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    A rift between worlds: the retro-1980s and the neoliberal Upside Down in Stranger Things

    Ní Fhlainn, Sorcha ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4895-0780 (2022) A rift between worlds: the retro-1980s and the neoliberal Upside Down in Stranger Things. Gothic Studies, 24 (2). pp. 201-218. ISSN 1362-7937

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    Abstract

    The Netflix series Stranger Things (2016-) is one of a host of recent 1980s texts that returns to the 1980s through the lens of cultural nostalgia. Recalling and resituating its viewers in the Reagan-era, the series presents a contemporary Gothic narrative by returning to the 1980s as a period of profound cultural importance, setting its secondary Gothic space, The Upside Down, as a Gothic neoliberal shadow world that conveys profound implications for a terrifying future. Examining the 1980s as a nexus point for socio-political anxieties and nostalgic recall, which has dominated the economic landscape and many Hollywood films and shows in the twenty-first century, this article argues that Stranger Things situates its characters at the precipice of a wrong turn in history, a period in which its youthful band of heroes, like their 1980s counterparts in its science fiction and fantasy cinema before them, must chase down their own futures to prevent a terrible future fate. Through ‘reflective nostalgia’, this rift between the 1980s onscreen and the shadow future of the Upside Down is presented as a diachronic narrative, a return to the past to identify and critique the 1980s as a point of origin for numerous socio-economic anxieties in contemporary neoliberal Gothic world. Stranger Things, alongside other 1980s retro-texts, articulates our own Gothic terrors in the contemporary moment. Moreover, this article argues how and why the Gothic 1980s is a revisited site of return from which we need to learn, particularly following the post-2008 financial crisis, to overcome the necro-economic consequences of the ‘Upside Down’ neoliberal wasteland of the 21st century.

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