While I’ve always enjoyed watching Stranger Things as a nostalgic trip back to The Goonies, after four installments of the show there are five particular things about the recent season that just annoy me. There are some SPOILERS ahead, so if you wish to watch season 4 without any spoilers, stop reading now.
1. The Pep Band
This first one is more of a nit-picky thing and not as serious as the others, but as a musician I need to talk about it. It’s the fact that this high school marching band of small town Hawkins, Indiana sounds like a professional marching band. My high school, Plymouth-Canton Educational Park, has one of the best high school music programmes in the country, and because the school is so large (three high schools on one campus), we have four separate concert bands that you have to audition into. My school’s marching band has historically placed in the nation’s top 12 high school marching bands in the country at BOA Grand Nationals. And while we’ve often placed in the top 12, and while I spent three years of high school in the top band, we never sounded like a professional band. At the risk of tooting my own horn (pun intended), I would know as a former professional musician. If you’ve ever been to a high school band concert, or if you’ve ever been to a high school sports game with a pep band in the stands, you know that no high school pep band sounds like that. Between the cacophony of being out of tune and the cracking of brass and squeaking of woodwinds, it’s hard to listen to.
Again, this isn’t that serious, but if they’re going to show a high school pep band play music for two or three episodes, the least they could do—for the sake of realism—is make the band sound like an actual high school pep band and not use the soundtrack of a pre-recorded professional band.
2. Sheer Dumb Luck
This one also might not seem as big a deal as the others, but this next one is only one example of many others throughout the series that seems to me to be one of many symptoms of lazy writing. The one example from season 4 is that Joyce Byers and Murray Bauman break into a top secret, max security Russian prison and just happen to make it in time to help Jim Hopper escape from certain mauling by the Demogorgon. From their somehow gathering the $40k to buy Hopper’s freedom (how a work-at-home telemarketer [Joyce] can suddenly come up with $40,000 when the median family income in 1986 was $29,460 is beyond me), to their overpowering the traitorous Russian Yuri, to fooling the Russian guards to break into the prison, to being at the Demogorgon showdown just in time to help Hopper all depended on sheer dumb luck. I’m all for the suspension of disbelief when it comes to sci-fi and fantasy shows, books, and movies, but I find it extremely difficult to do this when two Americans with average level intelligence can break into a top secret, max security Russian prison. The fact that Murray is such a buffoon—though a humourous buffoon—makes this even more unbelievable.
3. 100% Accurate Hypotheses
One of my favourite things about Stranger Things is the way the gang implements the scientific knowledge they’ve learnt in school to solve their problems, even life-threatening ones. (When I say the gang, I’m referring to the primary main characters: Finn, Eleven/El, Dustin, Will, Lucas, Nancy, Jonathan, Steve, and now Max, Erica, and Robin as the latest additions. That’s a lot, I know.) The thing that bothers me about this, however, is how every hypothesis they come up with—even in a state of panic—is always correct. Where’s the trial and error? Where’s the readjusting of disproven hypotheses until they finally come up with the right one? Where is the character development as they put these to the test? This is another symptom of lazy writing. With only 7 movie-length episodes, the writers give these teenagers superhuman hypothesising abilities rather than learning from their mistakes of failed hypotheses and growing from their mistakes and errors.
A lot of these happen during moments where they only have mere minutes to save someone’s life, and I suspect that could be used as a justification for such genius level capabilities. The cool thing about being a writer, though, is that you can give your heroes as much time as they need to be the hero. This is also another example of the dumb luck of the protagonists. It is lazy writing that the heroes conquer a seemingly impossible obstacle through sheer dumb luck rather than through sheer force of will, the thing heroes are known for (this is also my biggest critique of Marvel movies).
