Live Nerdiness 3.0: Car Talk!

Join me and one of my fellow nerds, as we talk Christine (both book and movie), as well as some of the other happenings in the world of The Master!

 

http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/jeremy-lloyd/dark-tower-radio

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Ride or Die: My Review of Christine

Many people remember their teen years with some sort of fondness.

And that is understandable, to a point.

After all, many milestones are reached during adolescence…

First bra…

First dates…

First kisses..

First loves…

First vehicles…

First vehicles that you fall in love with, and said vehicle demands exclusivity almost immediately, and luuvvvs you soooo much that she (since cars always a she, after all) will not allow you to date anyone else, see your friends or hang out with your family…

Well, adolescence in the Stephen King universe is not normal adolescence, after all.

Last month, it was the prom that we reminisced about so fondly.

And this month, we are going to talk about the first love, along with the first vehicle.

In other words, we will be reading and dissecting King’s novel, Christine.

(Yeah, this is the part where I should tell you we are talking about a Stephen King book.  Quit acting surprised, you knew it was coming!)

As always, King is one of the few writers who can capture childhood, along with adolescence.

And Christine is a book that has a lot to say on this subject.

So fasten your seat belts, and let’s hop into a certain bright red homicidal 1958 Plymouth Fury…you know you will be in one Hell (literally) of a ride!

And, as always:


Synopsis

The book begins by introducing us to a young man named Dennis Guilder.  Dennis has just turned 17 and will be starting his senior year in high school.  Dennis’ best friend is another young man named Arnold “Arnie” Cunningham, who has also just turned 17 and attends the same high school as Dennis.

Dennis is athletic and popular, and well liked by his peers.  Arnie, however, is a loner and is constantly bullied.  Despite the fact that they are polar opposites in so many ways, Dennis and Arnie remain best friends, even throughout junior high and high school.

One day, as Arnie and Dennis are returning home from their summer job, Arnie notices an old car for sale.  The car is a 1958 Plymouth Fury and does appear to be in good condition.

Arnie speaks to the owner of the car, an old man named Roland LeBay.  Almost immediately, Dennis dislikes the old man.  Arnie, however, is determined to purchase the vehicle, and bargains with LeBay.  Since it is not pay day, Arnie puts down $25 on the car, which LeBay sells to him for $250, with the expectation that Arnie will purchase the vehicle the next day.  Dennis is upset and tries to talk Arnie out of the deal, but Arnie will not budge, and appears to be besotted with the vehicle, which LeBay refers to as “Christine.”

When Arnie returns home that night, he informs his strict parents that he purchased a car.  They are upset, especially his mother, Regina, but Arnie still refuses to back down.

The next day, Arnie purchases Christine, and attempts to drive her home.  Initially, Christine will not start, but Arnie somehow coaxes the vehicle into starting.  Dennis sits in the car for a moment, and gets a very bad feeling about it.  On the way home, the car gets a flat tire, and Arnie is forced to change the tire on a resident’s lawn, which very nearly results in a fight between Arnie and the resident.

Arnie makes the decision to temporarily house Christine at Darnell’s Garage.  Darnell’s Garage is owned by Will Darnell, a common crook rumored to have dealings with organized crime, but really Arnie’s only choice if he wants to keep Christine.  Arnie believes that he can fix up Christine and turn her into something special, although Dennis is skeptical, and even begins to have nightmares about Arnie’s vehicle.

Arnie begins to spend more and more time making repairs to Christine, and less time with Dennis and the rest of his family.

One night, Dennis and Arnie stop for pizza on the way home from work.  Arnie has a black eye, and Dennis asks about it.  Arnie tells Dennis that he got into a fight with Buddy Reperton, a local thug, at Darnell’s Garage.  Reperton smashed a headlight on Christine, and this made Arnie furious.  Arnie was also able to injure Reperton before Darnell stepped in.  Dennis becomes worried, and does not want Arnie to continue to use Darnell’s Garage as a home for Christine.

One evening, Dennis gets the idea that Arnie can park Christine at LeBay’s house, possible in exchange for some minor chores and a little money.  However, Dennis discovers that LeBay has died, so this may not be an option for Arnie.

Arnie is in shock over the death of LeBay, and insists on attending his funeral.  Dennis accompanies Arnie, and meets George, LeBay’s brother.  Dennis tries to talk George into letting Arnie park Christine at his deceased brother’s house, but George refuses, telling Dennis that Arnie should get rid of the car, as it is bad news.  Dennis is curious, and agrees to meet with George later that evening so that he can obtain some more information on Christine’s history.

Later that evening, Dennis meets with George.  George gives Dennis a background on Roland and his vehicle.  Roland was always angry and bitter, even as a child.  Roland joined the army as a young man and became a mechanic, and a brilliant one at that.  However, Roland could not let go of his anger, as evidenced by the letters he sent to his family.

Eventually, Roland got married and became a father.  He also finally purchased a vehicle of his own, a 1958 Plymouth Fury who named Christine.  Roland became obsessed with the vehicle, devoting much of his time and money to it.

One day, Roland’s young daughter choked on a piece of hamburger while riding with her parents in the vehicle.  Roland and his wife are unable to save their daughter, and she dies.  Roland’s family begs him to give up the vehicle, but he refuses.

The vehicle also claimed another victim:  Roland’s wife, who committed suicide in the vehicle, via the fumes from the exhaust hose.  Roland still refuses to give up the vehicle, and spends the rest of days alone, only selling the vehicle to Arnie when it becomes evident that he will die soon.

The story makes Dennis uneasy, even when he returns home.  Dennis also has an unsettling conversation with his father in regards to Will Darnell and his dealings, which confirms some of Dennis’ suspicions that Darnell may be more than a small time crook.

School begins, and Dennis becomes busy with the start of his senior year.  Arnie is also busy, attempting to restore Christine to her former glory. Dennis notices that Arnie’s complexion begins to improve (he had previously had a terrible case of acne) and that Arnie also becomes more confident in himself.

One day, as Dennis and Arnie are eating lunch, they are confronted by Buddy Reperton and his band of friends.  A fight breaks out, and a teacher is called in to stop the fight.  The fight results in Buddy Reperton’s expulsion from the school, and the suspension of some of his friends.  Dennis is shaken, but is again surprised to see Arnie fight back against the bully.

Arnie’s confidence continues to grow.  He asks Leigh Cabot, a beautiful transfer student, out on a date, and she agrees to go out with him.  Arnie and Leigh attend a football game together, and Leigh meets Dennis.  Dennis is a little jealous of Arnie, as he also has a crush on Leigh, but is happy for his friend.

That afternoon, Dennis plays football, like normal.  However, he is injured in the game.  The injuries are severe, and Dennis spends several weeks in the hospital recovering.  Thoughts of Arnie and Christine, along with Leigh, are never far from his mind.

The book then changes to the perspective of Arnie, Leigh and the other characters.  Nearly everyone is concerned for Arnie, and they sense that his obsession with the car may be unhealthy.  The relationship with Arnie and his mother becomes strained, and they fight constantly over the vehicle.  Leigh also dislikes Arnie’s car intensely, and feels uncomfortable when she rides in it.

One night, Arnie’s father, Michael, takes a ride with Arnie in Christine, and has a serious conversation with his son. He suggests that Arnie park his vehicle at the airport, as opposed to Darnell’s Garage.  At first, Arnie is not happy with this suggestion, but agrees to it, as sort of a truce between himself and his family.

In the meantime, Buddy Reperton and his friends seek revenge on Arnie, as they blame Arnie for Buddy’s expulsion from school.  So one night, Buddy and his friends are able to sneak into the airport garage.  Once in the garage, they find Christine and vandalize the vehicle.

One day after school, Arnie heads to the airport garage with Leigh, to show off his progress with his work on Christine.  Arnie then discovers the vandalism to Christine, and becomes very upset.

Arnie argues with his parents over Christine and the vandalism.  He is reluctant to report the incident, but his father insists on doing so.  Arnie’s parents offer to replace Christine with a newer vehicle, but Arnie refuses, and states that he will restore Christine himself.

Christine seeks revenge on those who vandalized her.  She begins with with Moochie Welch, who was involved in the prank.  Christine chases down Moochie one night, running him over multiple times.

Arnie learns about Moochie’s death, and appears to be shocked.  He denies any involvement to local police, and his parents also confirm his alibi.  Arnie is also questioned by a state police officer.  The officer does not believe Arnie’s story, but cannot take any action, as he has no concrete evidence that Arnie was involved in Moochie’s death.  The officer also notices that Christine is nearly restored back to her prior condition, despite the fact that prior reports stated that she was damaged beyond repair.

One evening, Buddy and his friends are driving around town.  Buddy is still angry over being expelled from school, and has no remorse over vandalizing Christine.  Buddy and his friends then notice another vehicle which appears to following them.  It does not take long for Buddy to realize that the vehicle is Christine, and she appears to be driving herself.

