'Stranger Things' Season 2: A Guide to 1984 in Pop Culture
Just in case you've been living in the Upside Down, let me get you up to speed: Stranger Things Season 2 is officially happening. And as revealed by the show's unreasonably-attractive creators the Duffer Brothers, the new episodes will be set a year after the events of the first season, which would place the characters squarely in the latter days of 1984 (Season 1 took place between November and December of 1983). While that's not a whole lot later, it's still enough time for a massive number of pop-culture and consumer products to have been introduced in the interim, from film to TV to music to technology.
So what, pray tell, will Mike, Dustin, Lucas, Nancy, Jonathan and Steve (but not Barb, obvs) be using, watching, wearing, reading and listening to in the new season that wouldn't have been available to them in the prior timeline because they didn't exist yet? For those curious about the referential aspect of the series, I've put together a little list.
In fairness, Stranger Things is far more than the sum of its pop-cultural references (and thank god, because there are quite a few anachronisms in there.) Despite owing a huge debt -- and often paying direct homage -- to the output of '80s masters like Spielberg, King and Carpenter, it also works surprisingly well on its own terms thanks to an emotionally-resonant plot, some strong direction, Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein's great score, and of course the superb performances by its lead actors. But spotting the period references is also part of the fun, and in that spirit I've compiled a few 1984-specific things that could potentially pop up in the new season.
Much like the previous year's He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, the Transformers animated series was a vehicle to sell toys -- in this case, the first generation of Transformers action figures, which were rebranded from Japanese company Takara's Diaclone and Microman toy lines. The series itself debuted September 17, 1984 and ran for four seasons in syndication.
Macintosh personal computer
Steve Jobs introduced the first Macintosh personal computer on January 10, 1984, accompanied by an iconic $1.5 million commercial helmed by Alien and Blade Runner director Ridley Scott that aired just once nationally, during Super Bowl XVIII.
Following up on their mega-successful Walkman, Sony capitalized on the two-year-old CD format with the Discman, released in November 1984. Despite eventually becoming a standard accessory for teens and adults, it wouldn't catch on with the buying public for several more years, as the popularity of CDs gradually overtook cassettes. In other words: if we see the Stranger Things kids toting one of these around in Season 2, those are some very cutting-edge middle schoolers.
Ray Ban Wayfarers
Ok fine, so Wayfarers first experienced a surge in popularity in 1983, after Tom Cruise donned a pair in the 1983 blockbuster Risky Business. But they really exploded in '84, aided by the likes of both that year's Miami Vice and Corey Hart's music video for the monster hit "Sunglasses at Night" (which was one of Season 1's musical anachronisms, by the way). These would look great with Steve's hair, just saying.
The classic board game -- in which players make up definitions to uncommon words in an attempt to stump their opponents -- was released in 1984 and eventually became an American staple. That said, I doubt Mike and co. will tear themselves away from Dungeons and Dragons long enough to spend any time with this. Next word: "Demogorgon."
The iconic microwave popcorn brand was launched that year. Perfect for game night!
"Where's the beef?"
Clara Peller's iconic catchphrase for fast food giant Wendy's first aired on January 10, 1984 and quickly entered the national lexicon.
Though Hulk Hogan had been wrestling for a number of years prior to winning his first WWF World Heavyweight Championship against the Iron Sheik on January 23, 1984, his star hit the stratosphere following that Madison Square Garden bout.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Turtles wouldn't reach the peak of their popularity until the late 1980s, so I doubt Mirage's original black-and-white comic (with a print run of only 3,275) that debuted in May 1984 would have penetrated the pre-teen bubble of suburban Indiana. That said, these kids do seem pretty savvy about pop culture, so you never know.
Kitty Pryde and Wolverine
In Stranger Things Season 1, Will lent Dustin Uncanny X-Men #134, an issue with more than a slight parallel to Eleven's plight. Since they're clearly fans of the series, in Season 2 it wouldn't be a surprise to see them trading a copy of Kitty Pryde and Wolverine, the six-issue series that established the future Shadowcat as a full-fledged superhero.
Photo Credit: Marvel Comics
Other 1984 comics: Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, Infinity, Inc., New Teen Titans Vol. 2, Superman #400, Amazing Spider-Man #252 (first appearance of Spider-Man's black costume)
Firestarter and Children of the Corn
The works of King and their various adaptations provided a major reference point in Season 1, which featured a title sequence that was directly inspired by the typeface common in the cover art of King's novels from the era. In the timeline of the series, don't be surprised to see posters for Children of the Corn and Firestarter, two King adaptations released in 1984. That latter of which, in case you weren't aware, serves as an obvious reference point for the character of Eleven.
In print, two King-penned novels were also released that year: Thinner (under the pseudonym Richard Bachman) and The Talisman, which King wrote with fellow horror author Peter Straub.
Other 1984 movies: Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Gremlins, Karate Kid, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Terminator, Sixteen Candles, Footloose, The Muppets Take Manhattan
Other 1984 books: William Gibson's Neuromancer, Frank Herbert's Heretics of Dune, John Updike's The Witches of Eastwick, Tom Clancy's The Hunt for Red October
Madonna's Like a Virgin
Stranger Things may be an ode to '80s-era boyhood, but it also presents a sensitive portrait of Mike's older sister Nancy, who in Season 1 was stuck in the brutal throes of teen-girl confusion. Speaking of which, Madonna become an international star, fashion icon and controversy-magnet with her second album Like a Virgin, which was released on November 12, 1984 and netted the singer two monster singles: the title track and "Material Girl." If Stranger Things Season 2 takes place at the same time of year as its predecessor, it would be nearly impossible not to drop in a Madonna reference or two given her ubiquitousness during that period -- particularly if Nancy and her gal pals are inclined towards the pop end of the music spectrum.
Other 1984 music: Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A., Prince's Purple Rain, Van Halen's 1984, Culture Club's Colour by Numbers, U2's The Unforgettable Fire, Run-D.M.C.'s eponymous album, Band Aid's holiday charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?"
Alex Trebek takes over Jeopardy!
The long-running quiz show's syndicated launch on September 10, 1984 introduced the world to Alex Trebek, who has gone on to host the series for over 30 years.
V: The Series
A follow-up to the top-rated miniseries from the previous year, the launch of V: The Series was a major TV event in the fall of 1984, and I can easily imagine Mike and co. being intrigued by its dark sci-fi premise. Then again, maybe they've already had enough dark sci-fi in their own lives to skip this one altogether.
Also on TV: The Cosby Show, Tales from the Darkside, Highway to Heaven, Punky Brewster, Charles in Charge, Airwolf, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Night Court, Jim Henson's Muppet Babies