Stranger Friends & Stranger Things

StrangerThings


“She’s our friend and she’s crazy.” – Dustin


There’s no doubt about it. There’s something really special about Stranger Things especially considering its huge mainstream following despite the genre it’s in. Yet, there’s nothing all that strange about why so many have latched onto this show. There’s a lot that resonates especially when it comes to the dorky friends at the core of it.

I think we can each find something to our liking in the show. Who doesn’t want to watch a group of nerdy, neighborhood kids go toe-to-toe with a malevolent, inter-dimensional beast?  I mean seriously. There may be really, really strange things happening in each episode, but the plot is really only there so we can see how these friends address it. That’s probably why so many are into this show. The show is all about friendship. You don’t have to like fantasy, horror, or sci-fi to love this whimsical and tight-knit group of friends. You may hate Dungeons & Dragons or an eighty’s atmosphere (I’m still not convinced anyone can hate this), but you can’t deny how awesome Will, Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and El are together.

There’s something within this little community of friends that is fundamentally sincere. This show glorifies the youthful and the weird, the whimsical and the ambitious. And like Mike’s dad and El’s dad, it mocks the jaded and dead-beat. It’s a show that takes place in a world where cynicism and apathy are not seen as virtues but as malaises.  And as a result, friendship actually matters.

“Friends don’t lie.”

It’s simple. It’s sincere. It’s the gang’s most cherished rule. Friends don’t lie because sincerity is a virtue. There’s something deeply noble about the kids in this show. They handle conflict remarkably well. They notice when rifts in their group are happening and they long to see them mended. They fight, yes. But they also fight demo-dogs for each other. They are able to address reality and lean into it head first without buying into the sort of cynicism that says, “it doesn’t really matter what you do…We’re just kids… the Demogorgon will clearly beat us.” Hell, I don’t think the kids are idiots (let’s be real, they are pretty freakin’ smart), surely they know the danger they are heading into to save their friends. It seems to me they know their chances of survival aren’t great in a lot of moments, but to them, it’s worth it to keep fighting.

These kids prove that their friendship isn’t just some dispensable, self-serving idea. Their friendship isn’t a means to an end: it’s an end in itself. This show isn’t about how a group of friends can take down a monster. It’s about why it’s worth fighting a nearly invincible monster for the sake of your friends.

I’m sure we can all admit this: we long for friends who fight for us and we long for friends to fight for. We want strange friends who know the strange things that make us us and who understand the strange situations we find ourselves in. I imagine it’s a fear for many of us that if we were to suddenly disappear would anyone come looking for us? Would anyone actually notice? Do we have friends in our lives who know where we would be or where we were? Do we have friends willing to drop what they are doing to come find us? Better yet, are we those sorts of friends? Perhaps not.

And there’s something deeply strange about that.

It’s no wonder stories like Stranger Things, IT, The Lord of the Rings, Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars, and Harry Potter, are as good as they are. They express something many of us long for: to be in daily proximity with friends and to know the oddities of each other’s lives and the journeys they are on. It may seem strange to us the adventures these sorts of characters find themselves on, but there really shouldn’t be anything strange about these little friend-groups. Rather, what should feel strange to us is that we typically find them more regularly in stories than in reality.  As the great Stephen King once said, “I think that real friendship always makes us feel such sweet gratitude, because the world almost always seems like a very hard desert, and the flowers that grow there seem to grow against such high odds.” And as strange as flowers in the desert are, real friendship in a cynical world is a wonderful gift. Yet, with as much youthful hope as I can muster, I long for the day when flowers blossoming isn’t considered a strange thing at all.
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