Seeing the 1980's in Stranger Things





The Netflix show Stranger Things takes place in autumn of 1983. The main protagonists are around twelve years old. As I watched it, the odd realization dawned on me that in autumn of 1983, I was twelve years old.

I watched many of the episodes with my 14-year old daughter. I amused her when I had an epiphany that I actually owned one of the shirts that Mike wore. It was one of the most accurate depictions of the 1980's I've seen on television. There were some anachronisms here and there, but it was for the most part spot-on. Mike and his friends were a lot like me and my friends - not social outcasts but definitely not the cool kids. We played Dungeons & Dragons - and like Mike and company, mixed Advanced Dungeons & Dragons concepts (like Demogorgon) in our D&D games. Though I held out upgrading my 1981 version of the D&D Expert Set for several more years. As a short cut we'd often travel through wooded areas behind houses. I lived in an incredibly hilly area so alas we weren't able to bike everywhere, but we did ride our bikes all over the place. And I definitely had a Trapper Keeper in middle school.

The choice of setting the show in the early 1980's definitely had implications for communications. No cell phones of course. But also, no one I knew had an answering machine. Of course, the nice thing was the phone ringing was someone who you knew (or a dreaded bill collector). Alas, my friends and I lacked walkie talkies. I remember how much more complicated coordinating meeting with friends used to be.

Beyond being a great show, it was nice to see Stranger Things depict an era when people lived vs. one made up of big hair, giant shoulder pads, and Hawaiian shirts (all of which did exist as well...)

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