10 Strange Facts for Stranger Things

I love Stranger Things. And apparently, so does everyone else.

Despite its popularity, the rampant critical acclaim of Netflix’s Stranger Things was unprecedented upon its release. The initial script produced by the series’ creators, the Duffer brothers, had been repeatedly rejected by a string of cable networks. It was simply uncategorizable. The ensemble of children at the heart of the TV show—Eleven, Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Will—made producers question: was Stranger Things a children’s show? Would adults enjoy it? And if it was geared towards children, shouldn’t the tone be lighter? 

Thankfully, the Duffer brothers never changed their stride, and neither did the show. It was picked up by Netflix in early 2015 and here we are: a homage of 80’s synth pop, jean jackets, and sci-fi movies later, Stranger Things now sits atop Netflix’s most-watched series list, and boasts a 95% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

So what was it that pushed Stranger Things over the edge of indie film territory and into pop culture appeal? Was it the soundtrack? The stellar casting? Steve Harrington’s hair? Maybe, but the response might also have something to do with nostalgia, and Stranger Things certainly had plenty of that.

You might have caught some of them, but here are 10 references you may have missed in Netflix’s monstrous hit.

1. E.T.

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Image from camiseteria.com

No surprise here; thematic shades of E.T. are all over Stranger Things. We see it in the cinematic shots of the series—kids on bicycles, anyone?—but it’s also stunningly prominent in the parallels between Eleven and E.T. As an “alien,” so to speak, Eleven and E.T. share a fixation on one type of food (leggo my eggo), have both dressed up in blonde wigs to blend in, and are both in hiding from shadowy government figures.

2. Dungeons and Dragons

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Image from roebeast.blogspot.com

I think we all caught this one. After all, the series opens with a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, in which Will fails to kill a popular a mythical creature in D&D lore. This scene does two things: first, it foreshadows Will’s capture, which happens immediately after and drives the entire season one plot; and second, it contextualizes the creature in terms that the kids (and us as the audience) can identify. For the rest of the series, the unknown creature from the Upside Down is known as the demogorgon. 

3. Alien

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The demogorgon in Stranger Things has a few nods to Ridley Scott’s aliens. It leaves a lot of goo in its wake, and (spoilers!) it likes to incubate its victims with smaller creatures by forcing its victims to swallow them.

They’re kind of like…worms. Or snakes. It’s gross.

4. Stephen King

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Image from stephenking.wikia.com

I’ve listed Stephen King as a category in a vague sense, because Stranger Things has multiple horror motifs typified by King during his prolific career as a writer. Mainly, Stranger Things takes its cues from King’s novels Firestarter and Carrie. In both cases, Eleven’s telepathic and occasionally erratic powers, along with her abusive and watchful upbringing, align her with Carrie White and Charlie McGee.

5. Star Wars

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Image from heavyarmor.wordpress.com

This one is a bit more obvious, as the characters often voice the references directly instead of the Duffer brothers hiding them under cinematic quality. Eleven has “jedi powers,” Mike owns a Yoda action-figure and talks about the Force, and when Lucas thinks Eleven has betrayed the group he calls her “Lando,” after the Star Wars character who betrays Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back.

6. Nightmare on Elm Street

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Image from elitedaily.com

Episode 8 of Stranger Things has Nancy and Jonathan trying to go head-to-head with the monster, luring it into Jonathan’s house with a brigade of traps and eventually setting it on fire. Sound familiar? It should—the climax of the 1984 Nightmare on Elm Street played out in a similar way.

7. The Goonies

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Image from mentalfloss.com

Everyone loves a good ragtag group of misfit kids. And we see a lot of similarities in the playful and mischievous behaviour of the Goonies squad to the Stranger Things crew. The main rule: no adults allowed. (But as a lover of Stranger Things, I’m willing to point out that we do have Joyce and Hopper involved, but they act pretty autonomously for the majority of the show and are in their own separate ‘clique’).

8. X-Men

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Image from comicvine.gamespot.com

X-men also has misfits, yes, but we’ll give that to The Goonies instead. A trickier reference to the Marvel comics actually happens in the first episode, when Dustin and Will are talking about an X-Men comic; the specific issue they argue about is volume 134, in which “Jean Grey mentally snaps…and inadvertently unleashes the Dark Phoenix, a cosmic force beyond her control,” which is a tip of the hat to Eleven later in the series.

9. The Thing

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Image from culturecreature.com

The 80’s horror movie The Thing makes a few appearances in Stranger Things. This one is a bit like Star Wars, in that there are a couple of casual mentions you can spot if you’re looking for them. In Mike’s basement there’s a poster for the movie on one of the walls, and when Dustin calls Mr. Clarke for information on how to build a sensory deprivation tank (which is the most awkward and amusing thing on the show), guess what Mr. Clarke is watching? That’s right: The Thing.

10. Minority Report/Fringe

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Image from movle.blogspot.com

Last but not least, I’m going to throw in a debatable one. When the characters on Stranger Things make a sensory deprivation tank for Eleven to heighten her telepathy and enter the Upside Down, some people got flashes of the 2002 movie Minority Report. Specifically, the scene when Spielberg’s pre-cogs lay in their own sensory deprivation tanks to get flashes of the future.

