Revitalizing an Aesthetic

by Russell Lawrence

By now you’ve heard of Stranger Things. There’s no way you haven’t. The show became a pop culture hit almost overnight. But it had a lot of things going for it from the get go. There was light promotion for the show, but it was enough to rally critics behind it.

From the start, it was easy to see the heavy influence that Steven Spielberg films had on the aesthetic behind Stranger Things, and in many ways the show follows the classic Spielberg formula. But what makes the show work is how it takes the aesthetic and narrative elements of E.T. and Super 8 and makes something new out of it. The result is a thrilling series, full of rich characters and truly terrifying moments.

eleven.PNGStill from Stranger Things (Season 1,Episode 6, 2016)

The setting of Stranger Things is a call back to Twin Peaks, but the show is set in the 80s and is rife with throwbacks to classic rock and the evolution of synthesizers. There are so many things that I could discuss about this show. The cast is one of the strongest in recent memory, arguably featuring the best child actors to ever grace an audience. Typically in film and television, casting children is a nightmare, and watching them on screen is akin to forcing a smile. This is simply not the case in Stranger Things, as all of the actors are so believable and very talented. Millie Bobby Brown, or Eleven as she is known in the series, especially has a shining performance as a tortured child experiment.

Winona Ryder especially deserved her nomination for Best Performance in a Television Series from the Golden Globes. Her subplot of trying to communicate with her son who is trapped in a parallel dimension is one of the best points of the first season. It was incredible watching her character development and her dissent into what other characters thought was just madness.

Capture.PNGStill of Winona Rider’s character from Stranger Things (Season 1, Episode 3, 2016)

The show mostly focuses on character development, and where other shows would introduce new locations and characters to spice things up, Stranger Things uses many of the same locations and same characters, but invites us to watch how the supernatural occurrences change them. We see children grow up, officers question their government, and women subverting conventions. Stranger Things is a show not to be missed. It’s not too late to start if you still haven’t seen it.

If you have finished the show, here’s the new trailer for Season 2!



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10 Responses to Revitalizing an Aesthetic

  1. mediaphiles says:

    I LOVE Stranger Things – I’m so happy someone wrote about it and hit everything that makes it so amazing: cast, set, style. I agree with everything you wrote, and definitely recommend this show!

    -Meg Schmit

  2. mediaphiles says:

    Can’t wait for Season 2. Stranger Things is such a cinematic show with elevated production quality that really brings it over the edge. I also love David Harbour’s performance as a grief -stricken sheriff that answers the call to action when all these crazy things start happening to the neighborhood.

    – Cal Parsons

  3. mediaphiles says:

    I agree 100% that they could not have cast better kids for these roles. They are so believable and all I want to be is be in their friend group. I also think Winona Ryder deserves high praise for her performance because she was so committed that everyone was right with her in her craziness. Pumped for Season 2!!!

    -Kendra Thornton

  4. mediaphiles says:

    Its always interesting to hear your takes on shows and movies because I know that given your knowledge of the subject, you likely consume shows and films in a whole different way than many others, and therefore you always provide really cool ideas and thoughts that many of us would never even begin to think of. I think you definitely are spot on with this analysis of Stranger Things- a great show by the way. A side note about the show-there was a video of the kids from the cast reacting to watching their own commercial when the Stranger Things 2 commercial aired during the Super Bowl and it was an awesome video. It was really cool to see these talented young actors and actresses getting just as excited about the commercial to their upcoming season as fans at home.


  5. mediaphiles says:

    After watching the trailer above, I am very intrigued and debating starting the show! I have been told to watch it countless times but found the premise to be a bit too far out there at times. Regardless, it seems like Stranger Things is a staple and will become a classic over the years.

    -Maddie Turner

  6. mediaphiles says:

    Russell, I watched Stranger Things in two nights this Summer! AHHH! I absolutely adored the show and its throwbacks to the 80’s (even though I did not live through the 80’s). Over the summer, I also watched a short, which described the process that they went through in choosing the music as well as the way in which they created the font and lighting for the title sequence and it is absolutely fascinating! With this being said, I am in love with this show and am absolutely inspired by the performances of every single actor in the series. Oh, also, if you have not seen it yet, you should watch the “easter eggs” giveaways from the show, as they detail a number of things that provide hints for Season 2, at the end of Season 1!

    -Luke Dellorso

  7. mediaphiles says:

    I really enjoyed Stranger Things. It was some really great summer days binging this show! It is a great show to pass time, but also one that can endure analysis and deconstruction. I completely agree that the child actors are phenomenal. Can’t wait to see them in the second season!

    -Kevin Yu

  8. mediaphiles says:

    This is really a great introduction to the show. I have heard great things about it, and some of the comments and reasons you give for enjoying the show are very compelling. I like that you mention what it is that the show really focuses on, in this case character development.

    Catherine Maier

  9. mediaphiles says:

    The show is absolutely fantastic and I originally couldn’t figure out what it was that made it look so cool and fimiliar. Now I definitely know that it was because the Spielberg influences were clearly shown and the 80;s setting was portrayed really well.
    -Jordan Hansgen

  10. mediaphiles says:

    This show does a wonderful job at bringing more than just a good story to a television show. It brought nostalgia, aesthetic, a unique score, and great writing into the world of television. Nice piece.

    -Jake Fallin

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