What do you get when you throw in Matilda, Nancy Drew, Famous Five, Harry Potter, James Bond, Spider Man and the childhood of all the nerds from Big Bang Theory, after injecting them with some bravery potion in order to play a real life Dungeons and Dragons, into a stew and re-create them not as version 2.0 but 2000.0?
The result is inevitably Stranger Things! A series that keeps you on the edge, takes complete control over your amygdala plexus and makes sure you can be renamed ‘couch potato’ in days to come. A monstrous addiction with viewer ratings gone all wrong. I wonder which person in their right mind wants 16-year-olds to watch grotesque killing scenes that increase in intensity with every season; that multiply in violence with every episode and that still make the whole affair so intriguing that despite being a parent, I am left on the cliffhanger drooling for more.
That is just one of my qualms. What about younger siblings who can’t stop watching the series because the older one is hooked and guess what, killing monsters to save Hawkins is the next best thing since saving the world (something I grew up watching and falling for Hollywood).
So let’s speak of the children. 11, a Matilda who displays supernatural powers triggered by emotions, memories and Papa’s training, albeit not acquired from reading; a bunch of so-called nerds, Sheldon and the likes, who are only seen making use of knowledge they already possess – I never once see any of them going to school, doing homework, reading or even experimenting; they owe all smartness to D&D.
The best part is, all these kids, teens included, can drive for miles and hours, survive food, water and sleep deprivation, and yet make perfectly rational decisions; a feat I have never been able to pull all my life. Top it all with zero PTSD! Counselors, go enroll in a SkillsFuture programme to pivot into another field. These children don’t need you. They always seem to have enough money to buy weapons. I am seriously thinking, does a part time job at some pizza / ice cream joint pay you enough money to buy weapons? I don’t even want to get started about constitutional rights here.
Next up, the parents – they couldn’t care less about their own children – are they home? have they vanished for days on end? have they showered or eaten? the list is endless. If only they knew about Asian helicopter parenting and the seriousness of grades, I bet this series would never see daylight. By the way, the only one who seems to care has apparently lost her mind and is forever repeating Rainbow….sunflower…breathe.. much like I keep checking – Hungry? Homework? 9.58.. go to sleep!
And the irony of life, my teen needs to catch up on sleep every weekend because she goes to school every morning. I also need to make sure there is food on the table. Thankfully, that is the only ammunition available as a constitutional right in this part of the world. As for super powers, the entire khandaan ends up engaging in bio terrorism on days I cook Rajma or Chana. If only the creators of Stranger Things knew about the Gobar-Gas plant our vegetarian Indian food can produce, none of those kids would have wasted episodes buying guns and mounting an attack on Vecna. Also, the series is a must watch for all parents who think NS is harsh. Nothing beats the resilience of these kids from Hawkins. Thinking back about my Indian childhood, only a pressure cooker or a place sharing the name ‘Hawkins’ can work the same wonders when on fire.
I mean c’mmon, if only I knew sending my girls on a wild goose chase of monster finding to save the city would save me the effort of cooking, cleaning and nagging, do you think I would spend a better part of my life indulging in the same laborious tasks day in and day out that have driven me up the wall?
Enough with children and their good for nothing parents; now for the monsters – I liked the demogorgans. Especially, because they gave me a chance to educate kids about Rafflesia. Although it impossible to reason how far even a parasitic flower like Rafflesia can eat compared to the flesh guzzling monsters on screen. Last but not the least, my dear Vecna – I can’t deny I compared him to my favourite villian – Lord Voldemort! Both vex me equally with their handsome looks. Then, it occurred to me that Vecna could actually be Spiderman after death, caught in Hades’ world, going all slow-mo on his web-master expertise; making use of Python to provide a fancy aka scary GUI to the nerdy kids while maintaining a robust network to overturn Hades by pinning his kills on walls. But like I mentioned, these kids stopped reading; likely they did not try their hands on coding using Python or they could have given Vecna a taste of his own medicine. It’s a pity they were all about Hell Fire Club only. But this is from the 80s, my bad! Python was in infancy.
Now for the best part – the entire police department makes an entry like a bunch of jokers each time an incident occurs. The only cop who seems to get a grip on things is a superstar with the charm of James Bond, the power of Hulk and the love and loyalty of a Bollywood hero. He is smart enough to overturn Russian law and order in their own prisons. Seriously, could we send Hopper to bring an end to the war right now?
We won’t. Because we are guinea pigs of mindless entertainment that seems to lure and intrigue us with ultra fast-paced action, extreme violence and soft porn in the guise of romance. We shower our undivided attention to the millions of moving pixels and deafening sounds depleting our ultra fragmented brain-ware, offering us spikes in dopamine even before we can question, “is this entertainment?”
Strange, isn’t it? How we get consumed into series after series without a break. Common sense has no place in entertainment. Period.
P. S. I forgot to add a Disclaimer: This is a deliberate attempt to infuriate fans of Stranger Things. As a confession, I was hooked too. But I am abundantly disappointed by the end. One more season? Seriously?
In the meanwhile, I couldn’t help but do a postmortem of the upside down world.