It would be fair to say that Stranger Things has been Netflix’s top show since it first aired in 2016. It’s not hard to see why. Stranger Things combines 80’s childhood nostalgia with eerie government conspiracies and alien monsters that make your skin crawl. We already can’t wait for the next season, so here’s a little something to hold you over. Read on to find out six things you never knew about Stranger Things.
1. Stranger Things Pays Homage to all kinds of Classic Horror
There are some pretty obvious parallels between Stranger Things and Stephan King’s IT. A group of kids in the ’80s has to fight otherworldly evil that their parents don’t see or understand. Sound familiar? The kids in Stranger Things even use a slingshot against the Demogorgon, just like the kids in IT do when fighting their monster. In the real world, Finn Wolfhard, who plays Mike Wheeler in Stranger things, also landed the role of Richie Tozier in the 2017 remake of IT.
There are other less obvious call outs to Stephan King’s work in the series. Stranger Things’ title font resembles the font used on the original 1980s editions of Stephan King’s Cujo and Christine. It has been suggested that the police officer in Stranger Things, Phil Callahan, is a reference to Father Callahan, a character who appears in several Stephan King novels. Eleven’s nose bleeds seem to be inspired by a telekinetic character in Stephan King’s Firestarter, who also suffers nose bleeds when he uses his powers.
Stephan Spielberg’s work also had a significant influence on the show. The uniforms and vehicles used by the Hawkins police department are exactly the same as those shown in the first two Jaws movies. You may have noticed that Eleven’s look and character were heavily influenced by ET. The Duffer brothers even told Millie Bobby Brown that they wanted her relationship with the other kids to resemble ET’s relationship with the kids in that movie.
Stranger Things also draws from much older work. The whole idea of an interdimensional entity preying on ordinary Americans is about as Lovecraftian as you can get. Cosmic horror is something that we don’t see enough of on T.V., so it comes across as fresh even though it’s inspired by ideas from a hundred years ago.
2. Casting took a Long Time
The child actors on Stranger Things have given us three seasons of stellar performances, but putting together such a talented cast wasn’t easy. The Duffer brothers auditioned 906 boys and 307 girls! To audition, all the kids read lines from the 1986 movie Stand by Me (also based on a King novel). The Duffer Brothers have said that the only actor they hired without much deliberation was Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin). Good choice.
3. There’s A Lot We Don’t Know About the Upside-Down
But the Duffer brothers do know it. In an interview with Variety, they confirmed that there is a detailed document all about the Upside-Down, including its history and more about the monster that lives there. Future seasons of the show are going to gradually reveal the Upside-Down’s backstory.
4. The Duffer Brother’s Were Inspired by Games
Even though it takes place in the ’80s, more modern media has also influenced Stranger Things. Video game enthusiasts may notice influences from Earthbound, Silent Hill, and The Last of Us.
Earthbound is a classic from the Super Nintendo era that featured Paula, a girl with psychokinetic powers who hangs out with a group of boys and fights evil. Eleven’s pink dress and blond wig from when the boys dress her up is a nod to Paula. There are a lot of parallels between Silent Hill’s Otherworld and the Upside-Down, including the ash-like flakes falling through the air and the living walls that can act as portals.
The Duffer brothers have also said that the post-apocalyptic video game The Last of Us was an inspiration for the show. The game’s heroine is named Ellie, which sounds awfully similar to El. There are also some similarities between Eleven’s relationship with Hopper and Ellie’s relationship with her traveling companion Joel.
Last but not least, there are some explicit references to Dungeons and Dragons in Stranger Things. Dungeons and Dragons has remained popular with geeks everywhere since it’s release in the ’70s, so a few different generations can relate to the references. The Demogorgon is a real monster in Dungeons and Dragons, and since the kids in Stranger Things have no idea what kind of creature they are dealing with, they decide to name it after the monster in their favorite game. Especially in the first season, the kids use their understanding of Dungeons and Dragons as a jumping-off point to help them explain the unexplainable. It looks like roleplaying games can be educational, after all.
5. Steve Was A Real Jerk Originally
Nancy Wheeler’s boyfriend Steve, who starts off as a bully in the first season, was initially supposed to remain a jerk. Actor Joe Keery won the Duffer Brothers over with his charming interpretation of the role, and they decided to give him an arc of his own. It’s hard now to imagine how the series would have progressed without Steve taking the kids under his wing.
6. The Series Was Supposed to be an Anthology
The first plan for Stranger Things was to start it out with the first season in the 1980s, then progress in time with each season to the 1990s 2000s and 2010s with a final episode that would take place in and air in 2020. This sounds like a cool idea, but the downside would have been that the cast we know and love would have only been with us for one season. The Duffer Brothers changed their plans for the series when they saw what a great group they had put together and decided to expand the original 1980s story instead.
Bonus: There’s a Real Conspiracy Behind Stranger Things
Or at least a conspiracy theory. In the 1980s, an urban legend/ conspiracy theory emerged about the government kidnapping children and performing mind-altering, time travel-related experiments on them. Some even claimed that the experiments had been going on since World War II and that the military had opened a portal to another dimension. It was called the Montauk Project. When Stranger Things was first sold, it was entitled Montauk and was supposed to take place in New York, the site where the supposed experiments had taken place in real life.