There’s a lot to love about Stranger Things, cute kids, mind-blowing metaphysics, scary science fiction, but my favorite part about Stranger Things is the 80s environment that they live in. The soundtrack, the outfits, and the lingo of the show is (from what I understand) pretty true to the times. What stands out the most, however, is the technology in the show. There are comically large car phones and barely two-dimensional video games. The internet wasn’t even available to the public, yet Dustin thought that his seven-foot wire radio contraption was the height of technology. While this was all going on, a bunch of scientists managed to open a portal to another dimension and keep it entirely a secret. Even after people found out about the portal, it stayed a secret from the general public. The technology available in the early 1980s shapes the entire plot, and any change in setting would alter the whole story.
If Stranger Things was set in the present, it would be entirely different. Social media alone would ruin everything. Will’s disappearance could become national news instead of local news, which would turn the country’s eyes toward the town that was trying to hide what was happening. One Twitter thread and the whole cover would be blown. That goes for the gate as well as Eleven and all of her siblings. Once the world leaders found out about these powers, there would be an eruption of arguments and potentially wars over who they belong to. Conspiracy theories would crop up and cloud the truth. There would be no small town secret. The government would be able to come in for back-up when Hopper went into the Russian base camp with nothing but a gun and a can-do attitude, but that would only escalate things. The supernatural events that happen may not have because of the potential of social media blowing the whistle. Then, the rest of the series would take place in the locked doors of government buildings with old white men yelling at each other about who is in charge and who is to blame (and we can already watch that on the news).
Also, if the kids had better means of communication, season 3 would have been a whole lot faster. The plot relied on the fact that they were separated in one way or another and did not have a way to talk to each other. They each had an important piece of the puzzle that a simple group chat would have solved in seconds. Instead, the crew relied on walkie-talkies, which were effective only when batteries were charged and all participants were within earshot. Shooting a quick “Max’s bro is def possessed lol” text would have saved the crew at least 4 episodes of confusion and taken the suspense entirely out of the equation.
Also, Eleven was able to use radios and TVs to “see” people in other locations, including the Upside Down. Radios and TVs were in almost every household during the 1980s, but if it were to take place now, she would be hard-pressed to find a radio in someone’s home. Additionally, TVs today use FiOs (shoutout to Dustin for that sweet Verizon deal) and streaming services instead of cables and satellites. It is unclear whether or not Eleven would be able to use more updated technology, but it would definitely not be the same as shown in the series.
Conversely, if we sent the characters even a decade or two further in the past, the main characters would not have been able to do as much as they were able to get away with. When Dustin intercepts Russian code with his radio, the Russians were using a public radio line because they did not have more secure means of communication. Because of this, Robyn, Steve, and Dustin were able to crack the code and foil the Russian’s plan. However, if this was set further back in the past when the public did not have access to the same technology that the government did, then the whole town could have lived in blissful ignorance. I mean, aside from the invasion of demogorgons.
I’m sure the Duffer Brothers didn’t come up with these series over night, but it is clear that they put a lot of thought into the setting as it drives the entire plot. Staying true to the 80s makes for a riveting retro show, and I can’t wait to see what they do with season 4. I hope Eleven gets a perm.