‘Why can’t there be two Venkmans?’: Doubles in Netflix’s Stranger Things (Part 2)

In Part 1 of my examination of doubles in Stranger Things, I focused mainly on the character of Chief Jim Hopper, a multi-layered, magnificent, mess of a human being who is simultaneously the heart of the show in season 1, and the one responsible for breaking the audience’s hearts in season 2. In this post, I’ll be concentrating on themes of duality within the AV Club, as well as in the characters and interrelationships of Steve, Nancy, Jonathan and Billy; in tomorrow’s third and final part of this blog series, I’ll be looking at the sinister side of the show – the Upside Down and its monsters, as well as its remarkable framing of redemption.

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‘You are like Papa!’: Doubles in Netflix’s Stranger Things (Part 1)

Netflix’s Stranger Things has taken over my life, as Netflix shows are wont to do (for further examples, see Daredevil and Jessica Jones). It’s brimming with 80s nostalgia in the best way possible, and juggles three distinct storylines with a seamlessly natural ease that I haven’t seen since Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (I can give no higher accolade). As I basked in the jaw-dropping, #Jopper-shipping joy of the first two seasons, I couldn’t help but notice the abundance of doubles – literal, metaphorical, analogical – running through the show, which enables me to categorise binge-watching it as ‘research’. Bigotry, prejudice and bullying are (justly) framed as being monstrous in much the same way as the deadly Demogorgons (the vicious, viscous villains of the series). Like Game of Thrones, it’s not the mythical undead horde, but rather humanity itself, that’s the true threat – ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ etc. In addition, the cast boasts 80s MVPs Winona Ryder, Sean Astin, Paul Reiser and Matthew Modine – doubled, as they inhabit a fictional small screen reworking of the era in which they existed on the big screen.  If the Upside Down is the Dark Doppelgänger of the ‘real world’, then the Stranger Things universe is the double of Stephens’ Spielberg & King’s 1980s.

As demonstrated in previous blog posts, one of the delights of doing a PhD on doubles fiction is connecting it to my latest pop culture obsession, and since Stranger Things is the only (non-officially-PhD-related) thing on my mind at the moment, we’ll be delving into the faux fathers, doubled daughters and floppy-haired foils from Netflix’s nostalgic magnum opus – part 2 will be up tomorrow.

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JD Estrada’s Hurricane Maria Tag

Over the last few weeks, many countries have been devastated by disasters. Puerto Rico has been decimated by Hurricane Maria, with many left without basic necessities like food, water, and shelter. It will take months to properly restore electricity, years to repair the damage, and longer still for those affected to recover both physically and emotionally. The reach of these natural disasters spread further, affecting the Caribbean, Mexico, Oregon and Canada. However, news coverage – and the response from the US government in particular – had at first been severely lacking to say the least. Thankfully, support has rallied around the affected countries and help is at hand, though the lives of those affected remain in a perilous state of uncertainty.

Among the impassioned voices urging people to support relief efforts is JD Estrada. JD is a writer from Puerto Rico, whose literary talents are matched only by his kindness. He is someone I am honoured to call a friend. His tireless efforts to increase the presence of affected countries has been inspiring and deeply affecting. If you want to keep updated with the situation in Puerto Rico and other affected countries, I would strongly advise following JD on twitter via @JDEstradaWriter, or keep the conversation going by using such hashtags as #Puerto Rico #HurricaneMaria and #PuertoRicoSeLevanta. JD is offering free ebooks in exchange for tweeting about the affected countries, and using the following hashtags: Humans4PuertoRico #Humans4Mexico #Humans4TheCaribbean #Humans4OregonAndCanada.

I cannot claim to be a book-tuber, but I do want to help in any way that I can – from donating to relief efforts to keeping these calamities in conversation on social media. Today, this takes the form of JD’s Hurricane Maria Tag, meant for BookTube (the YouTube community in which literature thrives) but which (thankfully for me) focuses more on the meaning behind the content as opposed to the medium in which it is published.

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Strange Magic: The Weird & Wonderful Worlds of Kai Ashante Wilson

In the current literary climate, the phrase ‘unique voice’ has become somewhat overused, losing meaning and novelty as it travels from author to author. In this case, however, award-winning author Kai Ashante Wilson has emerged as the embodiment of the phrase at its most pure – his writing is both lyrical and grounded, mischievous and mournful, and there has never been anything like it before.

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Harley as Heroine: Rewriting Suicide Squad (2016)

I have something to confess: I enjoyed Suicide Squad. I can’t defend it in any way, but I had a good time watching it. I own the film, I’ve seen it a few times since, and it doesn’t improve on repeat viewings, but I still like all the characters, despite how poorly they were drawn. Nothing is earned. The stakes feel arbitrary. It’s a fancy dress party of a film with little characterisation beyond costuming, but despite its lack of structure, character motivations or compelling villains, I have a little place in my heart for this tumultuous team-up.

But this is how I would have done it…

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Fixing Fiction: Rewriting the Hobbit trilogy (2012-2014)

I really enjoyed ‘An Unexpected Journey’ when it first came out, even ranking it among my beloved Lord of the Rings trilogy. However, as the franchise went on – and on and on – it became increasingly clear that cracks were beginning to show in a once-promising prequel. There’s still a lot to like about the films; the acting’s good, there’s some nice moments scattered throughout, but there are too many mistakes and missteps that point to wasted potential. After much thought, here are 5 things I’d have changed about the Hobbit prequel trilogy… Read more

Basil (1998): Not the Great Mouse Detective; or Great, for that Matter

Taking a break from my Marvel Doubles blog series (as I’m still catching up on Luke Cage/ Iron Fist and collecting my thoughts on Punisher/ Daredevil), I just had to vent about this rather odd film I watched last night which features 1990’s-era Christian Slater and Jared Leto fighting against each other – and homoerotic subtext – in a twee love triangle that descends disturbingly quickly into disfigurement. No, really.

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