On Friday the 27th of October the second season of Stranger Things was released on Netflix. Set almost a year after the events of the last season in 1983, it follows inhabitants in the fictional town of Hawkins dealing with both the aftermath of previous supernatural threats as well as new ones. After marathoning through all nine episodes I felt like writing a quick blog post to play around with some of the thoughts that flickered through my mind during the experience.
No spoilers, strangely enough!
The Upside Down
The Upside Down was introduced in season one as a parallel dimension and the original habitat of the humanoid predator the Demogorgon, and it makes a return in the second season. That dimension seems to exist in an eternal night with a complete absence of humans. Its signature look is dark, covered with vine-like tendrils and spore-choked air. The aspect of the Upside Down which makes it particularly creepy and uncanny is that fact that it contains the same buildings and landscape as the human world, but with added goop and disintegration.
The Upside Down could be read as some kind of post-apocalyptic vision of our world, one which has been subject to ruination. This could render it as a potential future or a version of the past. The latter is particularly interesting to me as an archaeologist. To paraphrase L. P. Hartley, if the past is a foreign country then perhaps it could be a parallel dimension as well. In Stranger Things crossing over from one location in the human world to leads you to arrive in the same location in the Upside Down. In the real world, we inhabit urban and rural settings which contain elements of past landscapes, both above and below ground. There really is an ‘Upside Down’ in the sense if you go further underground (as a general rule of stratigraphy) you will encounter remains of earlier habitation or of an earlier landscape that was in the same location but was likely quite a different place.
Stranger Things itself is a period drama. It occupies a nostalgic space, a constructed and fictionalised version of the early 1980s. Even its name is a reference to the saying ‘stranger things have happened,’ which relies on invoking evidence of the past to extrapolate into the present. Watching Stranger Things simultaneously allows a viewer to indulge in this reassuring version of the past whilst being reminded on some level that there is always the potential for that past to change and decay.
Image showing a scene from Netflix’s Stranger Things
I’m hoping to write a few more posts specifically about Stranger Things 2, breaking my thoughts up into more easily digestable chunks. If you liked this (and especially if you didn’t) let me know!