The Stranger Things of Story

There is perhaps no more striking representation of the battle between good and evil than in Stranger Things, the Netflix series which released its second season in late October 2017. This battle is seen through the eyes of children in a normal town of Hawkins Indiana.

Set one year after the events of Season 1, it is Halloween October 1984, and we are treated once again to pop culture references of ’80s movies including Aliens, Ghost Busters, Strange Encounters of the Third Kind, Dungeons and Dragons and arcade games such as pac-man and space invaders.

stranger things

In the first season of ‘Stranger Things’, we met Eleven, a girl with telekinetic powers who has been caged and tormented in a research lab, and who opens the door way to ‘the upside down‘. This nightmarish world is a dark shadow of our own, a literal ‘upside down’ version of reality where dark things lurk and various innocents such as Will and Barb are drawn and even lost.

In Season 2, we see the characters each dealing with the after effects of their adventures in season 1. Will, still connected to the upside down, is seeing visions of the evil menace over Hawkins and he warns his friends. They believe he is simply experiencing post traumatic stress flashbacks however soon he becomes affected by the “shadow monster” as though possessed by a demonic power.

stranger things 5

Can Eleven and the gang stop the forces of evil again before it consumes their friend Will, their town Hawkins and maybe their entire world?

As mentioned in earlier Bear Skin posts, many stories have a doorway metaphor allowing protagonists to pass into a magical or mythical world of adventure.  Indeed, classics such as “Alice in Wonderland” or ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’, contain a literal door through which children pass into a magical land. Here a a battle of good and evil occurs, or at least a discovery of true self and courage. Other classics such as “Harry Potter” tell of parallel worlds [the worlds of muggles and of Witchcraft and Wizardry] which live in close relationship. Only the few special characters are able to navigate both and it is there the true battles of life and death are fought and won.

This metaphor duality of our world, of scientific objectivity on the one hand and the world of narrative and myth on the other, represents the division between the conscious and the subconscious, the natural and the supernatural. These stories and the journey of protagonists between worlds, through the doorway or portal, takes the reader or viewer on a journey into their own dream-state, to do battle with the evil which lurks there.

stranger things 6

‘Stranger Things’ and other doorway stories, shows how unexamined rationalism, or worlds without myth and legend, impoverish the mind and spirit. The ordinary world that denies the magical or mythical world does so to its own detriment. It seems that those who deny the chaos and disorder of the subconscious will eventually be ruled by it; 19th century humanist rationalism, ever optimistic about the greater and greater advancements of human knowledge, gave rise to the cruelty and chaotic destruction of the early 20th century regimes of Stalin, Hitler and Lenin.

And so what is the solution to our dilemma?

It is the hero who must bridge the two worlds, crossing between and doing battle with the forces or chaos within the subconscious. The hero-journey, so prevalent in narrative, myth and legend is the descent into the psyche as though into another world to encounter the monsters of chaos therein. The hero will face the beast he or she fears the most and there through acts of courage and often great sacrifice, vanquish them or contain them.

In returning, the hero can then seal up the fractured psyche, restoring the integrity of the soul. What magical force does this hero use? Well, the most powerful a mystical force available to humans – the force of love.

Stranger Things (spoilers within) 

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. ~  Hamlet Act I, Scene V

In July 2016, Netflix debuted a new series, Stranger Things, a show which has quickly gained widespread popularity for its pace and character driven plot. 

Labelled supernatural, horror, science-fiction, the series is less horror and more thriller, viewing like an extended X-Files episode crossed with a Spielberg movie.

Set in 1980s America the story centres around the lives of four twelve-year old boys Will, Lucas, Dustin and Mike. They love playing Dungeons and Dragons, have full sets of Star Wars figurines and love riding their bicycles around the sleepy streets of their hometown Hawkins, Indiana.

Somewhat geeky and fringe-dwelling these boys have their lives turned upside down one of them, Will, suddenly disappears.


The boys encounter a mysterious run-away known only as Eleven, a girl who exhibits telekinetic and psychic powers. Convinced Eleven’s skills can locate Will, the boys launch a search for their friend while the local Sheriff Jim Hopper aids Will’s mother and brother to investigate his whereabouts. In the process, Hopper exposes a broader conspiracy around unorthodox experiments in a nearby powerplant.

Stranger things do indeed soon occur as Will’s mother Joyce becomes convinced Will is alive and communicating with her through electric surges and flickering lights in her home. Initially concerned for his mothers sanity, Will’s brother Jonathan is increasingly drawn  into sinister supernatural occurrences which threaten the lives of everyone in their small town.


A large part of the show’s appeal is the rich references throughout to 80s popular culture –  Spielberg and Lucas films, Stephen King novels, clothes, toys and songs from the era. From its heavily synthesized soundtrack and red neon title sequence, the homages to 80s have struck an appeal with adult audiences of that vintage [myself included].

Moreover, the child stars of the show are delightfully cast, in particular Millie Bobby Brown playing Eleven gives a standout performance.


The 8 episode series is written and directed by Matt and Ross Duffer. The Duffer Brothers have captured well a story of adventure, an epic classic clash of good verses evil, and have wrapped it up in a compelling detective genre piece. 

Most notable is the person of Eleven, an innocent yet powerful child who seems responsible for the evil unleashed in the town of Hawkins Indiana, at least for opening a portal for evil to be released. At the same time she is the only one capable of stopping it. 

Eleven represents a mysterious saviour, a messiah if you will, the only one capable of facing true evil and exterminating it.


Well, by self sacrifice of course.

If this revelation is a spoiler to any reader, my apologies extend as far as to add this caveat…. A self sacrificing saviour is a such a standard piece of epic myth and legend, so present in masterworks of literature, film, theatre and opera, that one can no longer count it a surprise twist. 

More a cathartic reminder.

Good wins over evil, light vanquishes the dark, love sacrifices self. Selah.