Chrstine chases Buddy down, and runs him over, killing him.  Before he dies, Buddy sees the ghost of an old man, which can only be Roland LeBay.

Arnie feels badly that he has been neglecting Leigh, and he takes her shopping and out for dinner one weekend.  On the way home, Arnie and Leigh pick up a hitchhiker and drive him into town on their way home.

On the drive home, Leigh is eating a hamburger.  She then begins to choke on the hamburger, but she is saved by the hitchhiker, who uses the Heimlich maneuver on her, over Arnie’s protests.  Leigh is badly shaken by the incident, and realizes that she would have died if it had not been for the hitchhiker.  When she is choking, Leigh believes that Christine’s dashboard lights turn into eyes, and that the car tried to kill her.

When Arnie drops Leigh off at home, Leigh demands that Arnie get rid of Christine, as she believes that the vehicle is evil.  Arnie refuses, and the two argue.  Arnie then storms off, leaving Leigh in tears.

Arnie is again questioned by Junkins, the state cop who questioned him in regards to Moochie’s death.  Arnie provides an alibi for the night of Buddy Reperton’s death, and tells the state cop that there is no evidence that he was involved in Buddy’s death.  Junkins does not believe Arnie, and vows that Arnie will one day face justice.

Arnie’s personality begins to change, and everyone notices, including Arnie.  Arnie’s speech and mannerisms become similar to those of Roland LeBay, and Arnie even believes that he sees LeBay sitting in his vehicle.

One day, Arnie runs another errand for Will Darnell, his boss.  The state cops, however, have closed in on Darnell, who is arrested.  Arnie is also arrested, as the vehicle he was driving contains untaxed cigarettes.  Arnie’s parents are shocked by the arrest, but Arnie is eventually released from jail, and will likely not have a mark on his permanent record, due to his age.

Christine then seeks revenge on Darnell when Arnie is out of town for the Christmas holidays.  She traps Darnell inside of his house, and runs him over.  Darnell’s death is news, due to his pending criminal charges, and most people assume that his death was related to his criminal dealings.

Leigh, however, makes the connection between Darnell’s death and a few others.  She believes that Christine is the cause of those deaths, as does Dennis.  Dennis and Leigh team together, and research Christine’s history.  Dennis then begins to develop feelings for Leigh, but is hesitant, due to his friendship with Arnie.

Dennis spends New Year’s Eve with Arnie.  He is struck by the changes in Arnie’s personality, which he realizes is actually LeBay’s personality.  Dennis is unsettled, and becomes even more frightened for Arnie.

On the way home that night, Dennis witnesses Arnie transform into Roland LeBay.  When he glances through Christine’s mirror, he also sees the ghosts of Christine’s victims.  His town is also transformed into what it looked like in the 1950’s, when LeBay was still alive.

Christine then claims another victim:  Junkins, the state cop who investigated Darnell, and who also set his sights on Arnie, hoping to charge him with the murders of Buddy Reperton and Christine’s other victims.  Dennis and Leigh realize that they must destroy Christine.

Dennis speaks to LeBay’s brother, George.  George reveals more of LeBay’s early life, and the picture painted is disturbing, as people who harmed LeBay were likely to become injured or even dead.  George also states that the deaths of LeBay’s wife and child may not have been accidental.  Dennis then informs LeBay that he intends to destroy Christine.  After his conversation with LeBay, Dennis begins to make some phone calls.

One day, Dennis and Leigh are talking in Dennis’ car in the parking lot of a local restaurant.  Arnie appears, and realizes that Dennis is in love with Leigh.  This infuriates Arnie, who has fixated on Leigh, determined to make her love him again.  Dennis is frightened for Leigh, as he realizes that it is actually the ghost of LeBay who has fixated on Leigh, and that LeBay will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

Dennis confronts Arnie one morning in the school parking lot.  He tells Arnie that LeBay has possessed, but that he can fight him.  Arnie tries to fight, but LeBay is stronger.  Arnie and Dennis then get into a physical fight.  Dennis challenges LeBay, telling him to meet him that night at Darnell’s garage, and to bring Christine.

Leigh and Dennis wait for Christine at Darnell’s garage.  Christine soon appears, along with the body of Michael Cunningham, Arnie’s father.  Dennis and Leigh battle Christine with a wrecking truck that Dennis had obtained earlier that day.  They are able to destroy the car, but are injured in the process.

Dennis awakens in the hospital the next day and inquires about Arnie.  A FBI agent named Mercer tells him that Arnie and his mother were killed in a car accident on the highway right after Christine was destroyed.  Witnesses saw a third person in the vehicle, which could only be the ghost of Roland LeBay, who attempted to possess Arnie after Christine was destroyed.  Dennis tells his story to the FBI agent, and Leigh corroborates it.

Dennis and Leigh graduate from high school and date for about two years.  Eventually, they drift apart and Leigh moves to New Mexico.  She marries and becomes the mother of twin girls.

Dennis becomes a junior high school history teacher.  He recovers from his injuries, even though his leg still pains him at times.  He sometimes experiences nightmares in regards to Christine, but they become less frequent.

One day, Dennis receives the news that a young man named Sandy was killed after being hit by a vehicle.  Dennis begins to wonder if Christine has somehow regenerated, and if she will find him and seek revenge.


My Thoughts

Well, that was quite a ride…

Okay, okay…I will brake from the bad car jokes…

But seriously, wow, this book was really quite the ride.

Now, Stephen King writes scary stuff.  Duh, he is the King of Horror, and we all know this.  And Christine has plenty of scary moments (more on that later.)

But really, King’s major strength as a writer is his ability to write about reality, as strange as that may seem to some.

In other words, King does not just write about monsters, like possessed cars, haunted hotels and evil clowns.

He writes about people.

And that’s why we love him.  Once again, he is our literary Everyman.

And there are plenty of Everyman moments in Christine.  When Christine is mentioned, most people think “Car bad.  Very very bad.  Arnie go crazy.  I hate rock and roll.”

(Well, something like that.  And yes, it may owe a little bit to the movie of the same name, thanks to John Carpenter, God love him.)

One of my favorite parts in this book was the description of the friendship between Arnie and Dennis.

There are some people, in the Hell otherwise known as high school, who are actually popular because they are…wait for it…genuinely nice people…gasp…

Dennis Guilder is proof of the above.  His friendship with Arnie is an exception rather than a rule in the Hell known as high school (yes, I keep using that word.  Hell.  And yes, I do know what it means, aka the DMV and high school.  Hell has less screaming, though, than either of those.)

But it is proof that there are some out there with actual character, who can see beyond the surface, and who is willing to dig for gold.

I loved the fact that Dennis and Arnie built ant farms as children.  There is just something endearing in that.  Maybe it’s because that is a project that requires investment and patience, much like being Arnie’s friend.

But, as I stated before, Christine is scary.  And actually, it is a lot scarier than what I had previously given it credit for.

First of all, we have Christine herself.  Notice how I say “herself,” and not “itself.”

In other words, Christine may technically be an “object”, but she (again, with the pronouns) is definitely a character in her own right.

And that is the genius of King:  he writes wonderful characters who are people (and even animals.)  However, he can turn anything into a character.  In fact, I am sure a novel will be out one day that features a plastic Wal-Mart bag who we either end up rooting for, in its quest to not be replaced by paper bags, or perhaps we learn to fear Wal-Mart plastic bags because this one tries to take over a store in its anger over being replaced by the paper bags and ends up killing the customers in a totally gruesome manner…

(And yes, that book will be a “take my money now situation,” natch.)

Well, humor aside, Christine may be a vehicle, but she is a character in her own right.  And a villain, to boot (King has written more than a few of those, both human and inhuman.)

And one scary character as well.

The scenes when Christine in on the rampage are some of the most frightening scenes that I have ever read in any book, let alone a King book.

In particular, the scene when Christine hunts down Buddy Reperton particularly stands out in my mind.  Now, Buddy really did have that coming to him.  He was an asshole, there is no other way around it.  But still, being hunted by Christine and being toyed with in much the same manner as a cat toys with a mouse that it is about to kill…yikes is all I can say!

And the little touch at the end, when Buddy sees the ghost of Roland LeBay is just what the doctor (or is it writer?) ordered to scare us Constant Constant Readers into a change of pants!

Speaking of which, Roland LeBay…

Let’s talk about him for a bit.

.

Somehow, I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

Or, as a certain well-known and beloved character in the Dark Tower series may have stated:  Coincidence has been cancelled!

The two share a name, but they could not be more different, right?

Well, they are pretty different.  But there does seem to be an underlying theme.

And that theme would be obsession.

Think about that for a moment.

Roland Deschain is obsessed with his Tower.

In fact, he is so obsessed that he is willing to sacrifice his spiritual son so that he can progress in his quest.

Roland LeBay is obsessed with his vehicle.

In fact, he is so obsessed that he is willing to let his daughter choke to death, and refuses to get rid of the vehicle even after her death.