Now, as it’s Spielberg we’re talking about here (whose other movies are a big influence on the show), it’s probably a homage to him. But! For anyone who watched the hit TV series Fringe—did you not get flashbacks of psychic Olivia Dunham concentrating in a sensory deprivation tank? I did. I really did.

So, did we miss anything? Let us know if you caught something strange that we missed, and bonus points for the more obscure the reference is!

-Contributed by Lorna Antoniazzi

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Blood-Suckers vs. Hoppers: Vampire Showdown

 

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Illustration by Lorna Antoniazzi

Vampires have captivated the Western imagination for centuries. From Bram Stoker’s seminal novel, Dracula, to Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, to the ‘90s masterpiece that was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to the current season of American Horror Story, the list goes on and on.

Because the figure of the vampire has become so solidified over time—with each vampire movie and novel reinscribing very specific stereotypes—there is little variance in their defining characteristics. (Twilight, as always, is irrelevant here.) Yet, what about the vampires who appear in cultures other than the Western popular imagination?

Today, East meets West in a cross-cultural showdown between the undead. Our contenders: the Goeng-Si (殭屍; aka “Chinese hopping vampire”) and the Generic Vampire (aka “the dangerous but sexy English-speaking vampire of vague European origin”).

Appearance

Goeng-Si:

Goeng-Si, which translates to “stiff corpse,” gets its name from the condition of rigor mortis—whereby the limbs stiffen after death. With their outstretched arms and taut joints, the Chinese vampires are the literal manifestation of this name. Because of their stiffness and inability to bend their knees, the goeng-si have to hop to move. And so, the hopping vampire was born. As you can see, the Chinese take their horror very seriously.

What I gather from all the Chinese vampire movies I grew up watching is that, apart from the common dominator of hopping, the Goeng-Si takes on one of two appearances. The first involves an incredibly pasty complexion and smudged black circles around the eyes, not unlike my appearance during exams. The second involves markedly more decay and rotting flesh. In this case, a family member has asked a Taoist priest to resurrect a long-deceased beloved one, and he does so successfully.

All Goeng-Si dress in super traditional dynastic attire and have a paper talisman, which resembles a long piece of toilet paper or a shopping receipt, attached to their forehead. In essence, they look like they’re permanently trapped in a poorly funded period piece.

Generic Vampire:

Translucent white skin, cold to the touch. Inhuman eyes. No rotting skin (probably no pimple problems). Perpetual streak of blood meandering down side of mouth. Generally brooding. Often sexy.

Winner: Goeng-Si

I made this decision solely based on the fact that the Goeng-Si hops and belongs to the Chinese equivalent of a Jane Austen film. That is all.

Creation

Goeng-Si and Generic Vampire:

How someone becomes a Goeng-Si is surprisingly quite similar to how the generic vampire is created. The various ways for someone to turn into a vampire include being infected by another vampire, absorbing someone’s energy or spirit, using black magic, and being improperly buried.

Winner: Tie

Abilities

Goeng-Si:

The major difference between our two vampires is that Goeng-Si don’t actually suck blood. Instead, they suck the qi, or life force, from their victims. Envision Dementors, but instead of absorbing your happiness, they just go straight for the good stuff.

Generic Vampire:

They live off drinking human blood (duh), but can subsist on animal blood if necessary. Unlike the Goeng-Si who, to the best of my knowledge, have no other supernatural powers, the Generic Vampire has super speed, super strength, mind control, can climb super high walls (à la Dracula), can shape-shift, and… is looking attractive an ability?

Winner: Generic Vampire

For sheer quantity of skills alone.

Killing Them/Countermeasures

Goeng-Si:

According to many reputable sources (my mother and my stash of 80s Chinese vampire movies), Goeng-Si can’t die because they’re already dead. Garlic won’t stop them. Holy water won’t stop them. Sunlight is a mere annoyance. And a stab to the heart is just a flesh wound! The only way to impede their attack is to stop their hopping. And this is where the paper talisman comes in. The strip of paper must have some kind of binding spell on it, written by a Taoist priest with blood. Attaching this paper onto the Goeng-Si’s forehead renders it indefinitely paralyzed, unless the talisman is removed.

A very legitimate scholarly search on Wikipedia tells me that there are actually a myriad of ways to prevent Goeng-Si from sucking the living qi out of you. Most of them involve some variation of throwing rice and eggs. Call it nostalgia, but I’d like to think the only way to stop those suckers is to smack yellow receipts on their foreheads to stop their hopping, and your impending death.

Generic Vampires:

One thing that I will never understand is why vampires of vague European origin are so delicate. Nearly everything kills them. In a way, they’re almost as fragile as humans are; perhaps even more so, because garlic is amazing and delicious and the vampiric race is missing out on a whole lot of Italian cuisine—human or otherwise.

Winner: Goeng-Si

Imagining me stop a Goeng-Si by smacking a shoddy piece of paper on its forehead, thereby stopping it mid-hop, makes me so happy.

ULTIMATE WINNER: You decide!

 

 

-Contributed by Janice To