Stranger Things. When I got down to watch this show last year, my head was full of rapturous reviews and hearty recommendations from friends. The show, I was told, was reminiscent of American pop culture of the ’70s and the ’80s, especially works of Stephen King, George Lucas, Guillermo del Toro, Steven Spielberg, JJ Abrams, and so on. Now, these gents are some of my favourite creative people in their respective fields. So, naturally, I expected this Netflix show to be full of references from their works. But I also expected it to be innovative, original, thrilling, and enjoyable. Which, sadly, it was not.
Let me explain.
When I watch a TV show or a movie, I don’t watch it to feel sentimental about my childhood. Yes, it is nice to see people paying homage to those who inspired them, but that does not alone make for good television. These references should merely add bonuses, and the focus of the makers should always be on characters, story, writing, and most of all providing something new and original. Perhaps I did not feel as involved in the story as I did not live in suburban United States of the 1980s? I don’t know, but I am pretty sure I would not want to be inundated with references from classic Bollywood movies in an Indian TV show airing currently, especially if the show cannot stand on its own feet. But perhaps this comparison is unwarranted.
I don’t hate Stranger Things, not really. Let me get this out of the way. It just left me sort of…cold. Like… meh! It was just ordinary, and boring? It is not totally bad. It does get many things right. Child actors in the movie are simply amazing. The directors of the show clearly know how to make them act like how real kids would behave. Other actors are also good (it is so nice to see you again, Samwise Gamgee). But even getting everything exactly right would not have made it groundbreaking as it is made out to be.
Look, if I wanted to enjoy a story in which children take on supernatural threats, I’d read Harry Potter or Stephen King’s ‘It’ again, or maybe watch ‘The Goonies’, the film from which Stranger Things draws a lot of references. If I wished to see a piece of work capitalising on nostalgia, I would watch Judwaa 2 (but I hear the original Judwaa was trashy too and, Wikipedia tells me, the ‘unofficial’ remake of Jackie Chan starrer Twin Dragons). While we are at it, when is a piece of work ‘inspired’ or a ‘homage’ and when does it become derivative? Is there a fine line?
I have not watched the second season of Stranger Things, and critics say it is even more stuffed of classic pop culture references. So I think I will just watch something else, thank you very much!