In case you’ve been in a coma, Stranger Things dropped season two on Friday, and if you could binge it, you did.
While we’re not about to give away the entire storyline (Eggos have been discontinued and Eleven’s out for blood!), it’s safe to assume references to the Demogorgon, the Upside Down and Dungeon & Dragons, are a plenty. So too are sayings like “easy peasy,” “totally tubular” and “friends don’t lie,” which all make their way into the nine episodes.
The Duffer Brothers like to give nods to their birth year (1984) and pop culture references from the ‘80s in general—walkie-talkies, He-Man, Family Feud, Terminator—it’s all there and season two has more of it.
This season we are also introduced to a handful of new characters, all of which hold some sort of pop culture reference, naturally.
We’re introduced to Bob Newby (played by Goonies’ star, Sean Astin). The kids in Stranger Things share a lot with the kids from the 1985 film, so seeing Sean Astin, but just a wee bit older, is a nice salute. Bob’s also a Radio Shack employee, which was the electronic shop of the time.
Astin isn’t the only new character to bring back some nostalgia though.
Paul Reiser (Aliens)
Paul Reiser plays Dr. Owens in season 2, a very similar role to the one he had in Aliens (1986). In both cases Reiser is trying to get people to believe his is the good guy and that people should “trust him” even though he’s surrounded by prodding tools and machines.
Meet Mad Max
We’re also introduced to Maxine, a.k.a “Mad Max,” and although the original came out in 1979, we can’t deny the shout out to the film franchise, Mad Max, which garnered popularity in the 80s and onwards.
Rob Lowe, 2.0
Then there’s the new villain (or so he wants everybody to think), Max’s stepbrother, Billy, who gives Steve some competition in the ‘best hair of Hawkins’ category. He also looks identical to Rob Lowe’s steamy character in St. Elmo’s Fire (1985).
He could also be a member of the Lost Boys (1985). You decide.
Eleven… phone home
When Eleven puts a sheet over herself, she hopes it will persuade Jim Hopper to let her go trick or treating as a ghost. A similar thing happened in E.T. when they tried to conceal the creature from the public world.
Who you gonna call?
When the guys all dress-up as Ghostbusters, they also argue about why nobody wants to be Winston. According to Lucas, this is because “he joined the team super late, he’s not funny and he’s not even a scientist.”
When Jonathan shows up at the party and Duran Duran’s “Girls on Film” is playing, he starts talking to a girl who he thinks is dressed as a member of KISS, but she’s actually dressed as the lead singer from Siouxsie and the Banshees, Siouxsie Sioux. The band was popular in the gothic rock scene during the time.
Being authentic to the time means making sure product packaging and logos are consistent. When the kids go trick or treating they argue about chocolate bars, and Three Musketeers, which is in Dustin’s top three. The candy’s wrapper in the show is the same you’d have seen the nougat-y goodness wrapped in back in the 80s.
Tom Cruise was all the rage at the time, so it’s no wonder Steve tries to do his best Risky Business re-enactment both at school at during the dance with Nancy.
Nancy pulls off Rebecca De Mornay’s character pretty well, too.
Throughout the season you’ll notice a lot of attention is paid to the presidential election of the era, which saw Reagan/Bush against Mondale/Ferraro. Signs on lawns, in stores, announcements on the radio—this all led up to decision day on November 6, which in 1984 saw Reagan win in a landslide victory.
Push it to the limit
When Billy takes on Steve in basketball you’ll no doubt notice “Scarface (Push It to the Limit)” by Paul Engemann blasting in the background. The song came out in 1983 and its sheer intensity, matched with this random on-screen rivalry, was quite fitting.
Eleven watches a lot of television while she is cooped up at Hopper’s home, and this includes Oreo commercials, horror flicks like Frankenstein, the Terminator trailer, and daytime soap operas. Elle takes specific interest in Susan Lucci’s character, Erica Kane, from the soap All My Children.
And before she gets her TV privileges taken away from Hopper, she takes in Cheers, too.
Like mother like daughter, it seems. When Elle tracks her down her mom, she’s seen in a chair rocking as Family Feud plays in the background.
While Lucas and his family are at the table eating breakfast, Lucas’s father is seen reading The Hawkins Post. Mr. Sinclair’s paper reads “Baby Fae’s Baboon Heart,” which is reference to a real medical case that happened in 1984. Stephanie Fae Beauclair was the first successful infant heart transplant case; she received a baboon heart.
Bob is invited to help Joyce and the kids figure out what the interconnected vines that Will is drawing, mean. When the team eventually finds the spot where everything connects, Bob quips “Yeah? What’s at the X? Pirate Treasure?” This is another reference to the Goonies, which saw the kids in search of finding pirate treasure.
For the Honor of Grayskull!
Lucas’s little sister Erica is hilarious. She doesn’t shy away from telling her brother and his friends exactly what’s on her mind. While Dustin is in desperate need of help (“code red” help, guys), Erica couldn’t care less—she’s much more concerned with ‘80s toys like He-Man, okay? “I got a code for you instead,” she says to Dustin over the walkie-talkie. “It’s called code shut your mouth!”
Nancy and Mike’s mom is seen on the phone talking about Margaret Thatcher (who survived an assassination attempt on her in 1984).
Stand By Steve
Stranger Things paid homage to many classic films in season one and two, including Stand by Me, which can again be seen in episode six when Dustin and Steve are walking over the train tracks trying to bait D’art (evoking similar vibes from the train track scene with the kids in Stand by Me).
Steve gives relationship advice to Dustin, and also let’s him in on his hair secret, which involves using a product endorsed by a popular actress of the time. “When it is damp, four puffs of the Farrah Fawcett spray, ” Steve says before quickly threatening “your ass is grass” to Dustin if he tells anyone. These two need a spinoff series STAT.
When Elle and the team of misfits seek out Ray from the Hawkins lab (one of the men that hurt her and her sister Eight), he’s found at home sitting in front of the television watching Punky Brewster, which is about a young girl who becomes an orphan and is taken in by an older man. The show came out in 1984, and there’s no doubt the scene evokes an eerie feel being that Ray was also responsible for “helping” young girls in the past.
The misfits also refer to Elle as Curly Sue, who was the lead character in 1991 film of the same name. While the film reference is ahead of its time in the show, it’s safe to assume Eleven’s curly hair is the actual reference point. Elle’s can-do, will-do attitude also resembles the lead character’s attitude.
The misfits venture to a convenience store to “stock up” and one of the misfits makes sure to chant “Okay contestants, you have a minute and half, let’s begin your supermarket sweep.” Supermarket Sweep was a game show that saw contestants “sweeping” the aisles for products and food in an allocated time. How fitting too—there’s a reboot on the way.
Will is a “spy” for the shadow monster and if he is to be saved the monster essentially needs to be exorcised out of him. While watching as Will screams, sweats and tries to choke his mother, it’s not hard to draw correlations to The Exorcist.
When Elle needs to close the gate to the Upside Down, she does so with all her might, in true Firestarter (1984) form.
Pretty in Pink
The dance is in full swing, but Dustin is having a hard time getting any of the girls to dance with him. His get-up—head to toe—mirrors Jon Cryer’s in Pretty in Pink, where he played “Duckie Dale” and often struck out with the ladies. Lucky for Dustin, Nancy offers to dance with him and we all get to take in the slow dance cuteness, together.