Any decent story set in the 1980s could only have one villain.
Any decent story set in the 1980s could only have one villain. Courtesy photo/ JOSEPH SOHM/SHUTTERSTOCK

I liked season one of Stranger Things quite a bit. It was an excellent evocation of what it was like to be a white kid in the mid-'80s, riding around the suburbs on a BMX bike during that sharp intake of breath between the honeyed pre-adolescent innocence of being left alone all day while your parents got divorced and the long lonely Schnapps binge of high school.

Or maybe it was just an excellent evocation of what it was like to be a mid-'80s white kid riding around the suburbs on a BMX bike while imagining you were a character in a movie about a white kid riding around the suburbs on a BMX bike, etc.

It distilled the good bits of beloved (to some of us) films of the period like E.T., Goonies, and Explorers—movies that taught a generation of flagrantly ignored and burdensome kids that friends were a proxy family on whom you could always rely. (And other lies.)

Together, you/we could share adventures and solve mysteries that grown-ups were too busy parsing their own anomie to even acknowledge the existence of. And having thus proven your worth, you could then know what it was to feel valued and loved despite what a massive dork you were/are, thereby earning the sense of non-negotiable human significance that earlier generations were either too tough to need or too busy working 17-hour days and being beaten to sleep to notice the dearth of.

These films also served in loco parentis—not merely in the sense of babysitting for 100 minutes, but by serving up personality archetypes (unlikely leader/reluctant messiah, rogue bad-ass who unaccountably still hangs out with all the treehouse dorks, freaky savant, chubby smart-ass who accidentally opens the gates to hell by spilling his Big Gulp on it or whatever) that you could use as placeholders until you began, however hopelessly, to construct your own.

(This temp self process was perfected by The Breakfast Club, the Iliad and Odyssey of adolescent narce.)

Anyway, yes, I liked season one. It had problems (a certain vagueness, a certain how-can-we-stretch-this-shit-out-into-eight-episodes-ness, and also I didn't super love the Madballs-meet-The-Cleaner-from-Labyrinth design of the main monster), but they were outweighed by triumphs of conception, ambition, inspired pastiche, texture, characterization, suspense, and immediate identification. And I was kind of excited for season two (coming in October), largely because I wondered how the filmmakers would reconcile the coltish goodness of season one with the obviously huge affinity of a large audience.

The new trailer for the second season, which is dominated by the unironic deployment of a speech about American exceptionalism by Ronald Reagan, is not a promising indicator: