Last year, the Duffer Brothers created an international cinematic sensation with their science-fiction homage series, Stranger Things. The series follows a group of best friends as they try to find the missing friend from their group, Will, who has been taken into a parallel dimension known as “The Upside Down.” The kids run into all sorts of unnatural phenomenon, from monsters coming out of the walls (Freddy Krueger-style to unclassified), government science labs, and deliver some tremendous award-winning performances throughout the series. Starring an A-list cast of Winona Ryder, David Harbour, and Millie Bobby Brown, among numerous other talented performers, Stranger Things will definitely go down in television history as one of the most exciting and memorable series on Netflix.
The hit series garnered huge acclaim, from Emmy Awards and Golden Globes to Grammy Award nominations, and amassed a large-enough following to achieve renewal for a second season (released last month on October 27th). The first weekend on the second season release saw a massive viewership of over 15 million Netflix subscribers, contributing to the series’ enormous success as one of the most popular pop culture phenomenon in recent years.
By now, you’ve probably already binged the entirety of the brilliancy that is Stranger Things. However, in case you didn’t get your fill of “Demadogs,” Steve and Dustin “bromance,” and Nancy-Jonathan romance, here are some interesting things you may not have noticed from the first and second seasons of Stranger Things (spoilers ahead).
15. The Stephen King Easter Eggs
The Duffer Brothers were two of the first people to express their desires to snatch the roles as directors in the recently-released remake of Stephen King’s It. After reportedly being turned down due to lack of established credits in the industry, the brothers went on to write and direct one of the most popular science-fiction series ever broadcast on television, with the second season premiere weekend being broadcast to over 15 million viewers on the Netflix streaming service. With their previous rejection from the Stephen King remake, the Duffer Brothers appeared to need to show people how much of an iconic role model Stephen King was and made numerous references to the acclaimed author’s more notable works. Some of the instances of Stephen King allusions include the state trooper reading Cujo and the kids traveling the stretch along the railroad tracks which visually nods at the acclaimed film Stand By Me.
14. The Walking Dead Meets Stranger Things
Throughout the series, Stranger Things alludes left and right to some of the more popular horror and thriller features of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. Although the show mostly parallels these historic hit productions, Stranger Things has also utilized elements found in more recent horror film and television shows. Once such example would be the use of both shoot locations and character actors from the Primetime Emmy Award-winning series, The Walking Dead. Specifically, the “quarry scene” in the episode “Chapter Two: The Weirdo on Maple Street” also supposedly happens to be the same location used in Season 1 of The Walking Dead, in the episode titled “Vatos.” Additionally, the twin actresses that play Holly Wheeler, Anniston, and Tinsley Price are also the same twins who played the roles of baby Judith in the season fourth installment of The Walking Dead.
13. The MK-Ultra Project Reference
In season 1, when Hopper is conducting research at Hawkins Library, he stumbles upon evidence of Dr. Brenner’s involvement with the MK-Ultra project. What some people may not have realized is that the MK-Ultra was an actual CIA project that took place from the 1953 to 1973. The top secret experimentation by the government agency involved using LSD and other types of substances like MDMA and heroin as a means of mind control, information extraction, and mental torment. The MK-Ultra project involved such grimy methods like those used in the Operation Midnight Climax-funded project that used government employed prostitutes to lure men to CIA safe houses where they were then dosed with drugs and observed by other scientists in confinement. The public was unfortunately not made aware of these horrible experiments being committed at the hands of their government until a congressional hearing in 1975.
12. Jaws In Stranger Things
A large part of what makes the incredibly brilliant series Stranger Things so impressive is the fact that it managed to gear so close to the plot lines, characters arcs, and overall atmosphere without sounding off any major legal copyright alarms. Creators and writers of those iconic horror and science-fiction movies of the ‘70s and ‘80s were not the only cast member’s work that was directly referenced in the Stranger Things series. From major composers, such as John Carpenter, to the costume designers of the Jaws franchise, Stranger Things grabs and plays on numerous elements of various different major motion pictures. Regarding costume and wardrobe, the Hawkins police force wears the identical uniforms of the Amity Island police force throughout the show, down to the triangle Amity Island badges used in the acclaimed Jaws and Jaws 2 features films.
