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Book Review: 'Stranger Things and Philosophy'

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.

Introduction

“Stranger Things and Philosophy” is a collection of philosophical essays analyzing the Netflix series “Stranger Things”. Sixteen philosophers each bring their own perspective to the table and analyze different aspects of the show.

The Cover of "Stranger Things and Philosophy"

The Cover of "Stranger Things and Philosophy"

About 'Stranger Things and Philosophy"

I had a chance to read an advanced copy of the book provided by the publisher. It was a natural fit since I'm an avid science fiction and horror fan. Here's a synopsis of the book "Stranger Things and Philosophy", subtitled "Thus Spake the Demogorgon".

Chapter 1 asks why people like Barb and rebelled at her death in episode three though she’s the classic sacrificial first victim. It also discusses the seeming blurring of reality and fiction with that viewer rebellion. It then jumps into meta-reality and Stranger Things.

Chapter 2 asks if anything good can come from the Upside Down. It discusses the nature versus nurture argument for evil with relation to the pet Demogorgon Dart and his opposite Doctor Brenner. If a place is evil, then how is Dart good? And if the real world is good, how do you explain Dr. Brenner?

Chapter 3 is an attempt to relate “Stranger Things” to environmentalism. Is it moral to destroy Upside Down, a unique ecosystem?

Chapter 4 asks why we are attracted to horror. It also analyzes the horrific elements of “Stranger Things”

Chapter 5 analyzes the most common fears in humans and why we have these fears. It compares horror to humanity’s dual nature. It also answers why we are attracted to horror movies and other “safe” experiences.

Chapter 6 explains the unique horror of Upside Down. It is not just an alternate parallel dimension. It is a place where the familiar is dead and, simultaneously, the alien monsters are alive.

Chapter 7 uses a gnostic lens to analyze the Mind Flayer. It is a dissection of the Mind Flayer (pun intended) and the Demogorgons. Personally, I like the theory that it is 01 or an earlier experiment like Eleven more.

Chapter 8 uses false realities, hyper-reality and semiotics to argue why Eleven is not the hero in Stranger Things. It also discusses the symbolism in Stranger Things in much more depth than the obvious Dungeons and Dragons symbolism. Yet there isn’t much on the Eggo waffles Eleven loves.

Chapter 9 argues that “It” by Stephen King is the biggest influence on “Stranger Things”. It discusses the many parallels between the two franchises. It also analyzes the false mental structures and unreliable memory on which childhood nostalgia depends.

Chapter 10 looks at the Shadow’s meaning in both Jung’s work and Stranger Things. It discusses both Eleven’s power harnessed through controlling and confronting shadows and Officer Hopper descending into the depths to face the demons and save Eleven. This chapter lacks any discussion of the theory Eleven is the monster or what created the Upside Down.

Chapter 11 says the Upside Down is terrifying because it is a world gone wrong. It then analyzes the monsters in relation to the jurdicio-natural complex. For example, the monsters are horrifying because they are violations of the laws of nature, such as the Demogorgons being a mash-up of various animals.

Chapter 12 asks, “Who is Will Byers?” How does Will’s repeated possession affect or determine his identity?

Chapter 13 relates the actions of the children in Stranger Things to general principles of civil disobedience. It mostly relates to Thoreau.

Chapter 14 is titled “Friends don’t lie”. It barely touches on how honesty is the foundation of trusting relationships. It categorizes the various levels of friendship and spends more time on this.

Chapter 15 explains the anarchonistic or non-historic factors in the show Stranger Things. This includes modern attitudes and beliefs. It uses this to explain the fan outrage at Barb’s death.

Chapter 16 outlines the tests of faith in “Stranger Things” but hardly addresses the lack of religion in the series. It then discusses what faith is in that context.

Summary

As a science fiction / horror fan and author, I give the book "Stranger Things and Philosophy" five stars. This show is novel and intriguing, and this book presents an in-depth analysis of that and more.

© 2019 Tamara Wilhite

Comments

Luis G Asuncion from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines on November 22, 2019:

Thanks for the excerpts that yoive made. Thanks for sharing.