Introduction: Beyond Nostalgia, Discomfort and Difference in Stranger Things

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Howell, Amanda
Baker, lucy
Kumar, Rebecca
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2019
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Abstract

Season One of Stranger Things (Netflix, Duffer Brothers, 2016-present) was praised by critics for how it captured the “allure of simpler, innocent times,” as it offered its audiences the chance to “bliss out” on nostalgia for child and teen-focused entertainment of the Reagan era (Poniewozik; Britton). As four preteen boys play Dungeons and Dragons in a suburban basement while mom cooks a family dinner in the kitchen above, the opening episode recalls the “imagined family happiness” that is the persistent, aspirational trope of Spielberg’s most popular works (McBride 516). Its heart-warming snapshot of boyhood friendship owes a debt to the “Loser’s Club” of Stephen King’s 1986 horror novel It, while its imagery of bike lights cutting through the darkness is an explicit quotation of E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial (Spielberg, 1982). Cocooned in recollected engagements with fantasy entertainment, Stranger Things focuses on wonder, excitement, and imaginative play in a world where the suburban home and the intense bonds of preteen friendship offer physical and emotional security against encroaching darkness. Appropriately, one of the dominant motifs of Season One is the cozy blanket-fort retreat in the basement of the Wheeler family home; surrounded by toys and collectables, it’s an open invitation to binge-watchers everywhere to join “The Party” and retreat to the imagined securities of suburban domesticity and the nerdy delights of vintage fantasy entertainments.

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Refractory: a journal of entertainment media

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31

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© 2019 Swinburne University of Technology. The attached file was published in Refractory: a journal of Entertainment Media, Vol. 31, 2019 and is reproduced here in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Refractory: a journal of Entertainment Media is available online at: https://refractory-journal.com/

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Screen and digital media

Cultural studies

Screen and media culture

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Howell, A; Baker, L; Kumar, R, Introduction: Beyond Nostalgia, Discomfort and Difference in Stranger Things, Refractory: a journal of entertainment media, 2019, 31

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