Stranger Things

Nothing’s as creepy as the past, and the early eighties were indeed a creepy time. E.g. examine the font they used for the opening credits of TV shows. Why does every one wear brown? Even the cars seem to be wood paneled. Stranger Things has a distinct 30- years-ago aesthetic, and it works- I was terrified from the first episode.

The show is set in a small town where something supernatural is afoot. It has been unleashed upon the innocent citizens by clueless government experimenting. So far, so good. There are lots of shots with sub-titles that read “low growls” as the camera sneaks upon who ever is going to be a light snack for the local horror. Incidentally, “muffled squelching” is the most terrifying sub-title I have ever read. It conjures up a very unpleasant range of possibilities.

The protagonists are a trio of little boys, all decision and action, and one little girl who can’t talk. Thank you for putting us in our place right from the age of 9, Netflix. We wouldn’t want to get ahead of ourselves and get all uppity about our place in this world after all.

Besides being set a few decades ago, many of the opinions voiced by the three little boys are the tired old opinions of yesterday,little examined and confidently voiced. Patriarchy,misogyny and slut-shaming all enjoy a comfortable run in this series. When Nancy Wheeler isn’t comfortable around high school idiot/bad boy Steve she’s anxious to say she’s isn’t “like [random girls’ names here]” I mean this is all such BULLSHIT. DO they even have any women writers here?… Just looked it up, yes for at least 2 episodes. The ones with really asinine, gendered and regressive outlook proudly show the Duffer Brothers in the writing credits.

The same Nancy Wheeler is made desperately embarrassed the day after a party because Steve’s friends tease her about hooking up with Steve. Steve’s whole posture conveys pride and an assertive sense of self-worth in this scene. The message for young women is unambiguous and absent of any kind of self-aware critique: your experience of sexual pleasure should be worn as a badge of shame. Nancy goes through what women experience decade after decade, first call your female peers slutty, and then discover that you have both internalized the message and will be shamed in your turn.

The other unambiguous message sent out in this scene is that young women have value that can be given up and possessed, and which is bound up in their sexuality. Steve is proud of himself here because he is now possessed of Nancy’s sense of self-worth. His worth is always self-contained and inalienable but the women who hook up with him are reduced by their experiences. Like I said, BULLSHIT. The whole thing just reeks of manure.

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