What’s Old Is New Again: ‘Stranger Things’ and Intertextuality

By  · Published on October 3rd, 2017

Video essay lists the references in the reference-heavy show.

Stranger Things traffics heavily in nostalgia. The show, with its second season starting soon, looked at its influences with the same loving eye as Steven Spielberg and George Lucas did with their space operas and pulps. Blending the chocolate and peanut butter that are coming-of-age and sci-fi/horror, Stranger Things brings a lot of heart to its throwback saturation. It becomes intertextual, gaining meaning from its pop culture references. Rather than just getting by on familiarity, the Netflix original utilized its recognizable pop culture elements to make its mysterious drama feel as lived-in and natural as the home lives of Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind characters.

Last year, Ulysse Thevenon edited together a collection of all of (well, pretty close) the references in Stranger Things alongside their original sources from the ‘70s and ‘80s. The result is a striking video essay focusing not just on subjects and topics (like kids and the supernatural), but the techniques that make us care about them. Framing, blocking of actors, and the aesthetics capturing the way we imagine certain activities (walking through a wooded dusk with a flashlight) all spring from the side-by-side comparison.

This supercut insists that the first season of the show wore its references on its sleeves and may introduce you to a few classics you didn’t realize impacted the show. Season 2, coming at the end of this already spooky month, is bound to be even spookier, is sure to follow in these intertextual footsteps.

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Jacob Oller writes everywhere (Vanity Fair, The Guardian, Playboy, FSR, Paste, etc.) about everything that matters (film, TV, video games, memes, life).