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Inside Out → Chapter Fifteen

summary: The party goes looking for the gate. But things don’t go the way they’d hoped.
word count: 6k
warnings: N/A

[ masterlist ]   [ ]

If Christine lived through this, she was seriously considering trying out for cross country. She’d gotten enough training in, that was for sure, with all the aimless wandering around Hawkins. She was so tired, she wasn’t even sure if she was tired anymore. 

After their doomsday meeting, the party had split up to change and grab supplies. What the boys had told their mothers, she had no idea. If they’d even told them anything before sneaking out. Christine had taken the Dustin-route of preparation. She just filled a backpack with a few water bottles and granola bars in case they needed to hike through dinner. Also a hammer from the garage, just in case. She’d changed into pants, made sure to wear her boots this time instead of her tennis shoes, and put on a warmer sweatshirt. Despite her best efforts, Eleven still refused to change out of her pretty pink dress. 

Once they’d reconvened, they set out for Mirkwood again. They’d learned their lesson from last time. Not enough not to go, of course, but enough to go without their bikes. It would take them longer to get there, but save them time in the long run. They’d spent so much energy slipping and sliding on their last hike, untangling their wheels and handlebars from brambles. And it wasn’t like they could ride their bikes through the trees anyway.  

“Besides,” Dustin had pointed out at Lucas’s impatient groaning, “we’re going to find an interdimensional portal with massive electromagnetic force. Bikes are metal, dude. Get them close enough to a magnetic wormhole and—whoosh! Bye-bye bicycle.” 

“Just shut the hell up and walk,” Lucas had grumbled. 

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I am so completely and wonderfully overwhelmed by the participation in Jancy week this year. So much so that I finally figured out how to use my queue!!!!!

Note: Currently I’m not queuing up fic because I want to take the time to read each one and comment on them in depth so please be patient. I want to savor all this wonderful work for as long as possible.

Y’all are truly amazing. 💖

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Of Stranger Things, Spielberg and King

On the tip from the Duffer brothers, explaining the homages from Stranger Things, I’ve dived into Stephen King’s books and films of the 80s. (Duffers, by the way, are very relatable - in fact, the whole video boils down to exclamations about “Oh, it was our favorite movie in childhood!”, “Wow, this one is also favorite!”, “And this is our favorite, and that one too!” Wonderful people.) I’ve seen all three seasons of Stranger Things just this summer, so I couldn’t help but compare. The fact is that: while critics complained about the shameless manipulation of nostalgic spectators three years ago, I sat in complete admiration of neophyte, who knew absolutely nothing about the American 80s pop culture. What was conceived by the creators themselves as a giant collage of plots and images from their childhood (with partial rethinking), was a completely new experience for me. Well, almost, because the images and plots were recognisable, as many of them originated much earlier than 80s. Aesthetics — primarily music and visual style — are definitely from the 80s, but you can argue with the rest.

* * *

Among the ancient plots is the one that formed the basis of all three seasons — the fairy tale of a missing/enchanted child. In the first two seasons, it’s poor Will (who, as a result, still remained a real child), in the third it’s Billy. Usually in fairy tales the Bespelled one is a princess or a girl, but in Stranger Things the trope was inverted, as in the ballad Tam Lin (which has been retold in recent years so many times I’ve lost my count). The most interesting is the situation of Unspeller, because there are not one or two, but a whole group of them in the series. First of all, it’s El, but there are also Joyce, Jonathan, Mike and even Nancy. They all try to removing the “spell” in the second season, for example (a beautiful scene in the barn). In the third season, Billy turns out to be “enchanted”, and he runs into what he himself has done — no one can unspell him to the very end, because he wasn’t close enough to anyone. Only when Eleven gets his most important memories, he gets his chance, but it is too late. I wonder if the Duffers will continue to play with this trope? And who will be the next victim of the “spell”? Eleven would be an interesting option.

* * *

Well, of course, the 80s were a great source of inspiration for the Duffer brothers, and I like the way they cause a clash between Steven Spielberg’s sense of miracle and Stephen King’s cruelty of the real world and then mixed it all with the modern crisis. Actually, this collision itself is perfectly conveyed in one scene of the first season — when the children run away from their pursuers on bicycles. Visually, this is a homage to Spielberg, but stylistically, of course, to King. Spielberg is pursuing a romantic tone, so the children in E.T. don’t just run away from their pursuers, they fly up right into the sky. But in Stranger Things the scene has a much darker shape and represents chthonic power and monstrosity of the main conflict. Spielberg doesn’t have a defined evil in most of his films in contrast to King. In his books Evil takes on a very definite form, and although this Evil is chthonic, otherworldly, it always comes into our world, responding to the call of ordinary people and resonating with their thoughts. The Evil in It isn’t just Pennywise, it’s the city of Derry itself; likewise, the Evil in Stranger Things is not so much the demogorgon as the inhuman scientists pursuing Eleven. And Eleven responds in the only way that these people would understand — she turns over the oncoming van, almost certainly killing everyone who is there. Someone else was surprised by the following terrible scene at school? I was definitely not. Oh, hi, Firestarter, long time no see.

