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Stranger Things 3 – 5 shades of the ’80s

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Published on Jul 13, 2019

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ATTENTION! This article contains several spoilers on the third season of Stranger Things, of which you can find here my review.

The series created by the Brothers Duffer is not only set in the ’80s, but it is also completely soaked, thanks to a myriad of influences present in Stranger Things, passing from the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons to the iconic films of the decade as Ghostbusters, Gremlins, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But this is only the tip of the iceberg...

Of course, this tradition continues in the most recent season of Stranger Things, incredibly influenced by directors like John Carpenter, David Cronenberg and George A. Romero, but it also contains a myriad of other freebies. Let's find them out together!

The Duffer Brothers have stated, as mentioned a little higher up, that they were greatly influenced by the filmography of David Cronenberg for the realization of the appearance and attack techniques of their Mind Flayer: while the monster we loved to hate from the first two seasons was inspired more Lovecraftiana, a creature made in the spore, ash and smoke, the way in which it manifests itself in our world, the Mind Flayer is incredibly bloody, gory and... sticky: this bizarre creature that infects its victims by pumping parts of itself within their body through a mouth that juts out towards them (Alien), and then use them as if they were puppets (or zombie in the style of George Romero) at his command, while at the same time, the corruption consumes them from the inside until they explode to become a part of the amorphous mass of flesh that constitutes the body changing the Mind Flayer.

In the ’80s, David Cronenberg has used the Body Horror to represent the physical effects of trauma, whether suffered or inflicted on others, and this narrative device was also employed by the Brothers Duffer, which focused on a cycle of violence is male-dominated:

Despite all of this, Billy will eventually be able to redeem himself thanks to the fact that Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) posters, him empathy to help him to find his own memories of his mother and to cling to them, helping them also to remember how, in reality, he is a kind person: in this way, the Duffer Brothers have found a solution to the curse of Cronenberg: accept your side of the most sweet and kind exactly as the more obscure, which, however, belongs to the past. Of course, the character will die in a horrible way and suffering atrociously, but maybe this will not happen to future generations.

Nancy Drew is a fictional character and the protagonist of a series of novels for children published and well-known in the United States of America since the ’30s of ‘900; it's about a girl with a strong talent for solving mysteries, in a manner very similar to Jessica Fletcher. Since this is a character belonging to the middle-class values firmly in place, the girl becomes the spokesperson of a different model of what a young girl can be, in an age in which gentleness, the female was still considered as an essential value.

This season, the iconic detective Nancy Drew finds its counterpart in Nancy Wheeler's (Natalia Dyer), who clashes with a strong sexual discrimination every time he shares his opinion and his ideas, and that in the whole response from his fellow men the local newspaper Hawkins Post is teased and called sarcastically “Nancy Drew”. These events discourage our Nancy, and his mother, Karen (Cara Buono) for this, remember that it can follow any story you want in an autonomous way, even if the men that surround her do everything to demolish it. Finally, in the style of Nancy Drew Nancy Wheeler reveals the mystery, wielding a gun and driving a”getaway car towards the end.

Another character that as Nancy located their way in a manner different from what we had already seen in the two previous seasons of the Stranger Things is Jim Hopper (David Harbour), who this season finally lives life to the fullest: you buy a hawaiian shirt and invites Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) to an appointment which, however, will never take place.

Then things will be even more interesting for him when he will start to show in various suspect places a sort of Russian version of Arnold Schwarzenegger: in this mode, the Hopper starts to impersonate the figure of the detective television hard, cool, and super macho with a heart of gold. Also, the fact that his nemesis looks, speaks and acts as the Terminator of the original adds a greater charm to this tribute.

The american citizen fictitious Hawkins has not undergone an infiltration as part of some dangerous Russian spies, but also took part in the military forces of the soviet union, which have built a whole structure scientific secret inside enemy territory.

The base is formed by a series of tunnels in hexagonal illuminated in a manner very similar to what was seen in Star Wars: Episode IV – A new Hope, and its interior hides many traps, how many of those in Indiana Jones and the Temple of doom, and the same Steve, Dustin, Robin and Heather move to the inside of these tunnels as if they were in a film directed by Steven Spielberg; and, finally, in the scene where Jim Hopper dies while Joyce destroys the machinery of the Russian built to re-open a breach between the worlds, remember Star Wars, Episode VI – Return of The Jedi because of elements such as the subdivision of the structure on different levels, the sacrifice of a father and lightning. But the influences traced back to the ’80s does not end here of course!

Even if the Brothers Duffer explicitly stated to have taken inspiration from films like Out of my Head (Fast Times at Ridgemont High), in the third season of the Stranger Things you can find a lot of other contributions, as we have already seen up to this moment, and one of the most obvious concerns of a sitcom very well known also here in Italy between the late ’80s and early ’90s: it's the Bayside School (Saved by the Bell), the authors of the Stranger Things you are inspired, especially as regards the dynamics of “males against females”.

But there is another quote, a little more subtle, and that is due to the name of the new shopping centre the fulcrum of the narrative this season: Starcourt Mall is in fact a reference to the Church of the Wisdom of Stellar created by H. P. Lovecraft and that is called in English “Church of Starry Wisdom”, which aims to return to Earth and the Ancients who devour the whole world and that are a consideration in the Mind Flayer.

In addition, the rats of which you hold at the beginning, the Mind Flayer, and that have been inspired by the story by Stephen King of the 1970's Graveyard Shift linked to the concept of rats that are owned initially by the Mind Flyer, and this situation, in turn, constitutes a parallelism with the guys who spend their time in shopping centre: the parallelism refers to the fact that the mall is the equivalent of the old factory, and the guys are associated with rats because they are part of a shapeless mass.

Finally, the photograph of the eighth episode, brings back memories of the raptors that are hunting the children in the film of 1993, Jurassic Park.

The affair, that they were going to have Billy Hargrove and Karen Wheeler, a very young guy and a mature woman, is a clear riminiscenza of the famous the 1967 film The Graduate, in which, however, the relationship between Benjamin “Ben” Braddock and mrs. Robinson is not only suggested, but actually takes place.

What has been said up to this moment it could mistakenly lead to believe that the references to the past to deal only with unpleasant facts, but it is not so: all these parts of a reality very depressing, in fact, are interspersed with some sections that depict a fairy tale atmosphere: Stranger Things is in fact a series with a strong focus on to relive the best experiences of your past and instead use the worst as a warning on a return to a time when everything seemed easy, and in which the power of imagination and friendship can defeat the darkness.

In previous seasons, this space has been filled by the sessions of the game Dungeons & Dragons in which they participate, Will, Mike, Dustin and Lucas. However, as we know, in this third season only Will craving to play D&D, for which this place was taken by the magic of film: a screening of Back to the Future will give way to "hide" from the soviet soldiers to Heather (Priah Ferguson) and previously, drug addicts Steve (Joe Keery) and Robin (Maya Hawke), all the while Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) tries to find a way to escape.

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