possibilities are endless now that there's secure funding. Molly Ringwald? Hey, Ally Sheedy did a bit part in X-men, she could come in... Jonathan Ke Quan? Will Wheaton and Jerry O'Connell and Corey Feldman? (MEET THEM ON THE TRAIN TRACKS!)

Though I have to say, there's a part of Winona's character that channels Lucas for me (probably that Noah Schnapp looks like Rena's little brother), and that just makes me sad.

Things I think are being saved for Season 3 or beyond:
1. Kali. Obviously, they're doing something with her. I don't know what, and I'm okay with her as a plot element (I actually liked "The Lost Sister," though I appear to be in minority there). But I don't know if they're going to do a revenge arc or a redemption arc or what. I wonder what she did when the story broke at the end.

2. The shadow monster, obviously, though I expect they'll keep him around until whenever the series ends, brooding over everything, with different season arc threats in the interim.

3. Billy and Max. Yes, they had a confrontation and she got out from under his shadow, but there's still the conversation about whose "fault" it is that they're in Hawkins. What the hell happened in California? Who are these people? (This show tends toward the gothic, so I expect that bit of the past to start leaking into the present at some point.) I know they introduced Billy just to be the jerk jock that Steve couldn't be once realized how likeable the actor was, but it still seems like there's more to that story, or could be.

4. El and Max -- that snub is going to have consequences.

5. Clearly, the turtle is going to show up with superpowers. ;p
2 comments or Leave a comment
From: queen_bellatrix Date: November 22nd, 2017 06:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
God, I've missed your meta so much. Like: I haven't even watched Stranger Things, and so there was a lot of this I couldn't get, but it was just so clear you'd put so much thought into this, and that you were hitting on so many different elements. You always bring up the most fab points about symbolism etc. etc.

And what you're saying about kids and parental relationships: so I was born in '91, but a lot of the same basic dynamics held true for me. I went to schools across town from where I lived for various reasons, so I had my Mom picking me up etc. etc. But that sense of being an autonomous human, of needing to be responsible for my own safety by memorizing crucial info etc. etc. is absolutely spot-on. And seeing my Mom as a fellow human aided tremendously in that transition wherein your parent alchemizes into something like a close friend with a really deep bond.

And mmm, I think I may finally give Stranger Things a try. I always find something fun to binge on Thanksgiving as my personal tradition, and I've been floundering a bit. Pilot ep is now in my Netflix queue. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 25th, 2017 02:36 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, definitely give it a try. It's a fun show, and quite addictive.

I love overthinking pop culture. It's my favorite thing to do.

I've just been watching a bunch of reactions, and it struck me how many of the younger reactors are like, "I wonder why Will looks like that when they say his mom is there? Is it, like, some recurring problem?..." When to anyone my age, the answer is simple: His mom's at the school, so obviously something is super wrong.
2 comments or Leave a comment