"Stranger Things" has clearly come out as the show of 2017, perhaps even the show of the (so far unnamed) 2010s. This 80s nostalgia, thriller-mystery, teen drama, coming of age, detective story, based on friendship, family, and "Dungeons of Dragon" nerd-culture somehow fit in perfectly with 2017. But why?
It's not only Stranger Things that "RoboCop", The "A-Team", "21 Jump Street", "The Karate Kid", "Footloose", "Total Recall" and so many others.
So setting aside the varying degrees of quality in the aforementioned reboots, we see a few similar themes in them that also appear in "Stranger Things".
First, we have the coming of age story that "The Karate Kid" (at least the original, sorry Jackie Chan!) exemplifies oh-so-well. In "Stranger Things" you can break down the story kind of like this: kid(s) vs an obstacle (bullies appear as an obstacle in both "Stranger Things", and "Karate Kid"), then personal growth and overcoming the obstacle! And this really just points to the endurance of this kind of story, it's ingrained in Western storytelling. But there are other themes that feel more closely tied with the 80s.
To see the themes you need to have an idea of what was going on back then, and how it connects to today. The 1980s saw a sharp turn right in politics, think Ronald Reagan and Margret Thatcher. Supply-side economics upended Keynes as the dominant theory, and thoughts of nukes laid in the backs of people's minds. The 80 begins and ends in a recession (let's hope we don't share that in common with the 80s).
Here we see a new trend, between our "Stranger Things" and the movies of the 80s. Between "Stranger Things" "Total Recall", we see big organizations abusing their power and scientists who can't be trusted.
In our world today with nuclear war perhaps being closer then it has been in a while, Climate-Change deniers, a swing to the right, and an economy that is recovering, but for many seems just as bad as ever, maybe it's no wonder we have found such a tie with the 80s?
Now in the 90s, we saw a rise in globalization (which some would point to the subsequent rise in Donald Trump and others today) and so perhaps we will see a swing back in the 2020s to more left?
In this was are we bound to swing back and forth between right and left? With all of the 80s reboots, we do seem to be simply retreading the past.
But this is not necessarily so with "Stranger Things".
In "Stranger Things", we have a setting in the past, but it is inherently new. So perhaps we will be shaped by the past, but it seems we have at least a chance at something new.