So yeah, sounds pretty familiar, huh?

However, I think #teamLeBay wins the obsession contest over #teamDeschain.

#teamDeschain is at least capable of showing some humanity at certain points, and does try to redeem himself.  So he loses this contest, although this is contest one probably does not want to win.

In fact, #teamLeBay is so obsessed with this vehicle, that it carries over to his death. The ghost of Roland LeBay is the other major player in this story, even though it gets overshadowed by the crazy vehicle.

But I need to give the ghost of LeBay its due.

After all, it is seen several times in the story.

The scene where Arnie is eating pizza in Christine, and sees LeBay sitting next to him, is tres creepy.  I didn’t know whether to laugh at the piece of pizza that went MIA, or shudder even more.

What was even scarier was the fact that Arnie also saw himself in LeBay’s ghost (more on that later, though.)

I think the scariest scene in the book is the scene when Arnie drives Dennis home via Christine on New Year’s Eve.

Dennis sees the ghost of LeBay in the rear view mirror.  Somehow, that’s gruesome right there.  Just looking in the rear view mirror…

What do you see?

Oh, nothing, ghosts of dead, decaying, rotting bodies of evil guys and stuff…

And the fact that Christine was able to momentarily travel back in time, taking Arnie and Dennis back to the 1950’s…wow!

Suddenly the streets are not familiar, and Dennis can’t find his house, because it hasn’t been built yet.

Wow, wow and wow again.

There was a wonderful, dreamlike surreal quality to that scene that I just loved.  You are pretty sure that Dennis is not hallucinating any of it, but you aren’t 100% sure.  And that makes it even more frightening.

Another thing to love about this novel is the fact that it addresses a taboo topic:  bullying.

Now, Christine is a scary book.  It has ghosts and a possessed car.  And those also make for a great story.

But at its heart, Christine is a novel about bullying, and how it affects people.

Too often, people tend to dismiss bullying.  They will say it’s kid stuff.  They will tell the victim to ignore it, and it will go away.

In other words, kids have no rights.  I was bullied constantly as a child.  But I was a child, and I had no rights.  If I was an adult, I could file a police report for either harassment or assault, and start a paper trail.

But children don’t have that option.  Children are forced to see the bullying as some twisted “rite of passage.”

And people wonder how we get a Carrie White, or Arnie Cunningham.

Again, it goes back to Laverne Cox:  Hurt people hurt people.

And like Carrie White, Arnie was a hurt human being.

In the book, various characters, such as Dennis, talk about how Arnie has “changed.”

My question is:  did Arnie really change?

My answer:  no, he didn’t.

Sure, he may have hid his pain for a long time, and managed to convince everyone (his parents, Dennis, etc) that he was okay.

However, Arnie was actually pretty similar to the deceased Roland LeBay in a lot of ways.

LeBay was obviously an angry person throughout his life.  He was a man who never really loved anyone or anything, other than Christine, his vehicle.  They were a match made in hell.

Arnie Cunningham was also angry man.  He may not have shown his anger in the way that LeBay did, but it was obvious that he was angry.

An ex of mine once told me that “depression is anger turned inwards.”  I think this is actually a good description of Arnie Cunningham.

Arnie spent his life being marginalized.

He was bullied at school.  Most of the other kids would not accept him.  In the world of high school, Dennis Guilder is an exception, not a rule.

Even at home, he was marginalized by his parents.  Arnie had talent as a mechanic, but his parents would not accept that, and put pressure on him to attend college, rather than pursuing his talent for working with cars.

So, is it any wonder that Christine and the ghost of Roland LeBay were able to exert their influence on Arnie?  After all, kindred spirits.

The fact that when Arnie saw the ghost of LeBay in Christine, and then saw an older version of himself is telling.  After all, the two really are cut from the same cloth:  angry, never experienced any type of true love.

And that is the only antidote for an Arnie Cunningham or Carrie White: we must have a world where everyone, even the “ugly pizza faces,” can find love or acceptance.

There may not be possessed vehicles in our world which are capable of exacting revenge on bullies, but there are worse things, such as bombs and guns.  Until we realize this, our Arnie Cunningham’s will remind us that bullying has unpleasant consequences.

Continue reading

Top 10 Women in Horror Movies

So, guys and ghouls, it is that time of year again…

Oakland Raiders v Indianapolis Colts

Well, yes it is football season, but that was not what I was referring too.  I mean, do you think I want to be scared into a change pants?  Come on, now!

Well, actually I do.  And watching Indianapolis Colts football is one way to be scared, although many other emotions tend to be involved, which include extreme anger, exhilaration, puzzlement, denial, bargaining and resignation.

But, there are lots of other things that I can watch, other than Colts football, if I don’t want to experience the different stages of grief in a four hour setting (NFL math is funny that way:  one hour of football somehow turns into four hours yelling myself horse (you are welcome for that one) in front of my TV.)

In other words:  horror movies.  Horror movies everywhere…

At this time of year, I feel that autumn is right around the corner.  And this starts right after Labor Day, when the Christmas merchandise at the stores is on display!

And to counter the sight of Christmas decorations when the temperature is still at least 90 F, there is only one thing we can do…

That’s right, watch some horror movies.  Or maybe lots of horror movies.  All right, a metric shit ton of horror movies!

And so many movies to choose from.

We have our classics, like Carrie, Halloween and Friday the 13th.

Jason 1

Or “new school,” like Horns.  You gotta admit, seeing Harry Potter as the devil is fun!

Horns-Movie-Daniel-Radcliffe-Movie-Stills

Or, we don’t have to limit ourselves to movies.  There are plenty of good, horror themed shows not titled American Horror Story to chose from.  And most are available via the miracle of the 21st century otherwise known as Neflix.  Cable schmable, right?

Now, one thing about horror movies:  they seem to have an audience.  And no, not necessarily horror junkies.

Let’s face it:  most horror movies are geared towards white males.  That is often who your horror movie protagonist is, with a few exceptions, like Night of the Living Dead, which was decades ahead of its time for featuring an African American guy as its protagonist.

And it’s not to say that those movies are not good movies.  In fact, movies like Phantasm (I dare you to cross The Tall Man, boooyyyy!), The Shining, Horns and many others are either classics, or on their way to becoming classics.  And I have no problem with that, they are great movies and deserve their accolades.

phantasm 2

But, I feel like I am missing something when I watch certain movies.  In fact, I feel like I may be missing at least half of something…

That’s right, where are my ladies?  I mean, we make up half the population, right?  So where are we?  Where are we in one of my favorite movie genres?

Well, it turns out that if take the time (after all, rushing us is bad, on so many levels, haha) and look, you can find us ladies in horror movies.  And some bad ass ones at that!

In recent years, we have become even easier to find in the horror, genre and science fiction categories.  After all, Game of Thrones, anyone?  Plenty of kick ass women there!

arya-1

And The Master and The Master 2.0 have gotten in on the act, as both Stephen King and Joe Hill have managed to write convincing female characters, who have an identity beyond the wife or girlfriend of the guy who winds up kicking ass.

Joe Hill 1

So, if you look, we are there in horror movies.  Sometimes we get horribly victimized.  Sometimes we victimize others.  But other times, we throw down some serious shade, and you do not want to meet us in a dark alley!

With that being said, here is my list of top 10 women in horror (both on television and film.)  Keep in mind that this is my opinion only, and could be subject to change at any moment…

And, as always:

Spoiler alert


10.  Sally (The Nightmare Before Christmas)

Well, I may be a little biased with this statement, but I will say it anyway:

Gingers rule!

And as soon as we have enough freckles, we plan to take over the world!

Okay, I am kidding (you hope.)

But this entry on my list has earned her spot on it.  And yes, she just happens to be a ginger.

Guys and ghouls, I bring to you…Sally!

Now, Sally may literally owe her existence to a man.  However, do not underestimate her, as she is tough, smart and resourceful.

After all, a chic who clearly knows her poisons.  Who would want to cross her?

Jack-and-Sally-nightmare-before-christmas-16309038-900-592

Sally is a love interest in the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas (and one half of one of one my favorite onscreen couples ever), but to me, she is so much more than that.

For most of her life, Sally is held in captivity by her creator.  She understands that that she may be selling herself short, and she works to build a life for herself beyond captivity, and to connect with the outside world in a meaningful way.

sally-1

Sally also brings a message of self-acceptance.  After all, she literally falls apart, but that doesn’t stop her from picking herself back up and continuing on with her life.  That message of self-acceptance is one that Jack Skellington badly needs to hear, as he finally accepts that it is okay to be the Pumpkin King, and leave “Sandy Claws” to those who are better qualified for that job.

Is it a Halloween movie?  Is it a Christmas movie?  It’s an existential crisis!  But an awesome existential crisis!

nightmare-before-christmas-2


9.  Mrs. Vorhees (Friday the 13th)

Every movie needs a good guy (or bad girl.)  This is especially true of horror movies.  After all, where would we be without The Tall Man, Pennywise the Clown, Reverend Kane, along with many other bad guys that make these movies memorable?