4. Homicidal Teenagers
This next one is the Hollywood trope of homicidal teenagers, and they’re usually jocks. While I have little love for jocks, having been bullied by them a lot myself, I still find this trope annoying. In season 3, it was Billy Hargrove, Max’s brother (who was arguably homicidal before the Mind Flayer took control of him). In season 4, it’s Mason Dye and his jock minions. We see this trope in other shows like 13 Reasons Why and Cobra Kai. To be fair, some of these examples are somewhat accurate, showing to what extent the sociopathy of bullies will go. But why does there need to be the common trope of a high school villain losing his mind and going on a homicidal rampage? It’s likely that they just want to add some drama, but whereas the primary trajectory of the protagonists’ struggles are dramatic enough, it just becomes little more than a filler and excruciatingly superfluous. Or maybe they want to give us someone to hate, but the primary antagonist should be the object of the audience’s hate, not a seriously misinformed teenager hyped up on hormones and testosterone.
5. Inept Adults
This last one is what bothers me the most. It’s the Stranger Things motif of the ineptitude of adults. With very few exceptions, the adults are always portrayed as too stupid, ignorant, and myopic to solve the town’s (and inevitably world’s) problems. Whether parent, teacher, or police officer, their stupidity robs them of every intelligent and skilful capacity and it’s entirely up to the kids who know better to save the world. While this could be simply explained away by literary choice, it still raises the question: Why? Why portray virtually every adult as intellectually and skilfully inept? Is it truly integral to the story? If it is, why?
Here is my suspicion: As the teenagers in Stranger Things are heroically portrayed as knowing better than their parents and doing virtually everything behind their backs, this is possibly a subtle way of encouraging Woke teachers of encouraging their students to undergo sex & gender indoctrination and reassignment behind their parents’ backs because, since it’s their body and their choice, they know better than their parents. And the teachers by virtue of their “wokeness” know better than their parents who are raising them (since their parents are not woke but proverbially unconscious to their postmodern “reality”). Any teacher who talks about their own sexuality with minors is ipso facto a sexual predator and pedophile.
I’m not even going to discuss the sex and gender issue here since I have discussed that elsewhere. The core of this is a 4th Commandment issue, “Honour your father and mother,” which Martin Luther explains in the Small Catechism, “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honour them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.” Whether in Stranger Things or the current culture, parents are openly mocked and ignored. Parents are usurped of their God-given authority and honour and is placed in the hands of teenagers who have less wisdom in their entire body than their parents do in their pinky finger. Luther continues in the Large Catechism:
But he distinguishes father and mother above all other persons on earth, and places them next to himself. For it is a much higher thing to honour than to love. Honour includes not only love, but also deference, humility, and modesty directed (so to speak) toward a majesty concealed within them. Honour requires us not only to address them affectionately and with high esteem, but above all to show by our actions, both of heart and body, that we respect them very highly, and that next to God we give them the very highest place. For anyone whom we are wholeheartedly to honour, we must truly regard as high and great.
It must therefore be impressed on young people that they revere their parents as God’s representatives, and to remember that, however lowly, poor, feeble, and eccentric they may be, they are still their mother and father, given by God. They are not to be deprived of their honour because of their ways or failings.LC, Part 1, 106-108
Where is this deference, humility, and modesty directed toward parents in Stranger Things? Where is the affection and high esteem owed to them in their actions of their children? They are portrayed as “lowly, poor, feeble, and eccentric,” but where is their honour? Where are these in our own culture?
“But Pastor Ricky,” one might say, “it’s just a TV show.” And you’re right; it is just a TV show. Stranger Things is a sci-fi/fantasy genre; it doesn’t portray reality by its very nature. Yet we forget that the entire point of fantasy—whether by its literary genre or the literal meaning of the word (imagination, mental image)—is to portray things as we wish they were. Why does a child pretend he’s a t-rex, or a cowboy? Because he wishes to be one. Why do we write fictitious books, movies, and shows? Because we wish the deeper reality of that world to become the reality of our world. The nature of fantasy is to bring into our reality, in some sense, things we wish to be.
So, what do you think will happen when the cult of personality of Wokeism utilises the force of pop culture and the power of fantasy to awaken the desires of human depravity? It goes farther than violating the Ten Commandments; it goes as far as deposing Christ and neighbour and usurping God’s throne so that we may be the definers of good and evil, just as it began in the Garden.