Friday Five: Reasons to Watch Stranger Things Before Going Back to School

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Chances are you have heard of Stranger Things, the Netflix television show created by the Duffer Brothers that was released this past July. There is a chance that you may have already watched it, because I know for me, I didn’t need much convincing. Stranger Things crossed my path three times before I knew that I had to see it. The first was via an interview with the creators in which they discuss how they have always wanted to see a show with characters as compelling as those from “Freaks and Geeks,” but with some supernatural and scary elements to it. The second time the show came into my consciousness was through a magazine advertisement. It was a full page, hand painted poster that evokes the style of Drew Struzan, the artist who painted the posters for nearly every awesome 80’s movie. The third meeting between Stranger Things and myself was reading that two of my favorite fiction-makers, Stephen King and Guillermo del Toro, emphatically endorsed the show. That was all I needed. Perhaps Stranger Things has crossed your path this past month since its release, but you still haven’t been convinced that you need to visit the midwest in the early 1980’s. Or maybe you are averse to jumping on the pop-culture bandwagon when everyone tells you that you NEED to see this movie, listen to this album, or watch this show. Whatever the reasons that you haven’t watched Stranger Things yet, I am here to convince you that you should, and here are five reasons why:

  1. Because Stranger Things does not simply rely on nostalgia for viewership. Those of us of a certain age that can remember being an adolescent in the 1980’s will adore it. A television show has not encapsulated the 80’s this well since the short lived series, Freaks and Geeks. Although Stranger Things may be steeped in nostalgia, it is so much more than a Wayback Machine. I have talked with some millennials who do not remember phones with cords on them, ham radios, or walkie-talkies, and they still love the show…and so will you.
  2. Because everyone is referencing it! If you were to pass by my favorite pizza shop in NYC, and they had this special board outside, or this one, or this one, or this one, you wouldn’t understand the references having not seen the show. Watch the show, get a good chuckle, and get a slice of the Demogorgonzola! From a small pizza shop in Brooklyn, to the venerable New York Times calling Stranger Things the show of the summer and an eerie nostalgia fix, it seems as if everyone is watching, so shouldn’t you.
  3. Because the music is just as beautiful as the camera shots. I haven’t been this enamored with a soundtrack since Twin Peaks. The first installment of the soundtrack was released last Friday with the second volume to be released today. The official soundtrack(s) contain all of the gorgeous original synth music created by the band S U R V I V E, but for those wishing to explore the popular 80’s music featured in the show there are some mixes out there. One Youtube user has created a playlist showcasing some of the music, and a DJ from the UK, has mashed up the music and the dialogue of the show into a whimsical mix. When your students walk into your classroom in the morning while you are listening to the Stranger Things’ soundtrack, you will receive some major cool points, and I’m not sure that you want to earn those points by bonding over Pokémon Go.
  4. Because you don’t have the time to rewatch all the films that it is indebted to. The Goonies, Stand By Me, Poltergeist, Alien, E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Stephen King’s It would be great to rewatch before school starts, but between last minute planning, and squeezing out every last drop of summer, you might not have a spare 14.5 hours to devote to rewatching all of those films. BUT…for a paltry 6.5 hours, you can watch a television show that embraces all that is good within those films, and uses those elements to create something just as unique and beautiful as the original source material.
  5. Because even the font of the title sequence is totally awesome! When was the last time people were so engrossed in the font of a television show’s title sequence? That’s right…even the font is being discussed, and rightly so. The title sequence is great overall, but there is something about the font that gently took my hand and brought me back to my childhood. I later found out that the reason for the font’s familiarity is because it has been in my hands countless times as a youth and an adult via the covers of Stephen King and Choose Your Own Adventure books! ITC Benguiat is the font’s name, and its creator is pleased with the way it is used in Stranger Things. There is even a web tool that will allow you to “strangify” text of your own!

Brian teaches Social Studies to 10th and 11th graders at State College Area High School. He is the father of two boys, married to an artist, and a history, film, music, and art enthusiast.

Friday Five: Reasons to Watch Stranger Things Before Going Back to School