To binge or not to binge? That’s the question a lot of fans of the critically-acclaimed Netflix series, Stranger Things, are asking themselves now that the second season is streaming online (but honestly, we all know we’re going to binge it).
Netflix’s original sci-fi/horror drama has been a global success since it premiered last summer, and it’s easy to see why. Stranger Things is a love letter to all the classic ‘80s movies we grew up watching, and it pays homage to what it was like to grow up in that decade.
The Duffer Brothers (showrunners of Stranger Things) have created a show that is both reminiscent of older films such as The Goonies, Back to the Future, and E.T., while still being exciting and original.
It taps into a very powerful sense of nostalgia for many millennials – a return to simpler times, before the internet, and before smartphones, where kids could ride their bikes through the suburbs for hours and only had to come home when the street lights turned on.
Stranger Things captures a fondness for our childhoods that we all have without feeling forced or overtly calling back to the many movies that inspired it.
As Todd VanDerWerff posts in his review of the series, “Stranger Things doesn’t just reference ‘80s movies, it captures how it feels to watch them.”
However, Stranger Things is only one of many recent pieces to capitalize on this nostalgia. Other examples, such as the 2016 Ghostbusters remake, Tron, Dungeons and Dragons, Ready Player One, Fuller House, as well as the release of the NES and SNES Classic, have benefited from the nostalgia of growing up during the late ‘80’s and ‘90s.
Even the recent remake of It, which was originally set during the 1950s, has embraced modern nostalgia by changing its setting to the 1980 and early 2000s.
But why is ‘80s nostalgia so popular right now and how have so many creators successfully created content based on it?
The modern remake of It actually does a pretty good job of explaining this phenomenon. It, by Steven King, was originally a book released in 1986. The first part of the novel is set during the 1950s and employs a great sense of nostalgia for King’s own childhood.
The second part of the novel is set during the 1980s, which, at the time of publication, was very near to the present day. It explores ideas such as memory, nostalgia, and childhood trauma, which suggests that the current uptick in nostalgic content is nothing new; it’s just been adapted to reflect the lives of adults now.
Millennials – adults aged 18-34 –are a massive market force in entertainment. After all, there are 75.4 million of us. We are a crucial demographic in any industry and have the ability to create profound change.
The MPAA (The Motion Picture Association of America) found that individuals aged 18-24 were abandoning movies faster than any other age group, and recent best-selling movies seem to be suggesting this as well.
In 2015, six of the top ten movies were sequels (aka nostalgic movies), and in 2016, only 4 superhero films – Captain America: Civil War, Deadpool, Batman vs. Superman, and X-Men: Apocalypse – accounted for nearly 30% of the total box office by June. And it’s likely that millennials are responsible for that.
The rise of mobile media, such as Netflix, YouTube, and Facebook is also taking up more and more of the attention of millennials, and filmmakers and advertisers are starting to notice that.
Millennials are the most recent generation to reach adulthood, and are at the point of their lives where nostalgia is becoming important, where it’s fun to watch shows like Stranger Things or replay re-released or remastered versions of our favorite video games.
Some of this content may have just been in the right place at the right time, but much of it is being created in order to get millennials, especially those on the younger end of the spectrum, back into theaters, back to watching TV, and back into the entertainment industry in general.
Not that any of us are complaining. It’s awesome to have people creating content specifically for us, and creating content that is sympathetic to our childhoods and interests.
Even for those millennials that didn’t necessarily grow up in the ‘80s, many of us still grew up watching movies that came out of the decade.
The ‘80s were an incredibly influential force in movies, video games, and comics, and have the possibility to inspire and connect with many different audiences, not just millennials.
The popularity of Stranger Things, and many other 1980s-inspired content, prove what a large influence millennials are capable of having on the markets that they inhabit, but that the content that inspires us is a universal concept.
About The Contributor
Brie Barbee is a freelance writer and editor from Portland, OR. She specializes in pop culture criticism and copy-editing. When she isn’t writing, Brie enjoys reading, crocheting, playing video games, and snuggling with her two cats, Luna and Tally.