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The Monster Right Here: Cold War Nostalgia and the Ambiguity of Goodness in Stranger Things

Presented with Nowadays


For nearly half of the 20th century, Cold War ideology permeated US popular culture and political discourse, disseminating propaganda celebrating American “goodness” and freedom, clearly contrasted against the purported “evil” of the USSR. Hollywood films, TV shows, and even popular music often rested on explicit and subtle celebrations of an idealized America, depicting the nation as the land of the free, often under threat of a real or symbolic monster invasion from without. However, in the later years of the Cold War, Americans bore witness to more complicated narratives, which sometimes suggested that the real enemy was, in fact, “right here,” either in the form of a terrifying government power (such as those scary hazmat dudes who tried to kidnap E.T.) or in a perverted, monstrous citizenry (like those creepy aliens masquerading as human in the show V). As national identity grew increasingly fractious and self-doubting toward the Cold War’s end, Americans began to ask themselves, “Are we the monster?” 

In honor of season two, in this Olio we will examine these political and even existential dilemmas as presented in the lovingly nostalgic Stranger Things. We will examine the political message of the series, probing at what Eleven means when she claims herself the true monster, and we will explore the complex, and perhaps troubling, function of nostalgia at work in this masterful series.  What, exactly, are we nostalgic for? There is more going on here, I think, than nostalgia for our youth and the stories we loved, and more too, I think, than simply the pleasure of being on the inside of an inside joke. By watching Stranger Things, we get to experience not simply a story, we get to experience ourselves experiencing our stories. We are watching ourselves watch, and it turns out, we were right all along. The government is bad, only kids know the truth, parents might love us but they have no idea that all of this is a lie, the cool kids are actually miserable, the outsiders will save the day, friendship is the highest moral good, and magic is real. But, still, we must ask, who is the monster?




Location: Nowadays

56-06 Cooper Ave, Ridgewood, NY 11385

Nowadays boasts a beautiful indoor and outdoor space in Ridgewood New York. Trees, ping pong, checkers, grass to lie in, fresh air, and the occasional passing freight train. Good food for meat eaters, veggies and vegans. Beer, sangria, fancy sodas and wine. Classes with Think Olio, a lovely Sunday afternoon dance, moonlit movies and regular ping pong tourneys. Dog friendly. 


Other upcoming Olios


Jan 22

America's Expansion, Influence, and Uncertain Global Power

Taught by Olio Happy Hour
7:30 p.m. at Strong Rope Brewery

Sign Up - $15

Jan 23

Sound and NYC: Exploring Silence in the City

Taught by Whitney George
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Feb 2

Mysticism Happy Hour: Psychedelic Humanities & Confronting the Shadows

Taught by Olio Happy Hour
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Feb 8

Democracy Without Truth

Taught by Manuel Rodeiro
7:30 p.m. at BAM Fisher

Sign Up - $25

Feb 9

The Body in a Cage: Modern Prisons, External and Internal

Taught by Jamie Warren
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Feb 12

*Olio Seminar* Break On Through: Creativity and the Mystic Experience

Taught by Michael Prettyman
7 p.m. at St John's Episcopal Church

Sign Up - $100

Feb 23

Questioning the Origins of Sexual Desire

Taught by Jeanne Proust
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20


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