Is the Greater Metaphor at the Heart of 'Stranger Things'...Puberty?
"Stranger Things" is everyone's favorite 80's horror/sci-fi/adventure mash-up. But is it really just about puberty?
I love Stranger Things. It feels like an amazing amalgamation of all the things that made me who I am today. You have John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, 80's music, video games, and lots and lots of bike riding. When I watch the show I'm ten again. I'm with my best friends as we ride our bikes through the woods to get into West Chester, Pennsylvania. I'm tipping cows, stealing cigarettes, catching lightning bugs, and...
...growing hair in weird places?
What if I told you that the entire TV show Stranger Things wasn't actually about government conspiracies and special powers, but it was actually about your voice cracking, body starting to smell, and that feeling you get when you stand next to someone you really like and dare to ask them to dance?
That's right, we're talking about puberty.
Check out this video from The Take and let's talk after the jump.
So...is Stranger Things just all about puberty?
My dad gave me "the talk" in a booth at Jimmy John's on Route 202. There was a hotdog involved. Also a Taylor Pork roll sandwich. Neither were used the way you'd expect.
Puberty and the entire idea of coming of age is a seminal life experience. It's where you start to realize things aren't fair, that bad things can happen to good people, and that life, in general, is wholly more complicated than you originally planned.
The coming of age stories with Stranger Things definitely capture that, but what if the acne about to break the surface is that the arrival of Eleven (also the age many hit puberty) and subsequent happenings within small-town Indiana are one giant metaphor for the changes kids go through as they enter their teen years.
I love how the video opens...even if it got me thinking about Eliot making out with E.T.
It's true that the arrival of Eleven throws the boys lives into a spiral. They start acting different, feeling different, but I think that's probably part of the storyline...but can it also be part of the metaphor?
The answer there seems a bit trickier. I'd say the theme of Stranger Things has been coming of age, both mentally and physically, and that the show is always written from the theme's point of view, as Craig Mazin advises all writers to do.
I think it's safe to say that the actions and plot within Stranger Things all contribute to that theme, more than they are actually part of the metaphor.
My general reason for taking this stance is that the show, while predominantly following the young friends, takes on different stages of life each season. We see college-bound teens, lonely adults, and instead, I find that the greater metaphor or underlying heart of the show is actually about love.
In season one we learned that "friends don't lie." The REASON friends don't lie is that they love each other, and would want one another to know the truth. In season two the show explores how to open your heart to letting new friends, or a new love in. We saw how to deal with love lost, both romantic, and in mourning Barb.
As season three rolled around, I was unsure what else the show could talk about.
But the show never disappoints. We got an entire treatise on unexpected love. Steve and Robin, people the audience was used to being in a heteronormative live story, were instead introduced as a deeper love. One between friends trying to understand how to get over the past and embrace their futures.
Eleven and Will had to learn about love, too—that love is pure devotion—not just lying, but willing to let pain overtake you so that another doesn't feel that pain anymore.
And for the adults, it means letting go of one love, embracing another, and losing it.
Love is both an emotion and an action.
Watching the characters work through love, including Joyce, who almost loses love over lust, was a beautiful journey.
So, while the show may handle puberty, I think in the end it's all about the lengths you're willing to go for the ones you love.
And how elusive a feeling genuine love is.
So if you have it, hold it close.
What's next? 50+ of the Best Coming of Age movies!
Coming of age movies are special. The best coming of age movies teach us about ourselves and live within us forever. They can be time machines, trips to foreign worlds, and even help us understand how we became who we are.
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