Commentary, Culture, TV

Is Netflix’s Stranger Things Overrated?

August 31, 2016

Is Stranger Things overrated? That question has been haunting me, especially after all the growing praise its gotten, including our official stranger things review.

It’s not like the show lacks merit. Far from that. It has thoroughly captured the mind and imagination of Millennials and GenXers alike, guiding us all through a rabbit-hole of delicious, nostalgia-filled trippery.

But sometimes I feel it’s a bit like the Macarena, a massive, pop-song hit just 20 years ago. It spent 14 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, and even made an appearance at the 1996 Democratic National Convention. (Check out Hillary Clinton and cohorts boogie on down.)

Is the Macarena a good song? By that logic, is Stranger Things overrated, but still great?

The Macarena is certainly a classic … but in a different way than something like, say, Stairway to Heaven. It does have its flaws.

Given the Hype, is Stranger Things Overrated?: Slightly, Yeah

The nearly universal praise garnered by Stranger Things brings about a certain kind of communal euphoria that has been missing in this space for quite some time. Perhaps the recent glut in blockbuster movies has shifted our attention to TV, as mentioned in this recent Washington Post article.

Or perhaps there is something in the flaws that makes the show so enamoring. The visual synchronicity with films of yore makes it instantly recognizable. Ordinarily, copycatting yields mixed results. But this massive and unrelenting homage to older films grabs on to the viewer and doesn’t let go.

Stranger Things borrows heavily from ET and other films.

Oops. Wrong image. (Or is it?)

To nit or to pick

That makes it easier to forgive the bewildering moments during the series; my favorite being the complete and utter disregard for Barb’s whereabouts. The creators have somewhat acknowledged this anomaly and promise to address it in (the now real) season 2.

There’s also Mrs. Wheeler’s cluelessness in regards to what goes on in the basement of her house, or in her daughter’s bedroom. (I can kind of forgive Mr. Wheeler’s ignorance, as he is mostly just a stock character anyway.)

And I was a little nonplussed at Mr. Clarke as the all-knowing force that provides the deus ex knowledge necessary for the boys to continue their quest, even if it infringes on his Saturday night date. What are the odds that a middle school science teacher would provide the necessary information the kids need to pinpoint the location of an inter-dimensional demon gate?

Those are just a few of the strange things in Stranger Things. And there are even other overarching plot points, such as the plausibility of a small-town sheriff breaking into a top secret government lab, or how a massive slaughter of secret agents through the psychic powers of a small child and the inhuman prowess of an otherworldly monster could be so easily covered up—especially by an agency that did a terrible job of “covering up” the claim of Eleven’s birth mother (chronicled in detail at the local library through newspaper microfilm).

Stranger Things overrated? Not with a van flip.

Isn’t it strange that the Wheelers are allowed to enter the premises of a mass slaughter at the school to ensure that their son Mike is unharmed? Would the government be okay with letting these kids roam free, spreading tales of a superhuman girl who could flip vans and kill government agents with her mind?

Perfectly imperfect

But then, what is beautiful about this show is not necessarily that it avoids the rough edges. Instead, it focuses so heavily on the simplicity of its best elements (not to say that the show is simple)—such as the emphasis on the characters themselves, on waxing nostalgic, on suspense, intrigue, and tons of heart—that it makes the nitpicking seem trite.

Yes, the show is a little overrated. But that doesn’t matter. Everyone’s watching it, and you should too. So just in case you’re still missing out, get those hands to head to hips and …. Eeey Macarena!

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  • Reply Alpo Jones September 12, 2016 at 7:41 pm

    It’s overrated. I agree whole-heartly with your analysis. The eighties nostalgia is their master stroke. The story is mediocre. But it doesn’t matter b/c the viewer is starved for anything novel or different, and can fuel water cooler conversations.

  • Reply dee October 2, 2016 at 12:40 am

    Oh yes, highly overrated, Wynona’s performance was pretty shoddy as well.

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