When I look back on my childhood growing up in the ’90s, my mind floods with memories of riding bikes through forest trails, playing games on consoles that now look ancient, and creating worlds that dripped from my imagination and into real life. I look back at this time fondly, even through bad or awkward memories, because being a kid in the ’90s held a certain sense of wonder and hope, like anything was possible if we just dreamed hard enough.
This is the atmosphere I felt when I started watching Netflix’s Original Series Stranger Things, and is probably why I finished it within 24 hours of watching that Dungeons and Dragons opening. It brought me back to a time when I remember being safe, a time before we had world news and fear media pushed in our faces every waking hour, at least from my point of view.
Stranger Things starts with the disappearance of Will Byers and what that means for a small town in 1980s Indiana. The cast includes different groups of related people, starting off with the kids: Will’s friends Mike, Lucas, and Dustin. Mike’s older sister Nancy opens another layer with boyfriend Steve and Will’s brother Jonathan. Finally Winona Ryder leads the adult crew, with police Chief Jim Hopper.
As one child disappears, another is found, this one being a young girl with a shaved head and supernatural powers like telekinesis. She takes up with the young boys and lives in Mike’s basement in secret.
This layered view of the show’s events provides multiple layers of discovery and nostalgia. We see the silly innocence and imagination of the kids, then the ever-changing whirlwind of being a teenager, and finally the helplessness of what comes when you’re an adult without all the answers.
The characters are all pretty fantastic. The dialog of the kids is refreshingly realistic, with arguments, jealousy, and discovering feelings for the first time.
Nancy, Mike’s older sister, presents a character I really started to enjoy as the show went on. She starts out as someone not in the “popular” group, but emerging into it, which leaves her best friend Barb in a pretty rotten situation.
I loved the awkwardness of showing this era of teenagedom, where friendships change, not always for the best, and the emergence of actual sexual relationships are unbelievably complicated, yet so simple at the same time. Nancy grows from a self-conscious girl who follows along with the cool kids, to a pretty kick-ass lady who decides she’s going to follow her own path and be friends with who she wants to be with.
I’m not going to do a full rundown of the show, because I want you to go watch it if you haven’t. Suffice it to say that I loved it, and I’m incredibly pleased to see it’s being green-lit for a second season. I’m ready to fall back into that world and see what other secrets lie in Stranger Things.