Well, we can add Mrs. Vorhees to that list as well.

friday-the-13th-1

When I bring up Friday the 13th, most people think of the guy in the hockey mask.  I then have to gently remind him that he is the protagonist in the 19 or so sequels that the franchise has generated, along with the awesomely bad crossover where Jason and Freddy meet…spoiler alert:  they don’t meet for Netflix and chill!

So, let’s go back to the beginning.

In other words, the infamous Camp Crystal Lake.  And a few horny teenagers.  And of course, the campers.

And…the camp’s cook?

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Yes, the camp’s cook.  And the mother to Jason Vorhees, who (supposedly) drowned due to the horny camp counselors not doing their job, due to fact of being…well…horny.

Again, Jason is a non-factor in the first film of the franchise.  We do see the “Jason half” of Mrs. Vorhees personality, as she rationalizes killing teenagers, but Mrs. Vorhees is responsible for all the blood and guts.  All.  The.  Blood.  And.  Guts.

All of it!

I personally love a lady vs. lady show down.  There is something much more fierce about those, and so primal.

Well, I got my wish when I watched Friday the 13th, in one of the most epic onscreen lady vs. lady show downs in the history of film and television!

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It doesn’t get much better than that, folks!


8)  Sidney Prescott (Scream)

When I watched Deadpool, I found it amusing that the title character seemed to be self-aware.  He knew he was in a movie, and made reference to that fact throughout the movie.  It was good for plenty of yuks!

The movie Scream also uses the concept of “self aware”, and perhaps one of the best uses of that concept.

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After all, Scream constantly makes references to horror movies throughout the movie.

In fact, in the opening scene, the killer begins by asking trivia questions (see the above entry.)  And that is just the beginning.

Scream pokes fun at the horror genre.  A lot.  After, we now all know to never say, “I’ll be right back?”  Or to drink or have sex in a horror movie, as those acts also mean certain death.

However, underneath the humor, Scream is still a horror movie.  With a protagonist who kicks ass.

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And oh yeah, this protagonist just happens to be a girl!

Sidney’s plight is something that is all too familiar:  her mother was raped and murdered.  The murderer was supposedly caught and put in jail, but Sidney is struggling to come to terms with her mother’s death, and the repressed emotions that come with the trauma.

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And then people start getting killed.  Sidney is still struggling with her trauma, and is now unsure of who she can trust.  Sidney is also now unsure that she did correctly identify her mother’s killer, and fears that she may have put the wrong man in jail.

Throughout the movie, Sidney shows herself to be a fighter.  From the reporter who will not stop harassing her to her friend and boyfriend who turn out to to be the killers, Sidney proves that she is resilient, and a force to be reckoned with.

Processing trauma and coming out on the other side is difficult, but is rewarding when it is finally accomplished.  The character of Sidney Prescott is a wonderful example of this.

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7.  Nancy Thompson (A Nightmare on Elm Street)

Often, I joke (well, sort of) that I am in a relationship with…my bed.

Hi, my name is Leah, and if I don’t get my sleep, I will cut a bitch!

In other words, my bed is a refuge, as is my sleep.

Well, sleep usually is.  Although sometimes I am given to having nightmares…

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But I am lucky in the fact that my nightmares, no matter how real they seem (that one featuring the Tall Man and strange Lovecraftian creatures was certainly a doozy), are just dreams in the end.

They can’t hurt me.

The subject of this particular entry, however, was not so lucky.

Poor Nancy.

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Falling asleep became dangerous for her, so no refuge for her.

I mean, she dozed off in class and nearly got killed for it.  Makes the detention one would normally expect seem kind of mild, right?

However, Nancy sleeps on it (see what I did there) and decides to do something about the evil creature who has been tormenting her and her friends in their dreams.

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First, she recruits her boyfriend, Glenn, to help her catch Freddy. But when that doesn’t work, she doesn’t give up, and instead persuades her father to help trap Freddy.

Nancy just will not take no for an answer, and will stop at nothing to destroy Freddy Kreuger for good (or at least until the next sequel, at any rate.)

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She will not go down without a fight, and I have always loved her for it.

Freddy Kreuger may be one of my favorite horror movie villains of all time, but let’s face it, without Nancy, he would be nothing.  And that is not just because he needs dreams from teenagers so that he can exist.

The fact that my favorite horror villain has to face off against a woman is just icing on the cake.  Wait, I take that back.  Nancy is the cake, icing and all.

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6.  Willow Rosenberg (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Now, I often tell people that high school was hell for me. And it was.

I spent most of my time isolated.  And being isolated was actually the good part.  When I was “only isolated,” I considered myself to be lucky, as least I wasn’t being tormented.

The lesser of the two evils, I suppose…

But what was that saying that I heard way back when, about a guy with no shoes who meets a guy with no feet and gets some kind of new perspective?

In other words, I should be lucky that my school was not built on a Hellmouth, right?

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Isolation and bullying is one thing.  We can talk about the lesser of two evils and so forth…

But when your school is built on a Hellmouth, and when you have to deal with vampires, werewolves, and all kinds of other Big Bads, I think we are beyond the discussion of the lesser of two evils.

In fact, you may just piss one of those Big Bads off by referring to him/her/it as “lesser.”  And that would be dangerous indeed.

And in the midst of all this…well…Hell, we have Willow Rosenberg.

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Now, Willow may be a classic “sidekick” to Buffy, who had the fortune (or is it misfortune?) of moving to Sunnydale, CA, where her destiny as The Slayer awaited her, but make no mistake about it:  Willow is also a bad ass herself.

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Not only did she fight along Buffy’s side (along with Xander, Giles and a few others), Willow also, like so many of us, struggled to find her identity in the Hell otherwise known as high school.

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As a result, one of the most fascinating character arcs in television history emerged.

How often do you see someone go from high school computer nerd, to fledgling witch, to full fledged witch, all the while never losing her integrity, making the arc seem so natural?

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Oh, and Willow also came out as a lesbian somewhere in there too, making her one of the first major characters in a TV show to be openly gay.  And it was all so natural too.  When Willow finally coupled up with Tara, it seemed so right, and to be true love, as opposed to some kind of fetish.  Her friends accepted her as gay, and nothing really changed between them…I loved it!

Oh, and any time I think any of my break ups were bad (along with my high school experience), I just think what was done to poor Willow in the name of entertainment for the masses.  I think this is where that term ugly cry comes into play.


5.   Carrie White (Carrie, 1976)

Yeah, see above…

I will say it once and I will say it again:  High school, aka government babysitting is overrated at best.  At worst, it is Hell.  And the high school in question does not even need to be built on a Hellmouth to suck.  High schools do that quite well on their own, thankyouverymuch.

And again, my high school experienced sucked.  It sucked bunches.  My best memory, other than finally graduating, was getting a 100% on a calculus test.

The teacher must have though I was a freak…

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Well, I am a freak.  But I actually think my freakage is pretty mild, compared to this particular entry.

Meet Carrie White.

On one hand, Carrie is your typical high school reject.  At best, the other students ignore her, and she is invisible to pretty much everyone.

But the at worst part is just horrible.  Getting pelted by tampons, while you are having your first period at age 17 and thinking you are dying…well, I think I would trade going to high school on the Hellmouth for that one!

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However, on the other hand, Carrie is not your typical high school reject.  For one thing, she has a religious fanatic for a mother at home, who shames her for getting her period, getting asked to prom, and pretty much shames her daughter for existing.

Carrie also possesses telekinetic powers.  And this turns out to be bad news for everyone.  When a high school prank goes horribly wrong, and Carrie is humiliated at prom, everyone is at the brunt of Carrie’s revenge.

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Carrie’s powers are unleashed, and the results are epic, to say the least.

I have always said that the villains in this movie are Margaret White, along with Carrie’s cruel classmates.  Carrie is the most innocent among all the characters.  How could you expect her not to finally retaliate, after the happiest night in her tormented life is ruined?

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I shed more than a few tears when Carrie died (see the part above about the ugly cry.)

And for the record, my high school classmates should be lucky that I did not possess telekinetic powers…

Very lucky…

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4.  Lydia Deetz (Beetlejuice)

“Well, I’ve read through that handbook for the recently deceased. It says: ‘live people ignore the strange and unusual”. I myself am strange and unusual.”

Oh, the above quote…

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When I first heard it, there were so many emotions to process…

Happiness was one of them, of course.

And, believe it or not, relief was one of them as well.

I may have fallen in love a little that day, with a fictional character.  I have a bad habit of doing that, it seems.

Of course, I am speaking of Lydia Deetz.

As a 90’s kid, “Goth” was a thing.

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We all had them in at least one class.

The kids who wore all black, even in the summertime.

Often, they loved horror.

They had an affinity for creepy things.

