The based in the 1980s, tells of

The Netflix original hit series “Stranger Things” and George Orwell’s novel 1984 are two very different pieces of media that tell very different stories. One, based in the 1980s, tells of a fictional town where a government lab conducts experiments that put a group of teenagers in touch with another dimension, and the other, a cautionary, dystopian tale written to forewarn of the dangers of totalitarian governments and their control over people. Although the two works are very different, they share some striking similarities that when viewed together, showcase the ominous threat of government reach overstepping its boundaries, and also the striking and horrendous stories of where government may have already overstepped those same boundaries.At first glance, the completely different storylines of the Netflix series and the book may seem like they are not related. But when we take a closer look, it becomes evident that similar themes are presented in both, despite their differences. Both 1984 and Stranger Things showcase the issue of government and privacy. Take, for instance, the presence of government surveillance in 1984, “The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely” (Orwell 2). The telescreen represents aspects of how government control over Oceania impacts everyday life in the sense that you cannot escape the unrelenting gaze of the government. As Americans, we learned when we were growing up that we live in a free world. Naturally, we assume have privacy in our own homes and lives. While we don’t have telescreens, the characters in “Stranger Things” are watched by the government in a different way. The characters are bugged in their own homes after the government finds out they are questioning the disappearance of teenager Will Byers and that they figured out that the Hawkins government funded laboratory might have something to do with it (S.1, Ep. 5). That is not where the government control in the fictional town of Hawkins ends, however, as evidenced in the rest of season 1. In the pilot episode of “Stranger Things”, a government worker is seen posing as a social worker who is trying to locate Eleven, a young girl who has psychokinetic powers and who has just recently escaped from the Hawkins laboratory. This government worker murders a local restaurant owner because he has seen and helped Eleven following her escape and thus is viewed as a potential threat to the scientists and the secrecy of the situation. This is not dissimilar to the disappearances that happen in 1984, “People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, and your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word” (Orwell 19).Anyone who wished that things were different, knew too much about the way things were run, or who thought anything ill of the government had committed thoughtcrime. Enemies of the Party (the governmental body of the fictional country of Oceania in 1984) or people who committed thoughtcrime were all in danger of being vaporized, because if you knew too much or thought ill of the Party, you posed a threat to them. A threat that they saw grave enough to validate murder. One of the most horrifying similarities however, came where neither phenomenon chose to kill, but to physically and mentally torture their subjects instead. In both the book and the series, these horrendous events are not revealed until nearly the end of the storylines. For the book, after Winston is incarcerated for thoughtcrime, he gets a glimpse into the kinds of torture the Party has been using against thought criminals all this time: electroshock therapy. As Winston lay withering under the hand of his friend turned torturer, O’Brien, the narrator recounts, “He did not know whether the thing was really happening, or whether the effect was electrically produced; but his body was being wrenched out of shape, the joints were being slowly torn apart. Although the pain had brought the sweat out on his forehead, the worst of all was the fear that his backbone was about to snap” (Orwell 244-245).In “Stranger Things”, the fact that the government used electroshock therapy on its subjects in season 2 is revealed when Eleven finds her biological mother, Terry Ives. Terry is in a permanent catatonic state because of electroshock therapy at the hands of the Hawkins laboratory scientists after she nearly caused their entire experiment scheme to be discovered after they took her baby. The lab then says Terry has suffered a stroke, but in season 2 episode 5, it is revealed that electroshock therapy was administered forcefully by the scientists attempting to keep her quiet. Eleven, who is able to communicate with her mother through meeting her in another dimension, sees what happened so many years ago and is overcome with grief that her mother will never be able to hold her again in the real world. Speaking of the real world, both of these stories have a great deal of connection to the real real world. While it is widely written about and accepted that Orwell’s 1984 was based off of government oppression he heard about in Stalinist Russia, the basis of the storyline of “Stranger Things” is a bit more ambiguous. Part II: The Basis of “Stranger Things”During the mid 80s, during the time in which “Stranger Things” is set, rumors begin to spread that the US government had been experimenting with psychological warfare at the Montauk Air Force station in Montauk, Long Island. Legitimizing these event was a book, written by Preston B. Nichols that detailed the supposed events titled The Montauk Project: Experiments in Time. An article by Thrillist boils down this book and its points that relate to “Stranger Things” and it is worth it to take a look into what inspired the Duffer Brothers to write this captivating series, even if it is just a bunch of government conspiracy theories. Nichols supposedly recovered some repressed memories from a time when he was a subject for experimentation in the Montauk Project, and soon after publication, others came forward to corroborate. His story all starts with the Philadelphia Project. In October of 1943, the US military is said to have supposedly conducted secret experiments at the naval shipyard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The purpose of these experiments was to find a way to elude Nazi radar systems so their ships could cross to the Allies in Europe. Although the Navy has never confirmed these experiments ever happened, conspiracy theorists say that not only were they successful at making ships invisible to radar, but that they discovered something far more dangerous: time travel. The ship they were experimenting on went to another dimension, and after crew had negative reactions