‘Who is Tristan Priskett?!’ I hear you cry. Well, among other things, he is a consumer of games, a movie connoisseur, an avid imbiber of TV shows. Basically, an all-round pop-culture critic. So, sit back and take a journey with me (because dear reader, I am Tristan Priskett) through the beguiling and often frustrating world of popular culture [EDIT: ‘popture’? Could we use that? Not sure if it sounds right but I’m just thinking of time-constraints here]
Stranger Things burst onto our screens back in July 2015… yes, it really was that long ago! It had a dark charm coupled with a unique homage to 80s retro, which up until then had only been seen in The Goldbergs, Ashes to Ashes, American Psycho, Red Oaks, That ’80s Show, Donnie Darko, The Carrie Diaries, Everybody Hates Chris, Adventureland, Hot Tub Time Machine, and Freaks and Geeks, so understandably the Netflix generation went wild. Boomers loved it because it enabled them to say ‘I remember that’ with nostalgia-glazed eyes each time they saw something they recognized from living in the 80s. Millennials adored it because of its quirky lack of smartphones and funny clothes.
I myself enjoyed the first two seasons well enough, albeit with a few reservations here and there, and so I dipped my toe into the third with eager anticipation. After sitting through all eight one-hour episodes, disappointed isn’t the word. Or rather ‘disappointed’ is only one of several words with a similar meaning, or synonyms if you will, that could be used to describe my irritation at how this once moderately mighty show had fallen.
Although this show is set in the 1980s they missed a myriad of opportunities to address current year issues. A couple of times they referenced Back to the Future which at first led me to hope that perhaps time-travel would be utilized as part of the plot. In this many-layered universe the Duffer brothers have created, it would have been perfectly plausible to have some of the main characters find a way to transport themselves to the White House in 2018 and confront the issue of Donald Trump’s appallingly cruel child detention centers. Or perhaps Dustin could have invented a flux capacitor and built his own time-machine? Together with his friends, they could have traveled to a Gay Pride march in the present day and made insightful comments on how far we have come regarding LGBTTIQQ2SA rights compared to the 1980s, but then poignantly added that we still have a long way to go. El could have wrinkled up her nose in a thoughtful expression while purveying the joyous parade and said something along the lines of: ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be amazing if in the future we accepted non-binary and self-ID trans people without prejudice, and cisgendered people recognized their default level of privilege and amended their behavior according to a new-found awareness of how LGBTTIQQ2SA individuals are marginalized within their own communities?’ and then the other kids could have nodded in enthusiastic agreement.
Also, why was the monster in the story even a monster? Would it not have led to a more meaningful narrative if the ‘monster’ the Russians had brought into being was in fact climate change? Instead of Billy being possessed by the evil gloop, he could have had a sudden realization of the damage greenhouse gases were doing to the planet, and instead of going around recruiting others and creating zombies for Lord Gunge, he could have put together an extremely comprehensive leaflet campaign, making the townsfolk (and the viewers) aware of the dangers of using fossil fuels.
Alas, no. None of this came about. Just a mediocre story about a giant gloop monster they didn’t even have the decency to call The Trump. I wouldn’t have cared if they’d made even the smallest effort and added a jaunty yellow wig on top of the demon’s head so that those of us in the know could at least have had a bit of a chuckle at their brilliant satire of modern politics.
In my opinion, the Duffer brothers have abused their position by refusing to take on these issues. What good is a hit show on Netflix which breaks ratings records if the writers are too selfish to turn it into positive political propaganda? Two stars.