It is the Fourth of July, and I’m sitting on a brown couch at 1:40 a.m. waiting on season three of Stranger Things. I have an hour to tell you why this show is so good, so true. I’ve heard people say that they’re able to watch it, even though it is scary, because it’s “so far out and obviously not real.” I don’t think of it that way. Stranger Things is much more real than any cop show – it is the most interesting depiction of reality I’ve ever seen on a screen. I think that in a sense it’s very real.
Over the past year, I’ve been fascinated with the concept of the underworld. You might also call it hell or chaos. And Stranger Things has played out on the screen what has before only been in my head. I was given the book Twelve Rules for Life – Jordan Peterson, which speaks a lot about the underworld.
I’ll summarize. He writes that where everything is certain, that’s order. Order is things going the way God intended. You live in order with your trustworthy friends and warm, familiar spaces. But when that friend betrays you, you move from the daytime world of order to the dark underworld of chaos. In that dark place, the Twin Towers are struck by planes and the bottom falls out from everything that was certain. It’s a place where nothing is sound. Chaos reigns. Terror grips you. It’s hell.
Chaos is unexplored territory, full of uncertainty and danger. It’s the monster under your bed. In the Lion King, the Pridelands represent order – the land outside littered with skulls and black rocks is chaos, where Scar reigns. In The Hobbit, the Shire is the world, and the dragon’s cave is the underworld. In the Incredibles, Bob leaves the world of order to go the island (the underworld) where he faces his nemesis. Peterson writes that, “The journey into darkness and rescue is the most difficult thing a (character) must do.” This is the journey made by Simba to battle Scar. By Bilbo to get the gold from the dragon’s lair. By Mr. Incredible to the Island. By Jesus to the cross. The underworld is never far from our gardens of Eden. And every hero must descend there at some point. We all must.
Stranger Things shows these two realities, chaos and order, the world and the underworld, so beautifully side by side. Peterson writes that, “The space may be the same. But we live in time as well as space. So even the oldest and most familiar places retain a capacity to surprise you.” In the show this old familiar place is the town of Hawkins, Indiana. We see the world as we usually experience it, and we also get to see the Upside Down which exists parallel to what we’re used to. These two realities exist simultaneously and affect each other. You can travel between. They’re both there, and never far apart.
Stranger Things allows us to watch characters like Hopper (my favorite) look the horror in the eye. He descends into the underworld and does battle with things he cannot possibly understand to protect his town and his people. I like Stranger Things because the lines of good and evil are so colorfully and clearly drawn. Good is (mostly) the people who live in the world, who are fighting for each other. Evil is the beasts that inhabit the underworld, who are coming to slay the living.
Stranger Things makes me think that if Mike and his kid friends can put a foot into the darkness of the underworld and do battle with the chaos, then maybe I could face my own darkness. If they have the courage to go after their friend who was taken by the beast, then maybe I could pull someone from the darkness too. If the life and order of Hawkins, Indiana is worth fighting for, then maybe my small town is worth fighting for too. If the Demogorgon can be overcome, maybe the good really does win in the end.
The show has incredible characters. It portrays hell in a very stunning way. It’s set in the eighties. And you (probably) have the day off today. I’m recommending that you watch. And by the time you wake up and read this, I’ll have already watched the first episode (or two) of season three.