‘Stranger Things’ – Why the Series Feels Similar Yet Different!

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Summer is a rough time for us couch potatoes. Sure you can try to catch up on reading or just binge watch old series on Netflix but it just isn’t as magical as enjoying something new. Luckily this summer EVERYONE is buzzing (and has an opinion) on the latest Netflix original series, Stranger Things. But this begs the question, is the series really something new?

In short, Stranger Things is nothing new or different but f*!k is it good! People have been trying to compare the series to a list of things, here are just a few:

Stephen King in Stand by Me fashion
Stephen Spielberg in ET fashion
J.J. Abrams in Super 8 fashion (I would just like to take a moment and say yea this film wasn’t great but I really like it so everyone can f*!k off)
The Goonies
The X-Files
M. Night Shyamalan per Lady in the Water

That would be the short list of comparisons. I put the series this way: If King and Spielberg got together and had a kid then Abrams and Shyamalan got together and had a kid, then those two kids met and had a kid, that would be this show.

Stranger Things is like all of the above listed but what they did was take all the best elements and make a successful mind f*!k of a story.

Here are the classic science fiction clichés that Stranger Things successfully executed:


The Refugee

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Besides maybe the cliché of the big bad being the government (which is mentioned further down the list) the idea of a “refugee” character maybe the most overused cliché in all of science fiction. Whether it be an alien or a little girl who needs help controlling their powers and finding a (way back) home, the use of a powerful yet helpless character can be seen from E.T. to X-Files to now Stranger Things.

The character of Eleven or Elle can best be compared to E.T. I mean, there is even one point where they dress her up in a pink dress, and blonde wig to make Elle look like a “normal girl.”

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Eleven is this kick-a$$ strong and beyond powerful weapon and she knows it. She wants to be something more, she simply just wants more than the life she has been given filled with isolation and monsters. You can’t help but love her, care for her, and want to protect her. Much like E.T. And because of those characteristics and the fact that you feel those emotions for Eleven is why Stranger Things succeeds at making this classic cliché feel different and not corny.

Though sorry E.T. I think Eleven has you beat on one very important topic: Waffles > Reese’s Pieces.


The Use of Kids as a Story Device

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These f*!king kids were AMAZING!

The children are truly are the heart and soul of this series, much like in the fashion of The Goonies, Stand by Me, and Super 8. Stranger Things breaks the stereotype of just using kids to add to the story or add some level of emotion because in Stranger Things the kids are the story. Outshining and dare I say out preforming every adult that accompanies them on the screen. There will be more than one time when you are watching this show where you go “holy shit, these kids are acting the crap out of this story” – maybe something a little bit more intelligent than those exact words.

Right now, while I am writing this, I still can’t believe the outstanding performances this young group of actors delivered.

Plus, thanks Netflix for the nostalgia! Who else wants to ride bikes and talk to their friends on walkie talkies like were all back in the ’80s (and even ’90s).


Loving (Crazy) Mother

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First off, I would like to state that I highly dislike using the word “crazy” to describe a character especially a female character, but since we are talking about clichés…

Winona Ryder delivers a dynamic performance as Joyce Byers, the single mother of missing boy Will. Joyce is a heartbroken, grief stricken mother who no matter whether a body was found believes her son is still alive and even talking to her through the lights. The “I will never give up” character (mostly a parent or loved one) can be placed in pretty much every story within the genre. Though, Joyce is played off as being crazy by everyone in her life, as a viewer you can not help but believe her. There is something very powerful about watching Joyce slowly proving everyone in her life wrong. She is strong, loving, passionate, and a fighter.


A Cocktail of Emotions 

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Stranger Things is a roller coaster rider of emotion that *literally* every character (well maybe except Mike’s dad) feels some kind of pain and joy. There are missing kids, a single mom, a heartbroken father, a brother who should have been home, a friend who had never heard the saying “hoes before bros,” and let’s not forget the feeling of sheer disappointment when Nancy found out she lost her virginity to a grade-A asshole!

There is something for everyone. Stranger Things is able to capture all these emotions because of the wide range in the cast. On some level you would be able to relate. This is a normal town, filled with normal people that just so happen to be experiencing a completely abnormal chain of events.


Public Servant Gone Rouge

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Police Chief Hopper is an all around brilliant character. A big city cop who left a world behind after the death of his child and divorce from his wife, for a simpler solo life in a small town where nothing really happens. That is until his life completely changes when Will Byers goes missing.

Hopper seemed like he was a “play by the book” type of guy but when he starts figuring out what is really happening at a restricted laboratory in town he will stop at nothing to expose the truth. Even if that means making promises to men in black.

Like much of why all these clichés work is because of the performances from the actors. That is without a doubt the truth when it comes to Hopper. Much like the character of Joyce, this character is in almost every science fiction show, book, and film. Though most of the time the public servant (whether it be a government official, cop, etc) is working against mysterious organization to get back at them. Hopper makes the situation personal.


Multiple Love Stories

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What’s love got to do with it….

A good love story is always a necessary plot point. Love is of course the most clichés thing in all the world but who the hell cares. Stranger Things delivers on many different levels of love: young love, a love triangle, and who else is shipping a JoyceXHopper reconnection.

Though let’s be real, the cutest thing ever was watching the blossoming romance between Eleven and Mike. That scene when he tries to explain going to the dance together was so adorable. Oh young love, nothing is greater!


The Government is the Big Bad!

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Personally one of my favorite clichés used in the genre. I f*!king love when the government is our enemy. This plot point is probably one that reminds me most of The X-Files.

The mysterious doctor who is being bank rolled by the CIA and conducting tests on young Eleven in the name of science and intelligence is brilliant and chilling. Why this clichés succeeds is simply because, Dr. Martin Brenner, does not seem like a devilish man. He barely speaks and shows little to no emotion. He is one of these “for the greater good” kind of villain, like the ones more commonly seen in superhero films. It is hard to truly hate a man when you have little to go on but in the same breath maybe that is why we should all be so horrified by him.


The Cliffhanger

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No spoilers, go watch the show!

Though, I am not a fan of the rumors that the series will continue in anthology fashion. If that is the best concept you can come up with then just leave it alone!

I blame you Ryan Murphy for all this anthology shit!


This post is dedicated to the loving memory of Barb!

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Girl, I love you!

Stranger Things may or may not returning for a second season, we will keep you posted! 

Kait Calabrò

Kait Calabrò

Lady Kaitlin Marie Bernadette Calabrò of House Ravenclaw, First of Her Name; Mother of Recaps, Breaker of News, Khaleesi of Wonder Wharf, Queen of Geekdom, and Empress of Anglophiles, is the Managing Editor of AGtM.  By day she is the Marketing Manager of the Philadelphia Film Society, by night she is a serious relationship with her Netflix account. Kait is a proud Temple Owl! And is currently in a celebrity feud with both Samuel L. Jackson and Zachary Levi, unbeknownst to them. She spends her evenings watching the skies waiting for Thor to fly down and take her back to Asgard!
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