YouTuber Lindsay Ellis has posted a new video essay that examines the function of ’80s nostalgia in recent hits like Stranger Things and It. Ellis first looks at various theories of how nostalgia can operate in film—restorative, reflective, or deconstructive—and then specifically examines how Stranger Things and It treat the trappings of their ’80s setting.
“Stranger Things,” Ellis argues, “for all its horror theming and bleak tone, ultimately hews way closer to celebratory and nostalgic than deconstructionist and critical of the 1980s … When you look at the ’80s Stranger Things remembers, it’s the fun, adventure-movies part.”
She then discusses how the new movie version of It, on the other hand, changes elements from Stephen King’s original novel in order to amplify the less rosy elements of ’80s culture. “One element of the ’80s that the new movie includes, that the book didn’t, is this memory of this period of history where child abductions were at the forefront of everybody’s mind,” she explains. “In the book, there are plenty of sympathetic authority figures. In the new movie, there are none. All of the adults are part of the sickness that embody the town … Overall, the film does not paint a very comforting picture of the ’80s.”
However, in the end, she also recognizes that both Stranger Things and It—whatever the differences in their treatment of the 1980s—are ultimately horror stories, and horror stories mixed with nostalgia serve a specific cultural purpose. “It’s not a coincidence, either, that [both these movies] are horror and suspense,” she says. “There’s always mirror elements in these nostalgia time cycles … Maybe a part of why we feel this need to escape the dumpster fire of today into the past is because the past is a mirror. And we survived it then. Maybe we’ll survive this now. Right?”
Do you agree with Ellis’s analysis? How else do you think Stranger Things and It use their ’80s setting?
(Featured image via screengrab)
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