Stranger Things, the sci-fi smash hit about supernatural activity in a sleepy Indiana town, is taking its 1980s nostalgia vibe to the next level, partnering with Coca-Cola to re-release limited-edition cans of New Coke in selected US cities.
Season three’s action (launching July 4 on Netflix) is set smack in the middle of 1985 when – in what is famously regarded as one of the biggest blunders in marketing history – New Coke lasted just 79 days before the original recipe returned.
While Australians won’t get to take that particular sip down memory lane, the series will continue to be rigorous in nailing the details of 1985 pop culture – and boy, is there a lot to drink in.
Below, some more ’80s ruses recreated by Stranger Things we’d be happy to see get a real-life reboot.
The season’s first trailer, released in March, is a blur of pulled-up tube socks, polyester tracksuits, leotards, shoulder pads and high-waisted jeans. At one point, Eleven (Millie Bobbie Brown) appears to get a Madonna-inspired, teen-dream makeover, weighed down with costume jewellery, a head-swallowing scrunchie, shiny gold puffy sleeves and white gloves. When the only style mantra is more-is-more, how can anyone really go wrong?
Hair, there and everywhere
In a time before salon-strength straighteners and semi-permanent keratin treatments, the hair was big and bonkers: Perms, teased fringes, un-ironic mullets (for the guys) and side ponytails and scrunchies for the girls. Bonus: The first trailer sees a star turn from Farrah Fawcett hair spray.
It’s a Mall world after all
A second teaser, released in July, came in the form of a mock TV ad for Starcourt Mall, opening to great fanfare in the fictional town of Hawkins.
With synth soundtrack and fluorescent fonts, the extra cheesy commercial showcases shoppers in the shortest shorts browsing stores like Waldenbooks and Sam Goody while bopping to Sony Walkmans and wearing bum bags – or as they are regrettably called in the US, fanny packs.
In the age of online shopping and Uber Eats, it’s hard not to feel a little misty-eyed for the wholesome appeal of an ice cream parlour like Scoops Ahoy, where Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) has scored a summer job with series newcomer Robin (Maya Hawke, daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke).
Having spent my formative years growing up in the suburbs of California, May 20’s latest sneak peek – dubbed the official “Pool” clip – is the most visceral reminder of that time yet. The community pool was the centre of the universe and Stranger Things nails it.
A line-up of anti-helicopter mums keep a hawk-like watch not on their shrieking kids crammed into a chlorinated cement square but on the lifeguard chair, waiting for the shift-change to cop a peek of a shirtless Billy (played by Perth-born actor Dacre Montgomery).
In an eyeball-assaulting array of fab one-piece swimsuits and excessive accessories, they sit surrounded by tossed aside Redbook magazines and SPF 4 Hawaiian Tropic sunblock while sipping New Coke. It may as well be a documentary – although TaB, another discontinued soft drink of the decade, was my mother’s drink of choice.
The first two seasons of Stranger Things paid heavy homage to ‘80s film favourites (ET, Aliens, Ghostbusters, Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and according to an interview with David Harbour (Sheriff Hopper) season three will include retro movie references to specific “great films that were released in ’85”.
That VHS library is deep: Think Goonies, The Breakfast Club and Back to the Future, the highest-grossing film of that year.