11. Hopper Is Indiana Jones
The fearlessness and veracity David Harbour shows in his role as Jim Hopper is representative of various other adventurist protagonists. One of the most distinctly defined movie character roles alluded to in performances by Hopper is the action hero Indian Jones, characterized by his sarcastic demeanor, fearless personality, and of course, the brown hat. After being found and rescued in the dark underground tunnels by Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Bob (Sean Astin), there is a brief moment when Hopper realizes he left his hat on the ground. This is one of the most notable and unmistakable references to Indiana Jones throughout the series. Harrison Ford, as Indiana Jones, remembers to grab his hat amidst any dangerous action he is involved in at the moment and, like Hopper, takes a hands on approach to solving mysteries and fighting the bad guys.
10. The Radio Mess-up
While the fandom surrounding the Stranger Things series makes it near impossible to criticize, there are some discrepancies with the series that a couple nitpickers couldn’t help but notice. Another symbol of the series that heavily aids in the atmosphere of the nostalgic setting is the kid actor’s constant use of the old-time radio transmitters to communicate. The radio is used even more frequently in the second season, as Mike attempts to use the radio to find and talk to Eleven, who he knows is still alive and hiding from the government. One issue tech heads brought to the attention of the public was that the types of CB radios used throughout the series are not actually capable of transmitting two voices at the same time, as it does in Stranger Things. Normally, the radio device allows for only one individual at a time to communicate and another to respond after the other has ceased talking. If another person attempts to talk over another on the radio, the signal is not transmitted.
9. The Father-Daughter Dance
From when it is first revealed that Eleven is living with and being protected by Jim Hopper (played by Primetime Emmy Award nominee David Harbour) to the end of the second season, the relationship between Hopper and Eleven escalates to show extreme emotional bonding between the two. Obviously exemplifying the father-like role Hopper longs for in his newfound caring for of Eleven, the series plays on the struggles between the two as they attempt to understand the position of the other in the ordeal of keeping Eleven’s location and existence a secret. One thing that may not have been noticed by viewers was the conclusion to the tension, in which it is implied that Eleven has accepted Hopper as her father figure. In the end scene at the dance where Eleven finally gets to be with Mike, it is shown that Eleven is wearing the blue bracelet of Hopper’s daughter. The tear-jerking, symbolic conclusion to the series makes it ever more difficult to wait until the next season.
8. The “Shepherd” Allusion
The extent to which the Duffer Brothers make homages to historically iconic horror and science fiction productions is seemingly endless, with questions as to what new movie parallels and inserts will be featured in the upcoming third and fourth seasons (which have been confirmed). Another such instance of the brothers using the power of homages to appeal to the viewers is when the first scientist to enter the portal to the “Upside Down” is called Shepherd. Although this particular homage is more a nod to actual nonfiction events, specifically the impressive real-life voyage to space. On May 5th, 1961, Alan Shepherd became the first American in space, after piloting the Freedom 7 launch in Florida. The “coincidental” naming of the first man into the upside down as Shepherd has been theorized to honor Alan Shepherd, although Alan probably had a lot more fun in space than Shepherd did in the “Upside Down.”
7. The “Dragon’s Lair” Easter Egg
Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, some of the most important pieces of cinema were introduced into the theaters and later became the inspiration and basis for the Netflix series Stranger Things. While movie homages were frequently used and played upon throughout the series, the Duffer Brothers even went so far as to incorporate one of the first major video games to be introduced into the field, Dragon’s Lair. A masterpiece of a game from globally-acclaimed animators and filmmakers Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, the hit video game took players on a thrilling castle adventure as Dirk the Daring with the ultimate goal of rescuing Princess Daphne. The popular video game is in the works to become an upcoming feature film, hopefully with the help of the super fun and nostalgic cameo of the video game in the arcade in season two.
