Truly I think there is no hope for youth. Watching a couple of episodes of the new Stranger Things with my son confirmed this. Though I raved about the first season — an inspired mash-up of classic early-1980s TV and movie tropes with a great soundtrack, charming characters and lots of spine-tingling creepiness and horror — this latest one (we’re now on season three) appears to have settled for self-indulgence and tweeness.
Where season one had the creeping menace of Alien, the mood here is closer to Scooby-Doo, only instead of solving mysteries the pesky kids spend half their time padding out the drama by having cute, winsome relationships with girls (one of whom is Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown but now with added hair). Perhaps what it’s aiming for is something poignant like Stand by Me — ah, the lost innocence of our youth — but to me it felt more like that water-treading you often encounter when what should have been a one-season drama becomes a huge hit and they suddenly have to stretch out the formula.
As we’ve seen in everything from Lost to The Returned, what you end up with is something meandering and pointless, which relies mainly on your affection for familiar characters and settings while drip-feeding you just enough drama to stop you giving up. My son doesn’t seem bothered by this, as I suppose you wouldn’t be when you’re a student with eons of spare time and a whole life ahead of you. But I resent it deeply. Yes, having been there first time round, I can appreciate the 1980s pop-cultural references, and I love the attention to period detail, such as the recreation of a mall with shops such as J.C. Penney and Gap selling all the right clothes. Not, though, unless it’s got a satisfying plot attached which convinces me that at some stage it will be properly, intelligently resolved with that spidery monster slain for good.
This article was originally published in The Spectator magazine.