By Lisi Burciaga, Staff Writer
// The sci-fi and thriller genre was greeted with a game changer this past summer when the release of a new hit TV show Stranger Things swept the globe. Luckily, for those who have yet to hop on the bandwagon and watch the hit series, they can binge all 8 episodes on Netflix now with the click of a button.
The smash hit Netflix Original series Stranger Things, a thriller which offers a mystical, action packed, and original storyline following the unexplained disappearance of a young boy, made its debut July 15 of this year, and has since accumulated an overwhelmingly vast and enthusiastic fanbase across the globe.
Taking place in the U.S. om1983, Stranger Things revolves around a young boy, Will Byers, who mysteriously goes missing, leaving his family and friends committed to investigating the source of his disappearance. In doing so his mother, the town sheriff, his friends, and other community members begin to discover and unravel mysteries involving an alternate universe and supernatural beings, as well as unnerving scandalous secret government conspiracies that have existed right under their noses in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana.
“A lot of the shows that have been popular involve murder and blood and all that stuff, but [Stranger Things] is more sci-fi,” Acalanes sophomore and Stranger Things fanatic Clara Finch said. “It also involves death and so it does have that thrill factor to it that intrigues most people, while also having the sciency, nerd effect of it as well.”
The unique plot of the show has proven to be very well received. According to a collection of data from Business Insider, Stranger Things gained 8.2 million viewers in its first 16 days days on Netflix.
The same study concluded that in regards two viewership levels, the show ranked third out of all of Netflix’s recent releases, with the sole exceptions of Fuller House and Orange Is the New Black. Among the shows that Stranger Things ranked ahead of are Daredevil, Jessica Jones, House of Cards, and Narcos, all of which had earned the title of Netflix’s most popular, until Stranger Things came along.
With a 95% Rotten Tomatoes critic rating, and a 96% average overall audience rating, Stranger Things has earned it’s leading spot in the world of television.
“It’s the perfect balance of adventure, action, and horror. And it’s not an easy goal to achieve a show that is so perfectly well rounded, and not many shows today do,” sophomore Alexandra Gold said.
A prominent contributing factor to the show’s popularity, is that some say it is comparable to adored timeless 80’s classics such as E.T., The Goonies, Alien, and others in the sense that the show entails supernatural phenomenons, sci-fi, mystery and magic.
“The style makes it feel like it’s an older show, despite how good the camera quality is and how well it’s been shot,” Finch said. “It appeals to every generation.”
Yet, while accomplishing those similarities, Stranger Things has still managed to be original and excellent quality, and for that it has been widely well received among not only those who appreciate its comparisons to classics, but younger generations who simply love it for it’s gripping plot as well.
In addition to the lovable onscreen qualities of the show, cast members, specifically the child actors who play five of the main characters, have won the admiration of fans for their behind the scenes personalities.
Since the show made its successful debut, the young actor’s of Stranger Things have appeared on a variety of talk shows, including The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and have gained praise from fans for their lovable personalities, and their performance on the show.
“The acting is just incredible and it’s so impressive how these child actors, who are like 11 and 12, are able to create such realistic personations of human beings and what would actually happen if [the plot] were real,” Finch said. “The characters are just so well presented and the actors are amazing. Even outside of the show, the actors are just really good people.”
Cast member Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin on the show, suffers from cleidocranial dysplasia (CCD), which affects teeth and bone growth, and has worked to raise awareness for the disability through the show, as his disability was written into his character. He has even used his newfound fan base to raise money for CCD, by selling Stranger Things merchandise and donating the proceeds to those who suffer from the condition.
In addition to the cast and the plot, the length of the first season of Stranger Things has played a role in the glowing feedback of the show. The show is only 8 episodes, each ranging somewhere between forty two to fifty five minutes long. While it may seem like fans would not like such a short season, critics and viewers appreciate the fact that the storyline was not dragged out.
“They managed to fit so much into 8 episodes,” Acalanes sophomore Alexandra Gold said.
Before Stranger Things hit the screens of viewers, the creators underwent the intricate process of developing the hit show. The show was created by twin brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, also known as ‘The Duffer Brothers,’ whom some may know for their previous involvement in the 2015 thriller Hidden and a few episodes of M. Night Shyamalan’s sci-fi series Wayward Pines.
In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, the brothers spilled the details of their journey to creating Stranger Things, and what served as their primary inspiration for the series. The Duffer Brothers did in fact channel the beloved setting and atmosphere from 80s classics like E.T. and The Goonies into the Stranger Things project, which proved to be a crowd pleaser.
Ironically, the brothers shared in the same interview that before Netflix agreed to take on the show, the idea of Stranger Things was rejected by fifteen to twenty different TV networks.
The Duffer Brothers were initially inspired by the 2013 Hugh Jackman thriller Prisoners, about a man whose daughter goes missing, and the adventures that follow. From the film, they decided to write a show that centralized around a missing person, but the riveting sci-fi, government conspiracy aspect of the project stemmed from different sources.
Due to the fact that the plot of Stranger Things is similar in many ways to that of a horror series, viewers should hope that the show is in no way based off of reality. Unfortunately, that is not entirely the case.
One of the shows main characters, Eleven, is a young girl who possesses supernatural powers all of which are variations of telekinesis, or the ability to control things with one’s mind. Eleven’s backstory involves her involuntary involvement in a classified project in which she was kept in isolation by the government while they explored and exploited her supernatural gifts.
As unimaginable as it sounds, Eleven’s experience was based closely off of real, historical events known as project MKultra.
In 1953, Project MKultra, a government project funded by the CIA (Central Intelligence agency), experimented with mind control methods that could potentially be used against enemies of war as forms of torture or ways to extract information from said enemies. Although the project took place years before the setting of Stranger Things, the concept was still included in the show, in Eleven’s backstory. Warning: possible spoilers ahead.
In an episode of the show, it is mentioned that the character who is supposedly Eleven’s mother, Terry Ives, was a part of the project initially, while pregnant with Eleven. When this project really took place, those who conducted it often utilized psychedelic drugs, specifically LSD, on their patients. The government sought to test if such hallucinogens had the power to overpower one’s mind, allowing variations of mind control to take place. The show puts a fictional twist on this real life government scandal when Ives’ drug use and consistent mental experimentation causes Eleven to be born with telekinetic abilities.
Similarly to Eleven, the test subjects had often not consented to becoming involved in the project, and some were even entirely unaware of their involvement at all.
To the delight of Stranger Things fans everywhere, the action and adventure will be continued, as season two is set to be released some time before July 2017. The new season will introduce a few new characters, as well as include many familiar faces from season 1.
“[Stranger Things] keeps you on your toes, and if you’re scared to watch horror stuff, but you still want to have that thrill then it’s perfect for you,” Finch said. “I just think everyone should try it, because it’s such a good show and it’s so well made.”