Stranger Things Season 1, Chapter 4
I was hoping that the discovery in the last few minutes of chapter 3 wasn’t just a head-fake to lead viewers astray for no good reason. At least they faked viewers out for a reason (they incorporate episode 3’s shocking discovery at the quarry into the plot so that it actually leads the police chief to another improbable, conspiratorial discovery). But still, they faked us out. It feels like a cheap trick, but, then again, this is television, and we are referencing the kind of 80s pop-culture that was all about cheap tricks: those distracting, shiny objects that mask what is actually going on.
Maybe it is just me. I have a hard time suspending disbelief and submitting to plot-driven devices like this. That’s one of the many things you can lose in the process of learning about nuance and subtlety in storytelling: the pleasure of being surprised. That desire to be surprised with a new kind of surprise. I wrestle with how much to feed these kinds of visceral responses. Go ahead, scare me. Tap into my latent fears. Confirm my paranoia. Make me feel something.
What do you do when a story or a piece of art doesn’t serve you, but asks you to serve it? There are lots of answers, depending on what you are engaging. There are artists that reward you with gifts that are expected and gifts that are unexpected. In this case, with this kind of a modern-day novel on the “small screen,” you could weigh the cost of putting it down until you’ve gotten enough sleep and carved enough mental space to enjoy it further, or you could plow through it at the expense of sleep and life’s other necessities. You could “binge” through it in order to satisfy yourself with the answers that the TV show wants to swing you towards: the who, what, when, where, and why answers. To stop in the middle and consider how characters are responding or growing in the midst of tension-building plot devices needs to be rewarding enough in itself or it feels pretty pointless when the main drive of the show is to get you watching and to keep you watching.
I can imagine that Stranger Things is rewarding, in some ways, if you were to watch it from start to finish in a short period of time. My speculation during this show as it sets up so many mysterious curtains is feeling, at the moment, a little like merely speculating about what is still partially hidden behind each curtain. And it’s probably of no interest to read through someone’s thoughts one step at a time if you’ve already been through the whole thing. Or if you haven’t started it yet. Live-tweeting a show live, in real time, or discussing sections of it in a classroom, might be more rewarding if more than one person is involved in the discussion. I’ll lean on the expectation that I am indeed writing in a “journal” that is engaging what I am able to view/read with the time I have. Probably just me trying squeeze a little more juice out of the orange rind than is really worth the squeeze, but there it is. Anyone else reading can make of it what they will. I’ll watch Stranger Things, episode 5 when I can get a free hour or two to view it and write down a few thoughts about it. Because that’s the kind of thing I like to do.