The Magic of Stranger Things

There’s a moment in Stranger Things, Netflix’s brilliant, creepy, nostalgic gem of a show, where I knew it was going to be one of my favorite things ever – something so wonderful that I’d be able to watch it time and time again without feeling bored. No, it wasn’t the title sequence, a thing so immediately recognizable as 80s that I dubbed it the most 80s thing ever as soon as I saw it. No, it wasn’t the music, which was undeniably awesome and synthy and made me want to buy the score before it was even available. It was a sheet. Yes. The sheet in this picture.

I grew up in the 80s and 90s. I was born in 1977, so I was pretty much exactly Drew Barrymore’s age in the movie E.T. when it was released. To say I’m an easy mark when it comes to 80s nostalgia is an understatement. I love 80s stuff. I adore that it’s the in thing right now, and I’ll be forever grateful that in this time of terrific television, the 80s is once again in the spotlight.

Netflix put Stranger Things on my suggested list as soon as it was available. I saw the title font and couldn’t click fast enough. I binged the first 4 episodes until 2 am, crawling to bed, knowing if I stayed up any longer watching them I wouldn’t be able to go to sleep. When I finished the series, I made a list of people I thought would enjoy it and sent them messages. That’s how much I liked this show.

I knew it would take off. It was too good not to. But I also knew it would draw the inevitable analysis that comes with something that successful. Sure enough, dozens of articles listing the hundreds of things that made Stranger Things so 80s started cropping up as the show took off. Buzzfeed lists of all the places you’d seen this scene or that scene were shared. Frame by frame captures showing the bona fides of the show and it’s place in our collective nostalgia were posted.

Normally when I obsess about things that I’ve consumed completely, I tend to read all I can about them to try to stretch out the enjoyment. Game of Thrones, Gone Girl, Fallout… When I finish a really good game, book, movie, or television series, I’ll pour over articles that go over the stuff I’ve missed. The internet culture of dissection and analysis have all but banished the magic of discovery. In a lot of ways, Stranger Things made me more cognizant of this than I had been for a long time.

I knew I could read through those lists of factoids and see that this scene was a replica of something from E.T. or that was from Goonies, but for the first time I decided I didn’t want to see behind the curtain.

When I was a kid I went to a magic show with my school. There were so many of us there that they put some of us near the wings of the stage. The whole time everyone else was ooh-ing and ah-ing as rabbits appeared and disappeared, I wasn’t – because I could see all the secret hatches and boxes the tricks were coming from. While it was interesting at first, I lost interest in the act before it was over. It was, after all, just a guy pulling a rabbit out of a box and pretending that was special.

Reading about every trick Stranger Things employed to give it that 80s vibe would be like sitting in the wings at that magic show. I’d feel like the movie was using a nostalgia equation and just inserting all the appropriate variables to make me feel warm and fuzzy. And I don’t want that. I don’t want to ruin the magic.

Movies and television are an elaborate illusion designed to transport you to a time and place of the creators’ choosing. I don’t want the illusion ruined. If I didn’t catch a reference, that’s okay. Knowing precisely how it was done would take away that vague sense of familiarity that made the show so endearing.

So I won’t be reading any analysis for why the show was shot this way or that. This way, when the next season airs, I’ll be transported once again to a time capsule from my youth, letting the magic of the show take me there. I’m good with that.

And about those sheets? This tidbit shouldn’t ruin the magic for you, and I hope you find something similar in the show that few others might get – I had those exact sheets as a kid. For me, that was the best trick Stranger Things pulled out of a hat.

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