For every dad out there sporting a vintage London Calling tee and ready to deliver an epic monologue about the utter and complete underappreciation of Joe Strummer, there are at least 50 more either unable to or uninterested in rocking the Casbah, even if a crash course in the Clash was solely for his son or daughter. For this, and so many other reasons—a handful included right here in this tiny compendium—we are thankful to Stranger Things. (But you won’t find a blurb on Eggos; they’ve been a staple for far too long to be relegated to one single era.)
That said, not only does the Netflix hit recreate the ’80s impeccably enough that the Emmy for set design doesn’t mean bathroom break for many anymore, but it also plumbs the depths of the Reagan era with such a scurrilous eye as to remind even those still stuck there about things they’d long since forgotten.
“Should I Stay Or Should I Go”
The mashup of monsters and Millie Bobby Brown got its first thumbs up from ’80s babies by not just using the Clash hit “Should I Stay Or Should I Go”, but by using it to great effect. Was it Eleven’s inner monologue? A riff on whatever this Upside Down had coughed up? Or, best of all, was it simply the song that hits young Mikey’s reset button? Every ’80s baby has got a song that does this, whether they know it or not. At least one of the writers on Stranger Things knows.
Dungeons & Dragons
One might tip their hat to The Big Bang Theory for simply paving the way, but the ridiculously complicated, most nerdy game ever created made a comeback in a big way just the same. Somehow, our fearsome (and oftentimes fearful) foursome came off less as geeks and outcasts and more as the band of brothers they truly are, thanks in large part to the Dungeons & Dragons, therefore validating D&D some 40 years after it was uniformly mocked by jocks across the country.
Some would argue that the Kristen Wiig/Melissa McCarthy Ghostbusters reboot played a role in the ’80s classic revival (a Paul Rudd-fronted film that also features Finn Wolfhard was scheduled to hit theaters this summer but got bumped)—bad reviews and box-office sales notwithstanding. After all, the ’Busters revamp was released before our boys dressed as the heroes in season 2’s Halloween episode. But despite SNL star Kate McKinnon’s best efforts (a highlight in the 2016 flop, along with Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth), Ghostbusters’ zeitgeist return was all Stranger Things, even making it one of the most popular Halloween costumes of 2017. The double entendre simply proved irresistible. Sure, they weren’t vanquishing ghosts; they were vanquishing something considerably less fathomable.
Let’s face facts here: The arcade had been reduced to either novelty rooms in resorts or other tourist havens or glorified daycare centers in the years since their height. Just as many would argue grunge killed rock (it didn’t), they’d argue that gamers killed arcades. They merely needed resurrecting, and thanks to the arcade being a commonplace backdrop for much of the Stranger Things action (and blossoming romance), they got it. Or, at the very least, they got plenty of folks waxing nostalgic about them.
Let’s stay at the arcade for a bit and even zero in on—as the series did—one game in particular: the largely forgotten ’80s staple Dragon’s Lair (a game better than both Centipede and Frogger in every way). Mike, Dustin, Will and Lucas killed major time playing it on the night of Oct. 29, 1984, with Dustin at the controls for most of it. Hence, he had the highest score (ah, the good old days of punching your name in above your best pal’s). Someone truly did their research here, as Lair was originally released for arcades in 1983, so the timeline is spot on.
My Little Pony
Season 3 offered up its fair share of ’80s nostalgia, from Marty McFly skateboarding homages to Phoebe Cates references, but it continued to be the subtle stuff that stuck. Case in point: Erica (Priah Ferguson) has a backpack with the pure ’80s pony’s design on it. Social media was promptly set ablaze, and a My Little Pony resurgence kicked in. The research done by the writers is pointless to question: MLP was launched in 1982 and marketed mainly toward young girls, long before My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic somehow became a phenomenon with adults.
An exercise in futility, New Coke came and went as quickly as it should have. It serves ultimately as a testament to the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And Coke ain’t broke. But someone who was in advertising (and could no longer possibly be) thought America’s favorite soda pop was due for a reimagining and sold the higher-ups on the idea. Seeing it pop up on Stranger Things had to startle those who weren’t alive to watch this slap in soda’s face, just as it startled those of us alive at the time of it replacing the Coca-Cola we loved on grocer’s shelves.
Another season 3 goody, Alexei is spied watching Walter Lantz’s cartoon character—a staple of ’80s daytime TV, especially for after-schoolers—and even later carries a stuffed animal Woody at the carnival. He’s clearly a fan and no doubt reassured those teens who’d gone to see the big screen live-action feature that hit theaters in 2017 and left confused as to how it even got made. Woody, like many ’80s greats, doesn’t necessarily need rebooting and doesn’t age all that well.
The NeverEnding Story
The NeverEnding Story is a deep cut as far as cult classic ’80s films are concerned (somewhere between Labyrinth and Dune), it’s nonetheless the perfect choice when bringing Dustin’s questionable romance to the forefront. Does she really exist, or is she like Anthony Michael Hall’s character’s girlfriend from Niagara Falls in The Breakfast Club? Turns out that she does indeed and is the lovable lost boy’s soulmate without a doubt. When they duet on the eponymous song by English pop singer Limahl and Suzie thrusts her fist in the air (straight out of the movie), everyone watching at home felt their hearts go upside down.
This seems silly to say, especially as kids still do technically hang out at the mall, but not like in the ’80s. Back then it was everything Fast Times At Ridgemont High presented it as and more. Much more. Today it’s where mob dance routines that have been spectacularly choreographed “spontaneously” break out or where huge fights occur the day after Christmas. ’80s kids would find both, particularly the latter, sacrilegious.