This hot hazy summer brought us a spoil of riches. We were treated to two superb pop culture phenomenons that tweaked our childhood nostalgia.(warning spoilers) I don’t want to give too much away, but in order to compare these two seemingly unrelated media artifacts I will have to explore a few details. In both offerings the adults take a back seat and the kids fuel the adventure, but talk about your cursed children! (Oh Barb, we barely new you.)
Both The Cursed Child and Stranger Things play heavily into our collective consciousness. We associate these things with mostly fond memories of our youth. Reading the many reviews of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child I began to see a pattern. People were just as excited to write about the ritual and anticipation of waiting and acquiring a new J.K. Rowling offering than talking about the play itself. With myself I found the expectation to be both very high and low at the same time. I really wanted to be back in that world again, because when you’re there, it is totally immersive. I also went into it with the knowledge that this wasn’t a complete novel but a snapshot (co-written by J.K.) in the form of a play and that ultimately the best way to experience the story would be to see it performed live. Like most of the readers who picked up the play, it didn’t take long to reach the end. So how did it fare?
Revisiting these characters, I was a little worried that my ideal impression of them would be tarnished. How would they be portrayed? They even played with this idea by presenting different versions of each character that exist in alternative realities. I was delighted that in no matter what reality Ron and Hermione had feelings for one another, but Happily Ever After is not a real thing, even Han and Leia broke up over a problem child. J.K. embraces real life, (hog)-warts and all and the Cursed Child explores many of the pitfalls life has to offer.
Daddy issues play heavily into the Cursed Child affecting many characters especially Harry and his role as a parent. He has no compass to navigate these waters, having lost his real father as a child and then his two surrogates (Sirius and Dumbledore) in his teens. We as readers take on the parenting role in a diminished fashion; watching these characters (we see in some way as our own) behave in ways we can’t control. The Cursed Child can elude to a multiple of characters in the play, along with the expectation we place on this story. How can it not be cursed? Cursed but not without magic.
Speaking of cursed magical children, Eleven has a tough go of it, along with her own personal Daddy Issues amped up to well…. 11. Stranger Things came out of nowhere. It hit the perfect 80’s sci-fi sweet-spot we didn’t know we were craving. It wore all it’s influences on its sleeve and did it with unwavering homage and unquestionable affection. As a child of the eighties I was in heaven; from the soundtrack to the wardrobe to the details I was transported back to my youth. A time when your bike was your lifeline to the world because there was no such thing as a cellphone. Our heroes have to use walkie-talkies to communicate to one another.
The reviews are in and Stranger Things has become a bonafide hit. Word of mouth is loud and non stop. As quickly as we read The Cursed Child we binged all 8 episodes. Stranger Things had an advantage over Harry Potter and the Cursed Child being that it had no preconceived expectations or canon to be accountable to. It however firmly placed itself in some pretty big shoes. The parallels between early Steven Spielberg and early Stephen King are unmissable. To bring a tale of two Stevens and do it well is a rare occurrence.
Both the Cursed Child and Stranger Things use nostalgia as their hook but it’s the characters and the story that distinguish them as great. I was initially worried about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child but was left with a sense of satisfaction and closure. Now the big thing that worries me: can Stranger Things season 2 deliver on our new high expectations?