* * *

It’s funny that I found a Spielberg point of view not in homages (which mood is often the opposite of the original, by the way), but in the storyline of Eleven from the first season. At the very beginning she is just a child without identity and even without a name. Unknowingly (and because she has no formed social taboos) she violates the laws of the world and incurs its anger. Eleven fights not only with the inside monster, but also with the perception of herself as a monster. Moreover, she calls herself a monster, and only friends help her not to dissolve into the monstrosity. They give her the first anchor — her name is Eleven, she is their friend, and she saved their life. All this reminded me of Spielberg’s film, not from the 80s, but from the 2000s, Catch me if you can: a boy with an unformed identity goes on a trip, violates the taboos of the outside world, incurs its anger and becomes a monster in the eyes of his own and the others, until a friend helps him find a new identity. And yes, of course, the same plotline lies at the basis of several Stephen King’s books, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, a number of novels by Diana Wynne Jones, Neon Genesis Evangelion by Hideaki Anno (only in this one the monstrosity of the child wins) and so on — apparently, this plot is the one about the prodigal son, and it goes back deep into the past.

* * *

The most interesting thing is that Stranger Things doesn’t really look like a nostalgic Amblinesque film. This term goes back to the name of the Steven Spielberg’s studio Amblin, that shot films in the style of E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But although Stranger Things carefully lays out the Amblinesque background, at the same time the Duffer brothers stir things up. Here, look, they say, there is the image of an ideal family! But that’s the Wheelers, and they’re a long way from ideal. Here, media-can-save-the-world! But we get the diluted truth and the newspaper misogynists. Here, there’s a beautiful new mall for shopping! But the town is dying because of unemployment. I am not saying that these are particularly deep or original thoughts, but they could not exist in the Amblin world. Stranger Things is Amblin knocked off by Stephen King and the beginning of the 21st century. If that’s a nostalgia, then I am a rhino.

* * *

Somewhere here should be one of my favorite Stephen King’s Danse Macabre quotes, why horror stories are so simple and so necessary: ​​I’ve tried to suggest throughout this book that the horror story, beneath its fangs and fright wig, is really as conservative as an Illinois Republican in a three-piece pinstriped suit; that its main purpose is to reaffirm the virtues of the norm by showing us what awful things happen to people who venture into taboo lands. Within the framework of most horror tales we find a moral code so strong it would make a Puritan smile. The horror story most generally not only stands foursquare for the Ten Commandments, it blows them up to tabloid size. We have the comforting knowledge when the lights go down in the theater or when we open the book that the evildoers will almost certainly be punished, and measure will be returned for measure.

In this regard the Duffer brothers are also agents of the norm, that’s why Stranger Things has such a pronounced dichotomy of good and evil. It’s nice that some nuances come on top, but there’s also a quite unambiguous assessment of every moral decision. The horrors of Stephen King and the horrors of Stranger Things have one more thing in common — they are extremely comfortable because they set the rules. It is a very comforting feeling to know what is good and what is bad. You will have your time to rock the boat, King and the Duffers say. Right now let’s get it steady and fine. I’m still quite sure that King writes for children, like Rowling, but adults like to wrap themselves in a horror blanket and get their cup of morality too.

* * *

But that’s all not what I love Stranger Things for, of course. The Duffer brothers and their team are great storytellers, and that’s a fact. Even if this story is simple and unpretentious, it is oh-so-beautiful because of the way it is told. James Cameron and Steven Spielberg discussed Stranger Things in Story of Science Fiction and told everything that should be told about that:

I think we’re all influenced by the stories that came before us, going back thousands of years, by myths, legends, fairy tales. I think the worst films just refer to other movies. The best films somehow connect you to something that you’ve actually experienced. Yes. Well, Stranger Things has done that very well. Yeah. It touches on a lot of the movies that you and I and others have made, but it does it brilliantly. It’s an amalgam of genres, but all having to do with one thing. And that is, you love these kids. And you don’t want anything bad to happen to them. And Stranger Things, for all of its brilliant imaginings, is about that characters. 

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