Suddenly there’s a glimpse of a world we used to know.
This year has felt like living in a parallel universe, especially around viruses and politics.
And somehow it got me thinking about the Netflix series, Stranger Things.
The connection between a sci-fi horror TV show set in a fictional town called Hawkins in 1980’s Indiana and a global pandemic with a man-child US president wasn’t immediately obvious.
So let’s have a go at finding it.
The strange part of Stranger Things is the presence of an alternate dimension, called the Upside Down.
In Season 1, the Hawkins National Laboratory inadvertently creates a portal to this world whilst conducting experiments on human subjects, including a girl with special powers called Eleven.
The Upside Down is a dark, unpleasant version of our world. It’s a kind of simulation, where everything is covered in web and goo-like substances. There are spores floating around in the air, making it hard to breathe.
And there are creatures too, particularly one nicknamed the Demogorgon. Eleven spends most of the first season trying to defeat this monster. But in reality, she’s trying to defeat herself. We know this because the only place they ever encounter each other is inside her own mind. They are two sides of the same coin.
So the similarity with the world of COVID is clear, the battle between our hopes and fears, all the way through to the dangers in breathing and the quest for those vaccine portals.
The link with politics isn’t simply seeing leaders like Trump as the bogeyman. It’s about what he represents. Eddie Glaude, a professor from Princeton, put it like this:
“America is not unique in our sins. We’re not unique in our evils, to be honest with you. I think where we may be singular is in our refusal to acknowledge them, and the legends and myths we tell about our inherent, you know, goodness, to hide and cover and conceal, so we can maintain a kind of willful ignorance that protects our innocence.”
And then he goes on:
“It’s easy for us to place it all on Donald Trump’s shoulders. This is us. And if we’re going to get past this, we can’t blame it on him. He’s a manifestation of the ugliness that’s in us.”
So for every need, there’s an anti-need.
For Status, there’s condescension.
For Nurturance, there’s breeding entitlement.
For Control, there’s obsession.
For Freedom, there’s excess.
For Adventure, there’s recklessness.
For Familiarity, there’s intransigence.
For Discernment, there’s being a know-it-all.
For Affiliation, there’s the dress code.
The scary thing about your Upside Down is it’s right next to you and you don’t even see it.