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Weirder Stuff: Stranger Things and Good Storytelling


Demogorgon not included

I know what you’re thinking, that’s a really lame parody name for Stranger Things, to which I’ll concede. You’re also probably wondering why I’m tackling this now since Season 2 came out in October, and Season 3 doesn’t come out until next year. Well for starters, I always wanted to talk about Stranger Things. Second, I just finished showing it to my dad and it’s still fresh in my mind. Third, season 3 is filming right now, and some crew members even dropped a couple of hints about what we can expect. Fourth, Netflix released a small teaser while I was actually in the middle of writing this, so now seems like a good time to talk about it, why is it so good, what do we think is going to happen in season 3, and when the hell is it coming out? I look forward to answering two of those questions. I think it should go without saying, but HEAVY spoilers follow. So if you haven’t seen it, what’s wrong with you? Go watch it right now. For everyone else, fire up the Delorean, we’re going back to the 80s, again. That’s going to be happening a lot.

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Once again, if you’re still reading at this point, my conscience is clear. And again, this article is written with the assumption that the reader has watched both seasons.

So let’s begin with why stranger Things is so good, because let’s be honest, story wise it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. I don’t mean that as a criticism, simply an observation, and the show’s creators have been pretty open about their many inspirations. Government conspiracies, other dimensions, alien type beings, psychokinesis, these are all fairly standard science fiction conventions, particularly in 1980s movies. The 1980s are also known for a slew of teen comedies/dramas about friendship, first love, growing up, etc… A lot of the high school melodrama, and to a lesser extent the bonds between the “main party,” all feels very John Hughes-ish. One could argue, and some have, that the show only runs on nostalgia. However if that were truly the case, I don’t think the show would be anywhere to close to as popular as it is. Homage and rip-off can a blurry line, but Stranger Things manages to keep on the homage side without falling into plagiarism or rehash. This is part of why the new Star Wars movies are so contentious, in keeping with the older things fans loved from the originals, some think the new films have crossed the line from homage into flat out recycling, but I digress. Stranger Things manages to stand head and shoulders above other throwbacks is because its creators understand good storytelling. What makes for good storytelling? Ask different people and you’ll probably get different answers. For me personally, I don’t think it’s any one thing as much as a combination of several things, all of which Stranger Things gets right.

  1. What drives the story? Most, if not all, plots have been done before, so what makes your plot unique? For example, let’s say you want to write a revenge story. What makes it different from The Count of Monte Cristo? Or the Punisher? Or Kill Bill? Stranger Things season 1’s general plot is fairly similar to E.T. Kid hides new friend with psychic abilities from Government, hijinks ensue. Stranger Things even follows severa