6. The Blue Camaro(s)
One of the most notable identifiers throughout the second season of the Netflix series Stranger Things is the blue Camaro of Billy, Mad Max’s abusive and conflicted older brother. When the roar of his engine enters the scene or a shot of the beautiful automobile comes screeching into the frame, the viewer always knows that Billy is about the bring hell down on whatever situation he happens upon. Although this car definitely added distinct character to Billy the bully, even going so far as to use the car as a weapon to almost run over Max’s new friends on the road, there was more than just one model of the car used in the production, which accidentally had minor noticeable differences. In the second season, the car would randomly switch from having power windows, like the model used in episode two to having manual cranking windows, as the model did in episode five of the second season. Given the racing speeds driven by Billy in the car, it is no wonder that the production maintained more than just one model of the vehicle in case something went wrong with the stunts on the other.
5. More Than One “Alien” In Stranger Things
Stranger Things has its fair share of horror movie references, but one of the more notable movies paid homage to by the Emmy Award-winning Netflix original series is Ridley Scott’s iconic horror production, Alien. The story of a deep-space salvage crew who happens upon a monstrous organism unlike any other, Alien, and the latter more action-packed sequel, Aliens, from legendary film director James Cameron, are the standard examples of truly brilliant horror films which is probably why the Duffer Brothers went to the lengths of featuring heavy cameos from the historic horror films. From Dustin’s orange tabby cat, who is made a meal of by Dart the “Demadog” to casting Paul Reiser, who played the corrupt corporate rat Burke in Aliens, the Duffer Brothers utilize the allusions to not only pay their respects but to enhance the nostalgic love of viewers for the series. By the way, we nearly collapsed from delight when Nancy stated “Stay Frosty.”
4. The “Demadog” In The Fridge
Amidst all the action that happened in the concluding moments of Stranger Things season two, one of the less noticeable moments that (hopefully) set something in motion for season three, is the leftover “Demadog” Dustin and Steve stuff it in Ms. Byer’s freezer. Right after Eleven makes her big entrance to save the day, she ends up leaving the body of a dead “Demadog” at the Byer’s house. Before the gang splits up to for their final group missions, Steve and Dustin quickly store the body of the presumably dead “Demadog,” and it is never mentioned again in the season. The Duffer Brothers have proven to be masters of the genre, so if they are setting something up with the “Demadog” in the fridge, it is bound to be exciting!
3. Billy The Bully
One of the more notable differences between the first and the second seasons of Stranger Things was the introduction to the new characters of Mad Max and her abusive brother, Billy Hargrove. Delivering a chilling performance as Billy the older brother Bully is Dacre Montgomery, who was previously nominated for a Teen Choice Award for his role in the 2017 feature motion picture Power Rangers. In continuing their usage of allusions to the great writer Stephen King, the Duffer Brothers reportedly designed the character of Billy after one of King’s most infamous villains, Randall Flagg. Such characteristics of Flagg paralleled by Montgomery include by the distinct long wavy hair, an earring, and the clashing overtones of full-body denim. The showcased style of Billy was meant to hint at the maniacal nature of the character in relation to Randall Flagg.
2. The “Tubular” Hocus Pocus Homage
One of the season-long running jokes in the second season installment of Stranger Things is the constant use of the California coastal slang “tubular.” Thinking that this will attract the likes of Mad Max, Dustin and Lucas begin constantly throwing around the around Max, referring to nearly everything they find cool as “tubular” to impress her. What some viewers may not have connected was that this word was heavily used in another popular Halloween movie Hocus Pocus, about three witch sisters who are resurrected in Salem on the night of Halloween and wreak havoc after three long centuries of dormancy. In the film Hocus Pocus, they discuss one of the characters (notably also named Max) and his recent move from California, jokingly calling it “tubular.”
1. Bob From The Goonies
Bringing distinguished character performers into the cast of the second season installment in the Stranger Things franchise helped to add new layers to the characters of the show in the audiences’ eyes, such as with the casting of Paul Reiser (Burke in Aliens) as the suspicious-acting scientist. Using Reiser to instill a sense of dread with audience members aware of his previous corporate-rat persona in Aliens immediately associated him with a sense of dread, which led to much surprise when he ended up being a decent-minded character. Another such actor whose previous roles may have given viewers a prejudged notion of his character is Sean Astin, known for his roles (and stylish fashion sense) in popular movies like The Goonies and 50 First Dates. His character in Stranger Things once again instilled a sense of joyous appreciation for Astin’s new dorky role as Bob, which made it all the more heartbreaking when he was ripped to shreds by the “Demadog” before Winona Ryder’s eyes.
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