Their taste in music was cutting edge, to say the least.  Nine Inch Nails, anyone?

Lydia Deetz started the Goth culture.

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She rocked the all black and pale-face make-up before it was cool (I mean, I was pale-face before it was cool, but no make-up needed here.  Gotta love being a soul stealing ginger, AmIrite?)

In case I have not made this clear, I was not a kid who fit in.  In fact, I didn’t really belong anywhere.

Growing up, I felt like a ghost.  Sometimes I wondered if I was actually dead, and everyone knew it but me and forgot to tell me.

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And like Lydia, I lived in a world of my creation.  I loved to read and write, and create art.

Those interests don’t exactly make one’s phone ring off the hook on Friday night, but I tried to remain true to myself.

That was the thing I admired most about Lydia:  she remained true to herself.

She preferred the company of ghosts over people (well, I preferred the company of animals, but close enough, right?)

Things that repelled most people attracted Lydia (to this day, my parents still think I am some kind of literary leper for loving Stephen King.)

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Being different is a good thing.  But often, it is lonely.

Characters like Lydia Deetz remind us of how awesome different is, and make the journey a little less lonely.


3.  Eleven (Stranger Things)

“She’s our friend and she’s crazy!”

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Stranger Things is my show and it’s awesome!

Now, no matter what else happens in 2016 (and we still have the presidential election to get through, so the season finale is still a bit far away), we can at say, “At least we had Stranger Things.”

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And there so many things to love about Stranger Things.

It is a tribute to all things 80’s.

It pays homage to all kinds of horror, including John Carpenter films, Wes Craven and even H.P. Lovecraft.

It is a gold mine for Stephen King fans.  The story line of people with PSI abilities is classic King (Firestarter, anyone?), not to mention the fact that The Master’s name is lovingly brought up in an episode.

I could go on and on, actually.  Lots of reasons to love Stranger Things

At least eleven, I would say…

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Oh, right.  Eleven.  The subject of this entry!

If you told me that the show Stranger Things centered on the subject of four friends (who are boys) and their entrance into adulthood, along with the loss of innocence they experience, you would be correct.

On the surface, that is what Stranger Things is about (along with a monster christened Mr. Tulip-Head and his band of merry slugs.)  That statement would not be incorrect.

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But, like the books written by a certain famous writer, Stranger Things is so much more than that.

Enter Eleven, everyone’s favorite waffle loving, bald-headed escapee from an evil government lab run by the creep known as Dr. Pedophile.

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And oh yeah, Eleven possesses PSI abilities, along with being on the run from “Papa” (shudder.)

At first, Eleven serves as kind of homing beacon, to help Mike and his friends try to find their missing friend Will, whose disappearance just happens to coincide with Eleven’s appearance.

However, the boys, especially Mike, grow to like Eleven on her own merits.  A friendship develops, and Eleven becomes fiercely protective of her new friends (see the opening sentence to this entry.)

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Through their friendship with Eleven, the boys mature, and also come to the realization that the world is not a safe place, nor is it always a fair place.  Eleven brings out the best in Mike, who begins to fall in love with her.

The realization that the world is not a safe or fair place comes in the final episode, when Eleven (seemingly) sacrifices herself to the alternate dimension known as the Upside-Down, when she battles the monster that was responsible for kidnapping Will.

Out of all the characters on the show, Eleven proves herself to the most selfless of the bunch, who takes the meaning of friendship to a new level, when she sacrifices herself for another child who she does not even know.  She also proves herself to be a tough fighter, in her journeys to the Upside-Down and her battle with the extra-dimensional monster.

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And a fierce protector of Eggo Waffles everywhere.  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT mess with that girl’s waffles, if you know what’s good for you!

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2.  Vanessa Ives (Penny Dreadful)

I love Eva Green

Oh, how I love Eva Green!

Eva Green is the bomb.com!

Did I mention that I love Eva Green?

Okay, just wanted to make my point clear.

And the reason I fell in love with Eva Green was her portrayal of Vanessa Ives on the show Penny Dreadful.

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I have problems.  I really do.  Sometimes they feel like they number around 99, although I am really not sure if a bitch accounts for more than a few (although my crazy dog could be put into that bitch category.)

But then, I can go watch the period horror/drama known as Penny Dreadful, and I get some perspective.

In other, my problems are pretty damn mild.  Or maybe even non-existent, really.

After all, I don’t have the Devil Himself after me.

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Or Dracula, for that matter.

I may have guys hit on me and give me unwanted attention, but at least they aren’t evil incarnate.

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(On a side note, no one has ever seen my ex and Lucifer in the same room together.  Fun fact of the day!)

Nor am I harassed by a coven of witches who are willing to hand me over to at least one of the above.

Oh, and I don’t live in Victorian London, where women are limited to only a couple of roles, and if they don’t fit in, then well, that’s just too bad, isn’t it?

I have just described a day in the life of Vanessa Ives, the main character of the show Penny Dreadful.  Yikes much?

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But somehow, despite all of the horrors she has to endure throughout her life (both supernatural and non-supernatural), Vanessa Ives is able to maintain a kind of grace that one rarely sees even in people who have not been cursed by an unknown evil force.

Vanessa makes everyone around her better.  Her influence is something to behold, as she brings out the best even in those who may not be the best humanity has to offer (Victor Frankenstein and Sir Malcolm being prime examples of this.)

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Vanessa’s influence even extends to the ‘non-human” characters in the show, including Caliban (otherwise known as The Creature) and Ethan, the werewolf.

Caliban, in particular, benefits from his friendship with Vanessa.  Even before he became “The Creature,” Caliban was in danger of his losing his humanity due to his employment with the Banning Clinic.  However, when he is forced to care for Vanessa, he begins to see his patients as individuals, as opposed to numbers, and realizes that his employer is in the wrong in its treatment of its patients, and that he can no longer work for them.

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives and Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 5). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_205_1509

(Another side note:  anyone who watches the episode A Blade of Grass without tearing up at least a little bit has ice water instead of blood in his/her veins, and we cannot be friends.)

Even after Caliban is transformed into The Creature, Vanessa extends her friendship to him, reminding Caliban that he is more than a corpse stitched together and brought back to life as a science experiment.

Vanessa’s character serves to make the ending even more poignant, as she sacrifices herself so that others may live.

Vanessa’s friends mourn her death, but it is clear that she lives on in each of them, as her influence continues, even after her death.

Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 9). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_309_3066


And now, for my number 1 woman in horror…

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I give you…


Dana Scully (The X Files)

OK, let’s get one thing straight…

That’s Dr. Scully to you!

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Now, in case it wasn’t clear, I was a nerd growing up.

I liked math and science.

I read books on theoretical physics for fun.

A wild day for me consisted of visiting the library and finding five books.  OR SIX BOOKS.  SIX BOOKS!

So, as you can imagine, my social calendar was clear until approximately February 30th, 2087.  Although these days, I’m a little more booked, because that calendar is clear until May 32nd 2072, although if you need something, I may be able to shuffle things around and pencil you in.

But, in the fall of 1993, things began to look up.  Well, a little bit, at least.

For that is when we had the debut of The X Files.

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Before I watched The X Files, I did not see a lot of representation of women in my world, aka the world of nerd.  Now, this did not necessarily bother me much, at least on a conscious level.

However, deep inside, I knew that something was missing,  I could not tell you what, but I knew that my world was lacking.

But then Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully made their entrance to the screen.

And right away, it became evident of what my world was missing.

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You see, the world of horror and general nerdiness had been waiting for a woman like Scully.  Finally, she arrived.

And she did not disappoint.

Scully was smart (see the opening sentence to this entry.)

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Not only was Scully smart, she could throw down some serious shade.  And usually, she was wearing heels of at least three inches while doing that.

And her autopsies were so cool!  They almost made me want to go to medical school, just so I could throw around medical jargon like that.  Almost.

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Scully also kept her partner Mulder grounded.  Mulder could get a little nutty at times with his (literally) out of this world theories, but Scully was able to reign him in, and was the yin to yang.  They made a great team.

While Mulder often had to rescue Scully from cannibals, a death fetishist and a few other horrors (both human and supernatural), Scully often often rescued Mulder.

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I loved seeing her storm in with those heels, pointing her gun and flashing her FBI badge.  Sometimes her efforts backfired, and Scully would end up in a dire predicament as well.  But many times, Scully was able to get Mulder out whatever predicament he found himself in, and the two could go on to kick ass for another episode.

Scully also faced the same sexism many of us in the “real world” have to face on regular basis.  Sometimes people were reluctant to respect her, or would ignore her in favor of her male partner.  But Scully always handled that so well, and could silence her naysayers with a single look or sentence.  And I loved her for it.

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And I have one thing to say:  Representation matters.  I am someone who has spent her life feeling invisible and ignored.  And its not fun.  I do not wish that on anyone.

But when we create characters such as Dana Scully, the world becomes a little brighter.  And a little less lonely.

