A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Stranger Things is a sci-fi drama that centers on a missing child and a mysterious, dangerous creature. A young boy is taken by the creature, which emits grunts and growls and leaves behind pulsing webs of gray material. His terrified mother, brother, and group of friends search for him, as does law enforcement. There's some scary stuff: A man is pulled up into the air and presumably killed by something looming in the air above him. A sympathetic character is suddenly shot and killed; blood and gore are shown briefly. A young girl is the subject of some type of experiment; we see her escape in hospital scrubs. Medical/military authorities have complicated motives, which may make young viewers fearful of trusting authority figures. Two teens meet secretly in a school bathroom to make out; there's lots of kissing and a pretty heavy make-out scene in a bedroom, with a character removing her shirt. Language includes "hell," "damn," and "s--t"; one woman calling another a "bitch"; young characters calling each other "douche bag"; and references to being "screwed" and "pissed off." Parents and teens will have fun watching this nail-biter of a mystery.
What's the story?
STRANGER THINGS centers on the mysterious disappearance of young Will (Noah Schnapp), who vanishes in the woods while biking home from a Dungeons & Dragons session with his friends. His terrified mother, Joyce (Winona Ryder), and his brother, Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), are certain something terrible has happened to him, and the detective leading the search team, Chief Hopper (David Harbour), is increasingly worried, too. Meanwhile, a mysterious young girl, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), has escaped from a shadowy experimental facility -- one that seems connected with an otherworldly creature that dispatches its victims from above, grunts and growls when near, and leaves behind pulsing webs of gray matter. Where is Will? What is the creature we hear but don't see? And just what are those officials up to in their secret laboratory?
Is it any good?
Dark, creepy, and sublimely intriguing, this 1980s throwback will remind you of many a vintage-era sci-fi/horror movie, in the most pleasant way imaginable. The cast is clad in dated '80s wear, walls are (fake) wood-paneled, phones are firmly attached to cords, and kids are free enough to race around on their bicycles, looking for clues. Meanwhile, a missing boy and an appeared-from-nowhere girl are our first clues that all is not as it seems in the small-town setting, as are glimpses of a military locale staffed with white-suited, terrified doctors on the trail of a huge creature who seems to have made an escape.
Violence and gore are low; atmosphere and spookiness are high -- and with characters of kid- and parent-age to relate to, the whole family will have someone to root for. Stranger Things is a bit too creepy for the youngest viewers, but tweens and teens will be interested in the mystery and compelled by the finely drawn characters, with adults additionally amused by the vintage clothing, technology, and prices, as well as charmed by the spunkiness of the middle school-age heroes, who are ready, willing, and able to save the day when the adults in their lives are stymied.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why missing children are a staple of TV drama. What type of viewer are dramas like Stranger Things hoping to appeal to? Why is a missing child such a common dramatic element?
What era is this drama set in? How can you tell? Consider costuming, dialogue, props, and settings in your answer.
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