Details: This is a review for season 2 of the show Stranger Things. Released on Netflix in 2017. There are nine episode with each episode at around forty-five minutes to an hour-long.
If I were to summarize Stranger Things 2 into a single phrase, it would be “nostalgia porn.” Stranger Things 2 doubles down on the nostalgia for the 1980’s and almost forces the viewer to partake in the music, style, and pop culture of the 1980’s. If you’re a fan of that decade, then you will likely enjoy Stranger Things 2. If you did not… then Stranger Things may come off as derivative and uninspired. For me, Stranger Things 2 dances the line between homage to the 1980’s and an uninspired, unoriginal mishmash of 1980’s pop culture.
Stranger Things 2 picks up where season one of Stranger Things left off. It’s a few months later and everyone is trying to get on with their lives after the horrific events in season one. Unfortunately, the kid who disappeared into the Upside Down (their name for the alternate evil dimension where the monster came from) seems to be linked to another dark force from that dark dimension and our familiar cast of parents, teenagers, and children must band together to battle against this new evil.
The one thing that interests me most when watching a new show is the prospects of watching something “new.” I want to see something I’ve never seen before. Maybe it’s a twist of combination of existing intellectual properties, combined into a new product or story I’ve never seen before. Maybe it’s just a tonal or artistic direction that tries to convey a new feeling. Regardless, I want me some new stuff. Stranger Things 2 goes in the opposite direction.
Stranger Things takes a lot of elements from 1980’s pop culture and media and smashes them together in the hopes that those who romanticize that decade will find something they like. Watching Stranger Things 2 felt like watching a short clip of Stephen King horror, followed by a short clip of the exorcist, followed by a short clip of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, followed by a commercial for Betamax, followed by an advertisement for a 1980’s pop artist. There were many times where a seemingly pointless shot or bit of cinematography was used just to emphasize how 1980’s this whole show was. It was… kind of a let down and a waste of film. While I know some people might have enjoyed these call backs to the 1980’s, I felt like these shots broke the rhythm and tension this showed tried to achieve. It felt like a freshman film student was trying their best to hammer that decade into me, irrelevant of the fact that not all viewers were suckers for nostalgia. I just wanted a good story.
And there is a decent one here. It’s just beleaguered by the show runners constant attempts to reference 1980’s music and Dungeons and Dragons. I was mostly entertained, but still exhausted by the constant nostalgia porn. I feel like we established long ago that this show takes place in the 1980’s and the show could have been more subtle to this point.
What doesn’t help is that It, a well-known piece of Stephen King horror was recently remade and remade really well. If you’ve watched it and then watched Stranger Things 2, it becomes obvious just how much of the show was appropriated. This makes it hard to distinguish whether Stranger Things 2 is a homage or just a lazy copy of movies like It.
The last piece of criticism I have for the show concerns the use of so many children in the show. Everytime I see children in show business, I cringe with fear at the potential for pedophilia, sexual abuse, financial abuse, and emotional abuse children face in show business. With the recent revelations of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, etc., it’s clear that the risk for abuse is the unavoidable cost of working in show business. Allowing kids to enter that world is an enormous risk to their safety and I’d rather kids just not be in show business at all. Show business screws kids up. Stranger Things 2 has a lot of kids in it. In this show, they are often barely dressed and arguably sexualized. One of the actors in this show has recently changed agents as reports emerged that there was alleged prior instances of inappropriate sexual conduct. My point is this: employing children in show business is highly risky to the safety of those children and I’d rather there be fewer shows like Stranger Things that rely on children so heavily.
Overall, Strangers Things 2 is a decently entertaining show that has more of the same of what was in season one of the show. If you love Stranger Things, then you’ll likely love Stranger Things 2.