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At last, someone gets us.  And the journey becomes exciting,  At last, we begin to see the hope.


Well, that’s it for my top 10 ladies in horror.

I am sure I missed a few, but compiling this list was not an easy task.  So a shout out to any I may have left out:  You are not forgotten!

So, if you don’t feel like being horrified by Indianapolis Colts football, pop in one of these movies, or tune in to Netflix and watch one of these shows.

At the very least, you can kill a few hours.  Or maybe, just maybe, you can appreciate one of these films or TV shows in a new light, after seeing some kick ass ladies!

Happy watching!

 

11 Reasons to Love Stranger Things

So, it’s summertime.

Not only is it hot, but the offerings on television are a bit scant, so to speak.

The Green Arrow, The Flash and my man Jim Gordon are all on summer vacation, I suppose.

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Although, really, I was craving a dose of the 80’s.

But The Goldbergs are also on vacation.  And I needed something new and fresh, and none of the 80’s movies or TV shows in my collection were cutting it!

But luckily, Netflix decided to oblige me…

I heard that there was new show out.  It could satisfy that 80’s craving…check.

I’m a huge fan of horror and it was scary…check.

It paid homage to some writer guy I am obsessed with…check.

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Oh, and it was actually well-acted and directed…check.

In other words, I am referring to the Netflix show known as Stranger Things.

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Yes, I jumped on the Stranger Things bandwagon!

No I didn’t get a t-shirt, but it was one hell (or is it upside down?) of a ride!

Now, I didn’t binge.  Despite my love for this show, it still is a fine wine that needed to be savored.

So I forced myself to slow down.

In other words, I finished watching the show in about a week.  And I still felt that I rushed it a bit, since there was so much good stuff to savor!

Like the 80’s aspect of it…nostalgia rules!

The Stephen King references…The Master himself even earned a direct reference…but I know he won’t let the fame get to his head!

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And this show was scary…I had to hide my eyes and grip my poor dog really hard watching some parts…good thing dogs are tolerant of their human slaves, even when the human slaves are watching scary stuff on TV!

In other words, there are so many reasons to love Stranger Things.  The show really does have a little something for everyone, and is so well done.

So, I deemed this show worthy of a post on this little old blog.  And I narrowed down the number of reasons to love this show…

Wait for it…

Eleven!

(See what I did there?  You are welcome!)

So, here is my list of 11 reasons as to why Stranger Things is an awesome show.  It may be a bit redundant in parts, but I feel each reason earned its place on the list and is worthy of discussion.

Time to break down and discuss this show, so buckle in for the ride!

And, as always:

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It is scary

Some of you may be scratching your heads, and wondering if Captain Obvious has taken over this blog.  And I don’t begrudge you for that thought.  After all, this show is billed as being in the horror category, so of course it’s scary, right?

Well, not necessarily.  Both the big and small screen are filled with all kinds of abominations these days that call themselves horror.  And when I refer to them as abominations, that does not necessarily mean they are the good kind of abomination…

So, let’s break it down and discuss it.

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When I watched Stranger Things, I felt warm and fuzzy at times.  After all, nostalgia, right?  And I laughed.  I mean who wouldn’t laugh?  After all, Dustin’s antics, floating Eggo waffles and Steve’s hair…all of those are pretty chuckle-worthy, in my opinion.

And, as quickly as I felt the warm and fuzzy, or went into a mad fit of giggling over a Dustin one-liner, I found myself holding on to my dog for dear life (like I said, she’s tolerant) and trying not to be scared into a change of pants.  The show was that effective.

First of all, there was the concept of the Upside Down.  An alternate dimension that sucks in a little kid. forcing him to communicate using Christmas lights?  One of man’s greatest fears is the fear of the unknown.  And an alternate dimension fits that category perfectly, as that would be one of the few frontiers left.

Nancy is briefly sucked into that alternate dimension, and seeing it through her eyes was just frightening.  No wonder she needed a little company that night.  I don’t think I would ever sleep again!

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There is also The Monster.  Although the politically correct name for him (it?) is Mr. Tulip-Head.  So I shall refer to him by his proper name in this post, so no tentacles are ruffled!

And Mr. Tulip-Head is not one to be trifled with, yo!

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Not only is he an extra-dimensional monster that is a predator (you could say that the town of Hawkins was his haunt, as in haunt meaning a place where animals feed), he seems to force slug-like creatures down people’s throats, in an attempt to either kill them, or perhaps an attempt to reproduce…

I tell you, if Will has a mini Mr. Tulip-Head come busting out of him, per the infamous scene in the movie Alien…well, I won’t be surprised at all!  And you can say you heard it here first!

Did anyone else think sushi when Will puked up that tentacle, by the way?

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Ok, so that was just me then…

Well, nevermind, I guess…


It is Nerd Heaven

From the opening scene of Stranger Things, the tone is set.  The audience realizes that it will be treated to a…

Nerd fest!

I know, something nerdy making it on to this blog?  Can you imagine!?

At the beginning of the first episode, the boys are playing Dungeons and Dragons.  And using all the technical terms, like Demi-Gorgon.  And trust me folks, it only gets nerdier.

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Obviously, we have Mike, Will and the rest of the gang.  Right from the beginning, the writers of the show let us know that they are the nerds among their peer group.  This title includes the good grades, unusual hobbies (D&D and membership in the audio-visual club), and the other, not positive attributes of nerdiness, such as the empty social calendar and merciless bullying.

Not only is D&D present throughout the series (as a useful metaphor, no doubt), there are so many little details that made my nerdy heart go pitter-patter.

We have the teacher that has a hot date with a pretty girl explaining the special effects in a horror movie.  Who needs brawn and muscles when you have a guy that can give a technical break down of the special effects in a scary movie to put your mind at ease?

There is the sensory deprivation chamber.  I loved how the boys, Hop and Joyce speculated on how to create one, and then hit upon the idea of using salt water.  It added some credibility to the series, although I think I will skip making one in an attempt to visit another dimension, as this one without Mr. Tulip-head is just fine, thank you!

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I also loved it when the guys talked to the science teacher (the same expert on special effects in movies), about the existence of other dimension, and how to access those dimensions.  As a teenager, I read tons of books on physics, along with science fiction and fantasy novels covering that same topic (A Wrinkle in Time is a favorite of mine) and it is a subject of endless fascination for me, even in adulthood.  So to see it addressed on this show (the analogy with the acrobat and flea on the tightrope is an excellent) gave me goosebumps.  And goosebumps of the good variety.

If I actually had a friend group as a child, I hope that group would have contained a Dustin, a Mike, a Will and a Lucas.  After all, nerd power!


It has strong feminist leanings

If you haven’t, take the time to watch movies like Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween.  If you watch carefully, these movies follow a formula.

The formula looks something like this:  a scary monster (or serial killer) is on the loose, somehow.  There are all kinds of hints, but both the teenagers and adults ignore the warning signs.  The teenagers are left to their own devices.  In other words, teenagers of the opposite sex gather together, and “own devices” turns out to mean “having sex.”  So most of the teens pair off, and conveniently find fully furnished bedrooms.  And then they have sex.  Well, except for a couple of virtuous kids, who are either uncomfortable with the idea of dating before marriage, or the nerdy guy (or girl, but usually a guy) who is rejected by the beautiful member of the opposite sex for either the jock or cheerleader.

Apparently, nothing angers a movie villain more than sexually active teenagers.  And the kinkiness of the sex involved is directly proportional to how quickly (and even how gruesomely) the teenagers get dispatched.  It is then up to the virtuous guy or girl to face the killer, and defeat the killer, who just won’t stay dead, even after being riddled with a large number of bullets that would take down any non horror movie villain.

Or something like that, at any rate.  Formulaic, in other words.

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Now, Stranger Things may be a tribute to the 80’s and all things horror, but one thing it is not is formulaic.  This includes its treatment of the teenage girl.  In fact, Stranger Things stands the formula on its head, and can be argued to make a strong feminist statement by doing so.

So a Netflix series dealing with extra-dimensional monster, with shades of The Goonies and Stand By Me has (gasp) feminist leanings?  Have this blogger lost her mind?

Well, no.  Although my friends and family may argue otherwise, but you can’t miss what you never had, right?

And yes, Stranger Things does make a strong feminist statement, and here’s why.

Nancy becomes involved with Steve, and sneaks out to a party, lying to her parents and convincing poor Barb to cover for her.  Pretty typical teen behavior, in other words.

Not surprisingly, Nancy and Steve have sex.  The other couple at the party has sex.  And poor Barb is left to her own devices.

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Standard horror fare, in other words.

But then, we veer away from the standard horror.  Nancy survives her first time, although Steve behaves in a pretty boorish manner (in other words, a teenage boy.)  Barb, however, does not survive that night, as she is attacked by Mr. Tulip-Head.  Apparently, Mr. Tulip-Head did not get the memo from Jason or Michael Myers, and does not attack the teenagers engaged in premarital sex.  Rather, he behaves like a typical predator, and attacks the isolated member of the herd, aka Barb.

