Has the point of the TV show Stranger Things been turned ‘upside down’?

Whether it be the star cast, the iconic 80’s outfits, music and aesthetic or the Stephen King meets Steven Spielberg, Stranger Things has become an international success brought to life by the imagination of the Duffer Brothers. They have managed to combine science fiction, horror and 80’s nostalgia, to create a record breaking show that is now the most watched English Language show on Netflix. Following the release of season 4, the TV show was placed in the top 10 most popular in 93 countries, after a total of 188.19 million hours viewed for just this one season, living up to its score of 92% rotten tomatoes. The overarching plot of the show revolves around Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), a young girl with the power to control people and objects with her mind, and her group of friends in Hawkins, Indiana. However, from fighting off demi-gorgons, to the mind flayer, or the all powerful Vecna, it appears these kids can never quite catch a moment of ‘normal’. With some misfit adults joining the cast (including Winona Ryder and David Harbour) and side characters the audience really like. It is by no surprise that this show keeps viewers on the edge of their seat, with the amount of twists and turns that happen even before the opening credits have rolled. Therefore there is no mistake in labelling this as a global success of a show, however what I am curious about is how it’s now become a global phenomenon of a brand.

Since its first release in 2016, the TV show ‘Stranger Things’ has had brand collaborations with companies such as Coca Cola, Nike, Levis, MAC Cosmetics, BooHoo, Vans, Burger King… to name just a few in a very long list. All of these well known and global companies all now stock products on their shelves (or virtual shelves), and these are best selling and sold out products. Therefore, I raise an argument of whether the TV show Stranger Things has become over commercialised and is now more of a brand rather than just a TV show. 

This is by no means the first time that this process of a ‘brand creation’ has occurred. Using the well known examples of Harry Potter and the TV show Friends, these too have fallen into the ‘upside down’ of whether it is a brand or motion picture debate. You can purchase their official merchandise or invest in one of their many brand collaborations. Nowadays you can even attend their ‘Experiences’, with tickets available for the Harry Potter tour or the Friends experience. It’s only a matter of time before the Stranger Things experience is launched, oh wait it already has. Launched earlier this year, you can travel back in time into the minds of the Duffer Brothers to star as the protagonist in your own Stranger Things Adventure, with tickets starting at £41 per person, you just know that this is going to be at the top of Christmas lists this year. 

But how did it become so influential? One needn’t look further for proof of this than Kate Bush’s ‘Running up that hill’. Used in season 4 episode 4, in a scene that I will only describe as motion picture history, Bush’s song re-entered the charts, and reached number 3 in the UK, 4 decades after its first release. The song itself has made $2.3 million since May 2022 from its appearance in that one scene. If this does not demonstrate the relevance and popularity this TV show has, then I don’t know what does. It is no wonder that brands have jumped on the bandwagon, when they could potentially receive economic profits like this ! The reason I think this show has done so well and had this much attention both from viewers and brand companies is that it targets such a mass audience, there is an element in the TV show that will appeal to people of a whole bunch of ages. From the 80’s nostalgia, multi-genre storytelling, cliffhangers, character development, binge worthiness. Stranger Things really is an emotional rollercoaster to watch, and I love it.

Therefore, next time you sit down to watch Stranger Things, you can wear your Stranger Things T-shirt from Primark, drink your Stranger Things Coca Cola from your Stranger Things mug, whilst eating your Stranger Things Dominos pizza? What an ‘upside down’ world (or not) that would be. 

Image by David Gomes on Pexels

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