“Is This Where You Build Space Lasers?”: Generic Confrontations, Subversive Reformulations, and Nostalgic Pastiche in the Postmodern Web Series Stranger Things

Joseph Giunta

Independent Scholar

Abstract | This article explores the intersection of science fiction and horror worlds canvassed by the Duffer Brothers’ Netflix series Stranger Things (2016- ). It examines the series’ championing of postmodern pastiche, as well as the text’s overwhelming employment of cultural quotation able to transport spectators back to the early 1980s. Through close examinations of the series’ use of setting, science, and social anxiety, this article argues that the Duffer Brothers successfully engage the generic structures of horror and science fiction while simultaneously subverting them. It contends that by capturing the cultural, social, moral, and historical milieu of the era, Stranger Things infuses further nostalgic intertexts into an already nostalgized referent, arriving at a new postmodern pinnacle. A mélange of generic tropes, sentimental homage, and contemporary progressive ideology, this piece argues that the Duffer Brothers do not simply draft a love letter to their artistic inspirations, but intelligently contextualize the sociocultural connotations of the cinematic realm Stranger Things revisits. In this sense, this essay disputes scholarly claims dismissing the techniques of genre and pastiche, as well as the postmodern on-screen space evolving into a responsible reformulation of nostalgic and generic cinematic frameworks.

Keywords | Stranger Things; science fiction; pastiche; nostalgia; subversion.