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It takes a bit, but Nancy realizes that Barb is missing.  She confesses her lie to her mother and speaks to the police, naturally leaving out that she and Steve had sex that night.  I mean, it’s not like her sex life is anybody’s business but hers, right?

Furthermore, Nancy lets her mother know this, in no uncertain terms.  Yes, she had sex and Barb is now missing.  But the two are NOT related, nor should they be seen as related.  Because, you know, becoming sexually active and an extra-dimensional monster that had been unleashed due to the irresponsible actions of a shady operation in town are NOT related, so let’s focus on the important thing here:  now two children are missing, and maybe our town is in danger, so let’s do something before more people turn up missing?

BOOM!

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Who knew?!

In other words, quit punishing women for being sexual!  Being sexual should not lead to death!  And a women’s sex life is no one’s business but her own!  Yeah, go Stranger Things!

Plus, Nancy kicks ass anyway.  She threw down some serious shade against Mr. Tulip-Head, and they boys just kind of followed her lead.

In other words, I can’t give Nancy enough love.


It is 80’s heaven

And let me count the ways…

Where do I even start?  This show just has so much 80’s…

We have the decor in the houses.  Someone took some great care to make sure that the houses looked like something you would see back in 1983, from the wall paper down to the carpeting.  So there’s that.

We get 80’s music.  The Clash?  How much more 80’s can you get?

And movie references.  Don’t forget those.  Joyce surprising Will with tickets to go see Poltergeist.  And then Will disappearing, in much the same manner as Carol Anne Freeling.  It’s true that Joyce developed an obsession with all things electronic and not the TV, but the concept is still the same.

I saw elements of The Goonies and Stand by Me.  In fact, the story arc of Mike and his friends is kind of similar to these two movies:  plucky misfit kids have a crazy adventure together and test their friendship in the process.  Well, just add in extra-dimensional monsters and shady government operatives.  But still not too far off.

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The television that happened to be playing an episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe…squee!

Throw in a little John Hughes as well.  The girl must choose between two guys:  one is kind of a lovable meathead, and the other is artistic and introspective, and the sworn enemy of the aforementioned meathead…

Then there is the character of Hop, who had a kind of Indiana Jones vibe…swoon…

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So much nostalgia.

I grew up in the 1980’s and 1990’s (I am 38, for all you nosy folk), and when I watched Stranger Things, I was (at least momentarily), transported back to my childhood, and was reminded of a time in my life when things were a little less complicated.

And no, I am not looking back with rose-colored glasses.  That’s 3 D glasses I am using, thank you very much!

Now excuse me, I have to go find some leggings that coordinate with my banana clip…battling extra-dimensional monsters will just have to wait!


The nods to different types of horror

Well, we just talked about how the show is scary.  So of course, since it is a show in the horror category, right?

Captain obvious strikes again!

Actually, this reason is more in regards to the fact of how the show paid homage to so many different types of horror.

First of all, we have the 1980’s horror aspect.  When I watched, I was reminded of all the 80’s classics:  A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and the Halloween movies.  Those movies had teenagers or young adults as their protagonists, just like Stranger Things.

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One of the main points of the show was the fear of the unknown.  Again, I was reminded of John Carpenter (The Thing.)  The premise of The Thing is a life form that is not understood, just like Mr. Tulip-Head in Stranger Things.  That creature is definitely not understood, nor would understanding be a good thing (although it may result in one being forced to ingest slugs.)

I was also reminded of the movie Alien, which (again) deals with the fear of the unknown.  And has a strong female protagonist.  Nancy and Ellen Riply…now that would be a dangerous combo!

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And I was also reminded of H.P. Lovecraft

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Yes, a show that is a mix of Stephen King’s It and The Goonies also has some nods to Lovecraft…who knew?

The fear of the unknown and creatures not of this world is a pretty common theme in most all  Lovecraft stories.  The Dunwich Horror and The Colour Out of Space are good examples of this.

The idea that Will had been touched by the unknown (after he pukes up a slug and seems to be back in the Upside-Down momentarily) and forever changed is also something that is distinctively Lovecraftian.  One of the running themes in Lovecraft’s stories is that knowledge is not necessarily always a good thing, and Will experiencing life in another dimension was not necessarily a good thing.  In fact, I think that experience will have some pretty severe repercussions, but only time (and a second season) will tell.

In fact, I found the end of this season to be pretty unsettling, as the camera shots and the shots of the stars in the sky seemed to imply that someone (or something) had its eye on Will, his friends, Nancy, Jonathan and the whole town of Hawkins, Indiana.  And that someone or something was not friendly.  Not friendly at all.


It is a HUGE homage to Stephen King

While we are on the subject of horror and scary things…

This reason may be a bit redundant.

After all, Stephen King is a horror writer.  And he is scary.  He is even tied into the 1980’s (It, Pet Sematary, Cujo and Firestarter are all 80’s books.) He even ties into the feminist part, since he is also capable of writing strong female characters.

But, he is The Master.  And The Master deserves his own entry.  Not to mention the fact that there are aspects to this show that are distinctly Stephen King.

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We do have one character specifically asking another character if she has read a Stephen King book.  Hey, if you are going to drop a bunch of King Easter eggs, you may as well admit it, right?

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The fact that Eleven’s mother was drugged in order to enhance latent PSI abilities is a direct reference to the book (and movie) Firestarter.  In Firestarter, a man and woman are drugged as part of an experiment.  The man and woman fall in love, marry and have a child.  The child is gifted (or perhaps cursed) with the ability to start fires with her mind.  This is similar to Eleven’s situation, in that her mother was drugged, and then gave birth to a child with PSI abilities (aka Eleven.)

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Plus, I am pretty sure that Hawkins Laboratory is actually an operative of The Shop

People, especially children, with extraordinary abilities, are a major theme in King’s work.  The Shining, Carrie, Everything’s Eventual, Dr. Sleep and Firestarter are just some examples.  In fact, in the Dark Tower series, people with these abilities even have a name:  Breakers.  And Eleven definitely classifies as a Breaker.  Don’t worry, I won’t tell the Low Men!

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Traveling between realities is also a huge theme in King’s work.  In fact, this also has a specific name: going Todash.  And the space in between realities is called the Todash space, and monsters lurk in the Todash space.  When Eleven was in the blackness and first encountered that monster…I would say that was a pretty good representation of Todash space!

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In King’s books, there are doors that lead to realities.  They are known as “thinnies,” and allow travel to different worlds and even different time periods.  Eleven was able to use her PSI abilities to make one of these doors.  And, as far as we know, that door still exists at Hawkins Laboratory, with the potential for more creatures (The Mist comes to mind) to cross over to the Stranger Things level of The Tower

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Yeah, I said it.  I gave Stranger Things its own level on The Dark Tower.  So if Roland and his ka-tet, or perhaps Danny Torrance, end up employing the services of a certain girl with a fondness for Eggo waffles…well, you heard it from me first, folks!


It gives an honest portrayal of small town life

I am someone who grew up in a small town, so I feel qualified to write about this topic.  And it is something that has come up in many a blog post, mainly in the Stephen King related posts, as small towns are as vital to a Stephen King novel as kids with PSI abilities, homicidal clowns and rabid St. Bernards.

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I have discovered that the only people who really understand the small town are those who have spent time in the small town (like Stephen King, obviously.)

You have one extreme that sees the environment as charming, quaint, maybe even bucolic.  Can kids really go missing in a small town?  You can leave your doors unlocked, right?  The locals are charming!

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Then, there is the other extreme:  people who see the small town populated by the likes of the Peacock family, with no access to modern technology (what plumbing?) and just a general ignorance of the outside world, period.

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The truth is that small towns are complex.  Stephen King hits on this in books like Needful Things, It, ‘Salem’s Lot and many, many others.  Stranger Things also hits on this, and in only eight episodes.  I am sure that this theme will be discussed more in (hopefully) upcoming seasons as well.

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On the the one hand, there is a sense of community in a town like Hawkins, Indiana.  People rally together to comfort Joyce and help search for Will when it is believed that he is still alive.  People are at ease with each other, because if they don’t know you, they probably went to school with one of your parents.  Or worked with your best friend at the local factory.

But small towns have a sense of ugliness about them too.  I can personally testify to this.  And Mike and his friends can as well.  The bullies hurl a racial slur at Lucas early on.  Steve is able to spread rumors and ruin Nancy’s “reputation” fairly quickly.  The lack of concern for Barb after she disappears is downright disturbing.  People quickly assume that Barb is a runaway, and no effort is made on her behalf.  And that is part of small town life:  the people in the town do not want to believe that something may be amiss, and will try to cover it up.

