Stranger Things in Real Life


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The success of Netflix series Stranger Things is due in part to incredible writing, talented actors and spot-on 1980’s nostalgia. However, my appreciation for the show may go a little deeper than most. As a kid who grew up in the 80’s, of course I identify with the horror movie references, slang terms, music, product placement and clothing styles, but my childhood had several more personal similarities. 

I played Dungeons & Dragons with the neighborhood boys who thought it was cool to have a girl in the campaign. Without the internet/social media and the mass distribution of video games, we occupied our time by playing outside. We rode our bikes everywhere, including into the woods behind my house. There was a research laboratory across the highway that was rumored to perform animal testing and other equally horrific experiments. We used to sneak out at night with our flashlights searching for the grotesque beast that had escaped the hands of mad scientists. Luckily, the only oddities we discovered were a few hobos hopping trains and an albino deer. Though during one of our adventures we did come across a rather disturbing sight… An upside-down cross embedded in the ground, remnants of a campfire and a pile of blood-stained leaves. (Occults were big news in the 80’s.)

A good part of our activities involved building forts and tree houses. So, while Will had Castle Byers in the woods, we had an elaborate underground fort, with a washing machine lid for a hatch, a ladder made out of pipes, and a bench seat from a car that comfortably sat four.

Almost every kid on my street owned a Realistic walkie-talkie at one time or another. No A/V Club in my past, but my father had a CB radio and I had my own handle, Little Raven. Wrist rockets and crab apples got us into trouble on more than one occasion. We didn’t have a rock quarry, but we did have a river. In the spring and summer, we’d walk along the train tracks for miles, passing through an 18th century graveyard, just to take a dip.

Watching season one of Stranger Things was like opening a time capsule on childhood memories long forgotten. So much so that I asked my sister to watch the show to make sure things were as closely referenced as I suddenly remembered. She finished all eight episodes in one day and called to gush about how much of our childhood had played out on the screen.

Now I’m left wondering, did the Duffer Brothers nail every kids’ experience in the 80’s, or was it just us? If you’ve watched the show, I’d love to hear if you had the same kind of childhood flashbacks. If you haven’t seen the show, I highly recommend checking it out, regardless of age.

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