I’m two episodes in to Stranger Things. Having lived through the 80s, it’s kind of weird when an anachronism pops up, and I’m immediately thinking, “Oh, yeah, that’s totally wrong.”

It’s sort of weird being old enough now to do that, doubly so because that era feels like yesterday to me, and so it’s surprising that anyone wouldn’t think these errors were obvious.

33 thoughts on “I’m two episodes in to Stranger Things. Having lived through the 80s, it’s kind of weird when an anachronism pops…

  1. Let me be clear that I am not complaining about this; I’m observing how weird it feels to have lived through an era that is now long enough ago that “getting it wrong” is even possible.

    80% of the show is spot-on, and the mood encapsulates the Spielberg/King thing near-perfectly.

  2. Leri Jacobs I grew up in suburban Illinois and was about the same age as Will and his friends in 1983. Not quite rural Indiana, but close. I am practically the poster-child for the default Midwestern kid featured in the source material for this show.

  3. See I’m older than the directors by a few years, and I would place these kids in time as maybe five years older than me (maybe older than that even). It might be a regional thing, but I grew up in the hills of upstate New York. We weren’t exactly on the cutting edge of anything. So it doesn’t surprise me that the directors missed some anachronisms. I don’t think they were really old enough to have lived meaningfully through the time period they were trying to place it in.

    It was also funny to see the directors say they’re from “the last generation without the internet” in an interview when I had it all through my teens.

    But also, I don’t really care? I loved the show. Also it was kind of the childhood I wanted back then (I was banned from playing D&D by overprotective parents and so rurally isolated that having friends over was extremely rare) so it hit some emotional notes for me there too. Looking forward to the next season.

  4. Thor Hansen Nice link! I knew the Smiths reference felt wrong.

    One of the big ones for me was Joyce’s phone. ’83 was just the beginning of the Ma Bell breakup implementation, so I don’t think she would have been able to buy a plain ol’ phone in a local department store. Really, she would likely have been renting her phone from her local Bell, and they would replace it. Otherwise, shed have to go to a Bell phone store, the phone would have been more expensive, and it would not have been rotary.

    Ma Bell started rolling out touch-tone in 1979, so that she even had a rotary at all was a little weird (but not too weird).

  5. Haha at one point when one insulted another by saying he flails around like an intelligence 0 goblin (or something like that) I shouted, “AN INTELLIGENCE ZERO GOBLIN WOULD BE IN A COMA.”

  6. Robert Bohl I think that you always could, but you could only get them from Ma Bell, there were only two or three choices, and they cost a fortune. I remember when they debuted the Mickey Mouse phone…

    https://img0.etsystatic.com/000/0/6523695/il_570xN.314001326.jpg

    And seem to remember it was beyond our middle-class means.

    I don’t think it was until after the Ma Bell breakup, and once phone jacks were standardized on RJ11 (so you didn’t need a technician to “install” a new phone) that third-party phones were available. Google is failing me as well, but I gotta think it was the late ’80s at the earliest.

    (I know I purchased a phone for my dorm room at the local mall in 1988.)

  7. think that you always could, but you could only get them from Ma Bell, there were only two or three choices, and they cost a fortune. I remember when they debuted the Mickey Mouse phone… https://img0.etsystatic.com/000/0/6523695/il_570xN.314001326.jpg And seem to remember it was beyond our middle-class means. I don’t think it was until after the Ma Bell breakup, and once phone jacks were standardized on RJ11 (so you didn’t need a technician to “install” a new phone) that third-party phones were available. Google is failing me as well, but I gotta think it was the late ’80s at the earliest. (I know I purchased a phone for my dorm room at the local mall in 1988.)]]>

  8. That reminds me, while I loved the synthwave score, it kept distracting me because of how off it was for the show. Having watched a ton of kidventure movies AND a lot of horror movies, it seemed more appropriate for a very adult horror movie or sci-fi movie than a kid romp. I’m not complaining because the show doesn’t need to be some kind of 100% restoration of my memories of the 80s, but it kept standing out to me and was wondering if anyone else felt that too.

  9. off it was for the show. Having watched a ton of kidventure movies AND a lot of horror movies, it seemed more appropriate for a very adult horror movie or sci-fi movie than a kid romp. I’m not complaining because the show doesn’t need to be some kind of 100% restoration of my memories of the 80s, but it kept standing out to me and was wondering if anyone else felt that too.]]>

  10. Thor Hansen on the bikes being from 10 years earlier, those styles of bike were still going strong when I was a teen in the 80s, in both Michigan and Idaho. Motocross bikes never really went out of style once they arrived.

    Plus at least one of the kids is poor and would’ve probably gotten a second hand bike at, say, a garage sale or a neighbor (like I got mine).

    Honestly, I don’t care for nitpicking, they got enough right. Like in the first episode, the older sister’s friend with the short sleeved, plaid, high-collared shirt with the ruffle around the collar? I knew four girls who owned that shirt in my junior high.

    We could buy our own phones when we moved to Idaho in 1981. So, yeah, you could buy your phone in 83. Granted, this may have been different somewhere with older houses and neighborhoods and levels of tech. My girlfriend builds cellular 911 networks all over the country, and the level of tech some place have, like Iowa, the Dakotas and Texas, for instance, is 5-15 years behind the curve.

  11. Daniel Swensen No I understand! I loved the score and wouldn’t have changed it for anything, but it kept tickling a part of my brain and making it go, “This isn’t quite right.” And it did have Carpenter/Cronenberg elements but the kidventure stuff loomed so large that it was clashing with some long ago trained expectations.

  12. I love the score, but also couldn’t help but think that:

    a) it was maybe a little bit off — not quite fizzy or blatt-y enough to reflect the Jupiter-8 or Yamaha DX7 that would have been used for a synth score in ’83 — think Vangelis’ Blade Runner music or Van Halen’s “Jump”;*

    b) it’s not what I seem to remember would be the kind of soundtrack a film from ’83 would use.

    Again, this is all hyper-nitpicking that I find really fun as a mental exercise, because it allows me to plumb the depths of my childhood.

    * That said, it’s pretty much in line with the music Tangerine Dream did for Risky Business, which was ’83.

  13. Blade Runner music or Van Halen’s “Jump”;* b) it’s not what I seem to remember would be the kind of soundtrack a film from ’83 would use. Again, this is all hyper-nitpicking that I find really fun as a mental exercise, because it allows me to plumb the depths of my childhood. * That said, it’s pretty much in line with the music Tangerine Dream did for Risky Business, which was ’83.]]>

  14. Another thought I’d had:

    You know how Netflix used its analytics to cast Kevin Spacey in House of Cards because people who liked political dramas also liked Kevin Spacey movies?

    I wonder if it somehow did same thing to determine that a lot of the people who would be nostalgia-watching this also had childhood crushes on Winona Ryder.

  15. Bret Gillan But Beetlejuice didn’t come out until 1988! Now, if they had cast Rebecca De Mornay or Lea Thompson… 😄

    Matthew Modine, otoh, is totally a perfect cast.

    (Yes, of course I had a crush on Winona Ryder.)

  16. Beetlejuice didn’t come out until 1988! Now, if they had cast Rebecca De Mornay or Lea Thompson… 😄 Matthew Modine, otoh, is totally a perfect cast. (Yes, of course I had a crush on Winona Ryder.)]]>