'Stranger Things': Why the Hit Netflix Series Wouldn't Work in Any Time Period But the '80s – Showbiz Cheat Sheet

Netflix’s hit original series Stranger Things took the world by storm when it premiered in July of 2016. Without a massive marketing campaign, many viewers weren’t sure what they were getting into when they watched the show. Although, it didn’t take long for the supernatural series to explode in popularity. Stranger Things, set in a small Indiana town in the 1980s, had all the ingredients for a perfect mix of nostalgia and scares. Viewers of all ages couldn’t get enough of the new show. However, after three seasons and at least one more on the way, it’s clear the series could only work in one era – the ‘80s.
If you grew up in the 80s, you know that things were very different back in the day. In a world now filled with instant news, instant communication, and location apps galore, kids today would most likely be paralyzed with fear when it came to the amount of freedom allowed in the 80s. Forty years ago, parents didn’t have time to worry about where their kids were every second of the day. In most homes, both parents worked, which created a lot of latch-key kids.
The lack of parents in Stranger Things is fundamental to the story. The series goes out of its way to portray Mike and Nancy Wheeler’s dad as especially clueless. He never knows where his kids are or what they’re doing. He honestly seems to prefer it that way. Granted, a large part of the story in Stranger Things revolves around Joyce and Hopper, but the other adults exist as minor characters for the most part.
With too many adults to ask questions, we doubt the boys would have ever discovered Hawkins National Laboratory, and we’re sure Mike wouldn’t have ever been able to hide Eleven in his basement. When the ‘90s hit and technology advanced, parents became more in-tune with what their children were doing and where they were. 
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Before cell phones, if you got lost going somewhere, you had to pull over and ask for directions. If your car broke down during a drive, you had to walk somewhere to use a phone to call for help. 
If the Duffer Brothers, creators of Stranger Things, set the series in a time when cell phones existed, those phones could solve much of the trouble the kids get themselves into with a quick phone call. On top of that, the government agents trying to track down Eleven and her friends wouldn’t have to bug phones and listen to random people’s conversations. They would simply locate them through their cell phones.
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A large part of the charm of Stranger Things is the mystery surrounding all of the events. When Will gets kidnapped, Joyce can only go to the local police for help. Flyers only go so far, and the police can only do so much. When Hopper wants to find out more about the secret government experiments he thinks Dr. Brenner is connected to, he can only go by what was reported in the paper. 
In 2021, the pure weirdness of the situation of what happened in Hawkins would take the internet by storm. Will would have entire subreddits and forums dedicated to his disappearance. Hawkins National Laboratory would be the hot topic with all conspiracy theorists. Eleven’s experience would be global news. 
There are plenty of upsides to the continually advancing technology. However, some of those upsides would hinder the storytelling of the Duffer Brothers. Setting Stranger Things in the ‘80s is a decision that just makes sense. 
You can catch up on Stranger Things Seasons 1-3 on Netflix. Stranger Things Season 4 premieres in the summer of 2022.


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