Last updated on: March 11, 2020
Li, Amy S. “Reconstructing the ’80s Man: Nostalgic Masculinities in Stranger Things.” Refractory: A Journal of Entertainment Media, vol. 31, Feb. 2019. https://refractory-journal.com/reconstructing-the-80s-man-nostalgic-masculinities-in-stranger-things
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Abstract: Stranger Things capitalizes on a recent revival of 80s pop culture, recycling aesthetics and cultural references of this bygone era. Looking backwards, however, provides opportunities for critical reflection, which Stranger Things demonstrates in its interrogation of traditional gender ideals. Netflix’s hit show revises the hard-headed, hard-bodied 80s man embodied by cultural icons like the Terminator and Rambo. It instead champions the father figure and the nerd, as represented by Chief Jim Hopper and the young boys Mike, Dustin, and Lucas, who reject macho individualism and instead celebrate collaboration with females, paving pathways for feminist heroes.
In contradistinction to reactionary politics of the Reagan era, Stranger Things thus applies a nostalgic approach to masculinity, hybridizing past masculine archetypes with contemporary feminist values. This “nostalgic masculinity” allows men with decidedly non-athletic “dad-bods” and young, unpopular nerds to become protagonists. Their admiration of women like Joyce Byers and Eleven delineate the heroes from the villains. In the case of the show’s gender representation, where conformity fails, stranger things prevail.
Public Exhibitions and Scholarship
- “Building Emory’s African American Collections: Highlights from the Curatorial Career of Randall K. Burkett,” Exhibit Video, 9 Sept. 2018-3 Feb. 2019, Schatten Gallery, Robert W. Woodruff Library
- commissioned by Stuart A. Rose Library and Robert W. Woodruff Library Exhibitions Manager via Emory Center for Digital Scholarship