The uncanny phenomenon that is Stranger Things

Image: Stranger Things
Image: Stranger Things
Image: Stranger Things

“Something is coming, something hungry for blood…”

Welcome to the enigmatic phenomenon that is Netflix’s hit series Stranger Things. Grab your salt and your lighters folks, because it’s going to be one heck of a ride!

A couple of months ago, if you had asked anyone whether they had seen Stranger Things, the answer most likely would have been a solid “no”. In the last couple of weeks, however, this thrilling Netflix Original has spread like a disease, and has viewers of every age clinging to their seats in anticipation, whilst praying that their kids (if they have any) are safely in their beds.

The world has gone full ‘fan-girl’ with this show. Theories and memes bog down the internet – Barbara-gate overtook social media, and Doug the Pug naturally released his own parody of the show (Stranger Pugs – well worth a watch for any procrastinators). Hollywood is as consumed by the new faces on the block as with the old – not that Winona Ryder can ever really be considered old.

The child-actors have transcended the screen and debuted as up-and-coming stars. Millie Bobby Brown stole the show as Eleven, but continues to inspire awe offstage: she is fast becoming a fashion icon with her cover debut on British magazine So It Goes, and her performance of Uptown Funk, together with Gaton Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin (who play Dustin and Luke), at the Emmy’s. Even the music scene has taken a gulp from the Stranger Things goblet with Noah Schnapp (who plays the catalytic Will Byers) performing the lead role in the music video for Panic! At the Disco’s LA Devotee, which in itself echoes the dark nature of Stranger Things.

Image: NME
Image: NME

What has been the reason for its sudden rise in popularity? The show did not take off exponentially at first. Could it be the beloved nostalgic 80’s theme and pop-culture referencing – I mean, who doesn’t love themselves some Stephen King thrown into the mix – or the ‘cuteness’-factor of a show in which children lead the intrigue? There always seems to be a certain enthusiasm for coming-of-age films, and this series filters some of the 80’s classics like Stand by Me, The Goonies, and, my personal favourite, E.T.. The length of the show plays a role as well.

Despite having hour-long episodes, there are only eight of them (aptly named chapters, that once again reinforces the Stephen King-like aesthetic). Could the attraction be that the creators allow the audience the opportunity to binge watch the entire first season in one night? Ignoring the fact that they’d then have to cautiously make their way to bed at 3 a.m, jumping at every sound.

Credit must also be given to the excellent story line without a moment’s respite. The narrative captures your attention with a bang in the first episode – with a human-gorging monster straight out of Pan’s Labyrinth – and then slowly reels you in for the rest of the show. You lose all sense of time and reality – you doubt your own senses – the intrigue surrounding the existence of the Upside Down consumes you.

It could also be due to the nature of the show being a Netflix Original in itself. Netflix as a streaming platform induces popularity of certain shows by its ease of access and availability. It also does not hurt that every time you open your Netflix account, a big banner with the show’s title and trailer appears on the top of your feed. The intriguing images that appear in the Stranger Things trailer were made to capture your attention.

All that we can truly know for sure is that the world is impatiently waiting in anticipation for the release of the next season, while inadvertently flinching every time a light flickers.


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