How am I supposed to still care about “Stranger Things” when the real world is stranger?
This is what spiralled though my brain on Friday while watching a new, 50-second teaser for Season 4. It begins with howling wind and a tracking shot in snowy Russia, where armed guards keep a watchful eye as a chain-gang of inmates hammer bolts into railroad tracks. Then as the score crescendos, one prisoner stands upright and removes his ushanka-toque for a big reveal.
Hey! It’s Hopper! He’s alive! And … I just don’t care!
It’s not you, Netflix. It’s me. As I sit here on Valentine’s Day, I’m finding it impossible to fall in love with a new season of the Upside Down when the real world is going sideways. Before watching the trailer on Friday, no joke, these were some of the stories I read: “NASA Warns of Potentially Hazardous Asteroid.” “Video of Men Spotting Bigfoot in Ohio Takes The Internet By Storm.” “Why The Coronavirus Outbreak Might Be Much Bigger Than We Know.”
Hang on. Bigfoot is still a going concern in 2020?
It’s not just the possibility of an “extinction-causing” asteroid or viral contagion that is making “Stranger Things” seem not strange at all. Even popular culture is now crackling with oddities. More headlines: “James Brown: Prosecutor May Investigate Claim Singer Was Murdered.” “Orlando Bloom Misspells Son Flynn’s Name In New Morse Code Tattoo.” “Carrie Underwood’s Son Thinks She’s 70-Years-Old And Her Job Is To ‘Wash The Laundry.’” “Trump’s Fascination With Badgers Derailed Key Policy Discussions.”
Huh? How can I get hyped for an upcoming season of paranormal horror when, in the real world, there is a badger-obsessed Mind Flayer in the White House? How am I supposed to see Eleven in the same way after Millie Bobby Brown faked a skin care video last year that was weirder than anything that’s ever emerged in Hawkins? And after not killing off Hopper — as it turns out, Season 3 ended with a cheap gimmick — why shave his head so he looks like a grumpy oil specialist at Mr. Lube?
As the trailer racked up views on Friday, the real world got bogged down with even stranger things: Is Toronto really going to be colder than Antarctica this weekend? Are people really paying $3,000 for a house plant? Did a “risqué” puzzle on “Wheel of Fortune” the other night really spell out “Brushing Up On My Italian Sausage”?
What does that even mean? And was the original Demogorgon inspired by Lou Dobbs?
Even news hailed as “wonderful” and a “breakthrough” this week left me feeling like Winona Ryder in Season 1. HGTV’s “House Hunters” just featured its first “throuple,” defined as a polyamorous relationship between three people. Let me try to keep this simple: Brian and Lori were married. Lori is bisexual. Then they met Geli, also a bisexual woman, and now the three of them are a “throuple.” So I guess they need a bigger place?
At the risk of being called an ignorant jackass, all I’ll say about this is I don’t think this Brian has thought it through clearly. Dude, if you have TWO wives and BOTH are bisexual, aren’t you the one who lifts out of this dynamic the easiest should things get rocky? Also, why do you want two wives? Isn’t that like wanting three legs? Do you enjoy hearing, “Brian, go shovel the driveway” in surround sound? Do you want to double the odds of forgetting a birthday or anniversary? Will you need a side hustle to help finance the extra Christmas and Valentine’s Day gifts?
And when there’s a spat, who sleeps on the couch?
It’s hilarious to me that the woke arbiters of morality and progress on social media are enraptured with the concept of “throuple” but are quick to condemn polygamy in other religious forms. What’s the difference between these modern “House Hunters” and old-school Mormons? Live and let live, that’s my motto. So God bless Brian, Lori and Geli and their three walk-in closets.
But there is no difference.
All right, I’m done offending possible throuple Star subscribers.
“We’re excited to officially confirm that production on ‘Stranger Things 4’ is now underway — and even more excited to announce the return of Hopper,” said show creators, the Duffer brothers, in a statement on Friday. “Although it’s not all good news for our ‘American’; he is imprisoned far from home in the snowy wasteland of Kamchatka, where he will face dangers both human … and other. Meanwhile, back in the states, a new horror is beginning to surface, something long buried, something that connects everything.
“Season 4 is shaping up to be the biggest and most frightening season yet …”
Maybe. But here’s the thing: it’s not as frightening as the real world.