to exposure from the real life version of The Upside Down, the Philadelphia Project was shut down (Speigel). A movie based on the experiments was released in 1988, and a man named Al Bielek had the feeling that he had seen it all before somewhere. After undergoing intense therapies, Bielek recovered repressed memories of his time working on the Montauk Project in the 70s and 80s and maintained that the memories had been locked away in his mind as a measure to ensure secrecy of the experiments (Speigel). Bielek discovered that he real name had been Edward Cameron and that he’d also worked on the Philadelphia Project in his 20s with his brother, Duncan Cameron. Nichols writes in his book about working at Camp Hero, and specifically, about working with Bielek in the 70s on something called the “Montauk Chair”, a chair that utilized electromagnetic forces to heighten psychic powers. Duncan Cameron, Al Bielek/Edward Cameron’s brother, became the focus of many of the Montauk Chair experiments after it was discovered that he had psychic powers. Supposedly Duncan could make objects appear out of thin air by just thinking about them in the Montauk Chair (Gonzales). One of the experiments they conducted sounds a lot like one of the ones conducted on Eleven in a flashback to before she opened the portal to the Upside Down, “The first experiment was called “The Seeing Eye.” With a lock of person’s hair or other appropriate object in his hand, Duncan could concentrate on the person and be able to see as if he was seeing through their eyes, hearing through their ears, and feeling through their body. He could actually see through other people anywhere on the planet.” (Gonzales).This is just like what Eleven did when she is shown a picture of a man and finds him in another dimension and then broadcast what he is saying to everyone in Hawkins lab (S.1 Ep.5). Nichols also writes of how a number of other boys were also kidnapped and brought in to be experimented on, a theory that is also present in “Stranger Things” because the name “Eleven” implies that at least 10 other subject had come before her. After the workers at Camp Hero had decided that they had had enough of the experiment, the end game was activated and it was made so that Duncan Cameron let loose a monster (like the demogorgon from the Upside Down in “Stranger Things”) ¬†from his subconscious that ate and destroyed everything in its path. What is chilling about the beast though is that several people saw it, but everyone described something different, implying that the beast from another dimension only appeared to you as your worst nightmare, something that could be different than everyone else’s. After the incident, the Montauk Chair was smashed and the beast disappeared. Employees’ memories were altered, and eventually the base at Montauk was shut down (Gonzales). “Stranger Things” only uses some of the core stories of what is said to have happened at Camp Hero including portals, children with psychic powers, and the beast. And while adventurers still travel to Camp Hero and report hearing screams in the abandoned tunnels of the base, “Stranger Things” continues to pull from the myths and legends of the Long Island area (Gonzales).The Montauk Project is no doubt tied into the show. And while it hasn’t been said explicitly that the Duffer brothers based their entire series on the conspiracy theories associated with the Montauk project, Netflix revealed the original name for the series was actually “Montauk” and was to be based in the town of the same name before they later changed it to “Stranger Things” and the location to a rural town in Indiana (TIME.com). This is where points of contention can come in as some would say, how can you base any argument off of a show that may or may not have to do with a bunch of government conspiracy theories? Whether or not the conspiracy theories are true, the themes of the show reign superior. Government surveillance, murders of the enemy, and the like are all things the creators of the series, the Duffer Brothers, chose to bring up for a reason. They chose to call attention to these things because they knew at the time they were creating the show, that these things were beginning to become salient again.Part III: Last Comparison and Conclusion The last point of comparison has to do with the particular times the two stories were written. Orwell published 1984 in the year 1949, and during this time the brutal reign of Stalin over the Soviet Union was no secret to the rest of the world. Orwell drew from what he knew about Stalin and tried to predict and forewarn what would happen under a totalitarian regime that had an increasing power over technology. History.com describes Stalin’s rule as “by terror and with a totalitarian grip in order to eliminate anyone who might oppose him.” A frightening thought when you think of all the power he held at the time. “Stranger Things” was released in the summer of 2016. What was happening then? The race for the White House 2016 and a modern world, full of increasing technology as well, in full swing. The second season was released in the fall of this year. What was happening then? A Donald Trump presidency that has an attitude on enemies similar to Joseph Stalin’s, and possible instances of Russian tampering in the election that put him there. But why does all this matter? Any two things can be compared, but the most fruitful comparisons come from things that give deeper meaning to one or the other. Having read 1984 and being able to detect these points for comparison has given me a new lens through which I watch “Stranger Things”. Not only is it a fun show about monsters, mysteries, and another dimension, but now a political piece. The fact that the Duffer Brothers chose to include some of the themes that appear in 1984, in a series they created just last year, tells me that they want the American public to pay attention to those things. In my opinion, they were included as a warning. This warning has caused me to be more aware of government surveillance and increasing government control over daily lives including the issue of the impending disappearance of net neutrality in the United States. During a time when distrust in the American government and political system’s power was rising, the Duffer Brother’s brought to our attention some (possibly true) events that caused me to think about governmental reach going too far again, as it did in Stalinist Russia. Maybe I only think about the series like this because I have previously written a lengthy research paper on 1984 and spent time studying Stalinist Russia, but I hope other people have had the same thoughts as I have: these things are not as far gone as we may have once thought.