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So how long have the inhabitants of Hawkins Laboratory suspected, at least somewhere deep down, that something was amiss in their town?  Obviously, Dr. Brenner (who will be referred to in this blog as Dr. Pedophile, due to his disgusting nature) has been performing unethical experiments for a long time.  At the very least, these experiments produced poor Eleven, and a woman in a vegetative state (likely the mother of Eleven.)

But Eleven is the 11th.  The 11th of what?  Are there others like her?  If so, what happened to them?  And what do the people living in the town know?  What other skeletons will emerge?

The show has been renewed for a second season, so I am sure we will be finding out a lot more about Hawkins, Indiana, and its secrets.


Dustin

Now, all of the characters are fabulous.  Let me just get that out there, less I ruffle the tentacles of Mr. Tulip-Head, and any other monsters that resemble flora gone terribly wrong!

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Along with Old Tulip-Head, I have much love for the characters in this show.  Even the bad guys, like Dr. Pedophile.  They are well drawn-out and believable, even when they are behaving in ways that may make one scratch his or her head (talking to you, Sheriff Hop.)

But there is one character that deserves his own entry.

So, without any further ado…let me introduce Dustin!

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And if you don’t love Dustin, then you are definitely in the same category as people who kick puppies and listen to Nickelback!

Ok, I may be joking.  About the kicking puppies bit, anyway.

On the surface, Dustin is lovable.  Actually, everything about him is lovable, from his love of chocolate pudding, to his smile and even that speech impediment!

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But, there is much more to Dustin than his ability to track down chocolate pudding and that charming smile of his.

Dustin is the glue that holds his group of friends together.  It is true that Mike is the brains, and Lucas is a fighter.

However, if it weren’t for Dustin, the group may have fallen apart.  Mike and Lucas were constantly at odds with each other, especially when Eleven was added to the fold.  In fact, things got physical, and Lucas was thrown in the air by Eleven for his troubles.

But due to Dustin’s insightful nature (he did understand that he could not have the same place in Mike’s life, because he didn’t come into it until fourth grade), Lucas and Mike were able to come to an agreement and reconcile.  Dustin played the mediator, getting each side to compromise with each other, so that they did not compromise their mission:  saving Will from what was literally Hell.

Dustin has been compared to Vern Tessio, a character in the movie Stand By Me.  Superficially, there is something to that, as both Vern and Dustin provide comic relief and are the easy going friends who try to keep the peace.

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But as a wise man pointed out:  Dustin would never forget where he left his pennies.

BOOM!

This is Dustin.  He’s our friend and essential to keeping us from killing each other so that we don’t leave our other friend some place that is not on any map!

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The friendships

Much of Stranger Things is about friendships, and the relationships the characters have with each other.

Obviously, we have Mike, Will, Lucas and Dustin.  The OF, or Original Friendship, if you will.  When Will goes missing, Mike will stop at nothing to find Will so that his group can be whole again.

Then, there is Eleven.  Mike and Eleven seem to bond immediately, and Eleven slowly becomes something more than a human flashlight to Mike, even though he is still desperate to find his missing friend.

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In fact, it could be argued that Eleven’s presence makes all the boys better people, although this is especially true for Mike, whose relationship with Eleven opens his eyes, and causes him to grow up a little.

We also have Nancy and Barb.  Barb starts off as Nancy’s friend who is willing to do anything for her, including lying to her parents so that she can sneak out and spend time with Steven.  However, Barb disappears into the Upside-Down, a seeming victim of the Mr. Tulip-Head.  Like Will, Nancy is forced to grow up, as she searches for Barb, and encounters the callous reaction of law enforcement and even her parents, who refuse to believe that Barb is anything other than a teenage runaway.

There is the relationship between Nancy and Jonathan.  Jonathan is frantically searching for his brother, and Nancy is frantically searching for her friend.  The two bond in their mutual tragedy and work together to defeat the evil that is trying to destroy their town.  Nancy develops a respect for Jonathan, viewing him as a person, rather than the “weird kid” that her peers see him as.  Jonathan also develops a respect for Nancy, and seems to feel something more than friendship for her, even though Nancy reconciles with Steve.

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Steve also bonds with Jonathan, and seems to genuinely feel remorse for the bullying.  However, that friendship seems to be tentative at best, given that both men have feelings for Nancy.

In other words, people had “frenemies,” even back in the ancient times!


It tackles taboo topics

It is no secret that horror and “taboo” topics are linked.  Almost every horror movie features sex of some kind (Friday the 13th and its approximately 725 sequels are a great example of this.)  Candyman is another movie that deals with taboo topics, because it addresses racism.

And don’t even get me started on Stephen King, The King of Taboo Topics (pun intended.)  King books run the gamut, from domestic violence, to bullying, to substance abuse and even to the death of a child.  When “real-world” issues are included alongside the supernatural ones, the the story becomes that much more believable.

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Stranger Things is no different, in that it also deals with taboo topics.  The show begins with every parent’s worst nightmare:  the disappearance of a child.  And it only gets more taboo from there.

Early on in the series, we witness the bullying that Mike and his friends endure.  Lucas is treated to a racial epithet.  Dustin is harassed due to his speech impediment.  And it gets worse, as the bullies make some disparaging remarks about Will’s supposed death, when they are supposed to be mourning the loss of their classmate.

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Mike is not the only character who experiences bullying.  Jonathan is also harassed for being different, and this harassment is experienced at the hands of Steve.  Steve is also insensitive to the disappearance of Will, and to the disappearance of Barb, the best friend of the girl he claims to love.

We have the character of Sheriff Hopper.  Hop’s character is a walking bundle of taboos, actually.

First of all, Hop is a substance abuser.  He is an alcoholic, much like Jack Torrance in The Shining.  Not surprisingly, he is also a womanizer, using sex and alcohol to escape his demons.

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Hop has also experienced the ultimate tragedy:  he has lost a child.  Not surprisingly, this experience has shaped him into the man that he is.  The loss cost him his marriage, and his ex wife has moved on and started a new family.  Hop attempts to do this, but struggles mightily.  However, when he meets Eleven and spends time in the Upside Down so that he can rescue Will, Hop is able to begin healing.  It could even be said that Will and Eleven are surrogate children of Hop.

Often, subjects are “taboo” and therefore frightening because we choose to keep them in the dark.  But when the light is turned on, the monsters are no longer as formidable as they once were.


Now, I know that I said I had made this list with no particular order in mind.  But, like Maury Povich might say, this post has determined that to be a lie!

There is one aspect of Stranger Things that deserves her own entry, and should be in the spotlight, at least for a minute.

I mean, after all, it would be an Upside Down kind of logic if I didn’t pay her homage, right?

So, without any further ado…

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Here is my favorite thing about Stranger Things!


Eleven

Yes, in case you have not figured it out, I am talking about our favorite telekinetic, Eggo waffle loving, mouth breather hater with a cute buzz cut adolescent, aka Eleven!

Eleven is bad ass.  I can’t think of any other way to put it.

She is here to kick ass and eat Eggo waffles, and she’s almost out of waffles!

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In all seriousness, I just love Eleven.  How can you not?  People who hate Eleven are like people that listen to Nickelback!

Eleven is one tough chick.

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She started out as an experiment.  She doesn’t know her real parents.  The only parental figure that she’s ever known is a creepy scientist, known as Dr. Pedophile for the purposes of this blog.

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And to Dr. Pedophile, she is nothing but his lab experiment, to be used as how he sees fit.  And he uses her to open gateways that should never be opened, and to explore what should remain unknown.  When she escapes, his concern is not for her as a person, but as his test subject that someone else may access.

Eleven is forced to face things that would frighten people three times her age to death.  Yet, she somehow does it, in the name of helping a boy that she has never met.

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She is also fiercely loyal to her friends, although she has only known Mike, Lucas and Dustin for a short time.  She makes the bully pee his pants…that is true friendship right there!

Even though Eleven has been raised in a lab, she still manages to exhibit the most humanity of anyone on the show.  Nearly everyone on the show has an agenda:  Mike and his friends want to find Will, Hop wants to expose Hawkins Laboratory, Nancy is looking for revenge for Barb.  But not Eleven.  The only thing Eleven is looking for (besides waffles) is love and acceptance.  And she does manage to find that, if only for a short time.

However, Eleven’s happiness is tragically cut short, when she makes the ultimate sacrifice:  she battles an extra-dimensional monster, and seemingly sacrifices herself so that her friends may live.

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Often, bad ass can come in small packages.  And Eleven is a lot of bad ass in one small package.  But sometimes, small packages have the most give, just like Eleven.


So, there you have it.  Eleven reasons why I love Stranger Things.  Sure, maybe I missed a few, but I think I got most of them.  Hopefully, I don’t incur the ire of Mr. Tulip-Head and his merry band of slugs1

This is Stranger Things.  Its my show and it’s crazy…crazy awesome, that it is!

So, if you haven’t watched this show, I have given you eleven reasons to make sure that Netflix subscription is up to date…

So flop down on your couch, and prepare for one epic binge session!

Happy watching!