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Wednesday 7 June 2023 Dublin: 13°C
Netflix Netflix's Stranger Things
Mid-life crisis 'I'm approaching the years when I should be buying a flashy sports car'
But I’m coping with growing older by indulging in 80s nostalgia instead, writes Michelle McBride.

STRANGER THINGS 2 was released last year and I consumed it faster than a kid feasting on this year’s selection box for breakfast. The nostalgic reward was, yet again, delightful. But that’s not what fuelled my binge watching.

For, as someone standing at the entrance to their mid-life crisis and clinging to the door like a terrified toddler, Stranger Things offers some respite from my very own Shadowmonster.

The monster (due to arrive just after the January blues have departed) that reminds me that, not only I am fast approaching the years when I should be buying that flashy sports car but, more worryingly, I can’t afford it.

Dealing with oncoming wrinkles

And so, Stranger Things 2 became my Porsche-albeit a rental. It helped me deal with the oncoming wrinkles and the scripting of my New Year’s Resolutions by reminding me that I got to watch Jaws as a kid, spent a year being traumatised by the ET poster on my bedroom door and could be entertained beyond belief by the mysteries of the ‘Walkie-Talkie’.

It reminded me that childhood imagination doesn’t need CGI or a smart phone. Or at least it didn’t. The music is the biggest trigger.

The soundtrack of Stranger Things transports those of my vintage back to their vineyard, not necessarily by its sound but more so through its format. I didn’t have Spotify as kid. I had a radio with a tape deck and mastered the art of pressing record when the DJ stopped introducing Borderline or whatever song I was crushing on in the 80s.

I can remember my first four albums. I can remember because I got them for Christmas and birthdays. And I played them until they got caught in my Sony Walkman.

Madonna’s Like a Virgin, George Michael’s Faith, Wet, Wet Wet’s Popped in Souled Out and Transvision Vamp’s Veleveteen. Would I remember them if they were my first downloads? I can’t remember the first musical download of my twenties, I don’t imagine accessing that childhood download as an adult would be any easier. Although there may be some digital archive I can search through to find that answer, I’m just not so sure it would feel as good as simply remembering.

I know this is the prelude to a mid-life crisis because I’m about to say ‘back in my day’. But it’s true, Stranger Things is filled with things from back in my day. And just like how kids are now told the jobs of the future don’t exist yet, the childhood of my past doesn’t exist either. It’s not that it was better, because I’m sure my time travelling goggles have a hue of rose, but it was different. Different In a good way.

Kids will no longer know the satisfaction of rolling the tape of your current favourite band back into its cassette with a pencil. An art that demanded patience. Patience and pencils. And maybe a break for dinner. Findus Cripsy Pancakes if you were lucky.

Cassette tapes also offered an outlet for the perfect revenge crime. A piece of sellotape could enable a disgruntled sibling to record over a carefully constructed mix tape playlist with a gleefully malicious push of a button. You can’t download over a download. And deleting it doesn’t have the same staying power as a taped over song. Maybe Stranger Things will revive the cassette and give me a reason to dust out the tape deck that still hogs shelf space in my room.

Another strange thing about this reminiscence is that a lot of these nostalgic memories aren’t actually mine. They belong to Elliot in ET or Mikey in The Goonies. Nobody drove to school when I was a kid, not even when I went to secondary school in the 90s. The nuns would have frowned upon such extravagance. And, of course, the thoughts of a kid with a car was a laughable thing-in the 90s.

I did have a skateboard though. But I was nowhere near as adept on it as Maxine. I could barely master a 45⁰ never mind a 180⁰. I lived on hope and childhood naivety. But such was the mastery of Spielberg’s storytelling when I was a kid that I have adopted the nostalgia that belongs, in cinematic reality, to his fictional characters, as my own. And it makes this stage of adulting a little easier.

I’ve parked my crisis for the time being and instead I shall be enjoying the nostalgic sugar rush of the 80s. And my New Year’s Resolutions for 2018 have gone old school. I’m not giving up anything. Instead this old dog is going to take up old habits once more.

I’m going to watch Jaws again and maybe ET. I’ll look into getting a Polaroid camera and Operation. Or maybe I’ll just get a bigger boat, because I’m sure in life, as I get older, I’ll encounter stranger things than a mid-life crisis.

Michelle McBride is a freelance journalist.

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