‘Ottawa’ Stranger Things is an Escape into the ’80s
THE SHOW: Stranger Things, Season 1, Episode 5
THE MOMENT: Embedded ’80s references
Brainy high schooler Nancy (Natalia Dyer) is acting skittish. She doesn’t want to tell her cool new boyfriend Steve (Joe Keery) that she’s going to the woods to search for the monster that’s making kids disappear.
“Why don’t we catch a movie tonight?” Steve asks. “Pretend everything is normal for a few hours. All the Right Moves is still playing. With your lover boy, from Risky Business?”
“Yeah, I know,” Karen says.
“Carol thinks I look like him,” Steve says. He starts to croon the Bob Seger song that Tom Cruise dances to in Risky Business.
“I should go,” Nancy says, edging away.
This (fun!) series is set in the 1980s so naturally, period references abound. The three sweet, nerdy kids at the centre of the mystery communicate with walkie-talkies, play Dungeons and Dragons, and reference Carl Sagan. Their missing friend loves the Clash.
What’s more fun is spotting ’80s references embedded in the show’s structure: The opening credits’ typeface evokes Charlie’s Angels circa 1981. Shots of the kids pedalling their bikes are carbon copies of 1982’s E.T.
Nancy looks like Mia Sara from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986); Steve’s haircut is lifted directly from Cruise’s 1983 head; and the synth-heavy soundtrack sounds like Risky Business. Most fun, the two leads are 1980s icons, Matthew Modine and Winona Ryder, who play an evil scientist and a desperate mom. Even the show’s creators, the Duffer brothers (twins Matt and Ross), are period: they were born in 1984.