One of the most popular television shows of the summer that has been viewed by an array of audiences created a strong fan base on numerous outlets. Stranger Things took the world by storm this past year and now has its own Facebook Page, Twitter Account with over 500,000 followers, and an audience highly anticipating the next season. Besides entertaining viewers with its plot, Stranger Things contains a message that can be valued by all types of fans. The finale of the first season of Stranger things exemplifies how strong the bond between friends really is but can be depicted otherwise by fans with negotiated and oppositional views.
I touch upon the final episode of the first season to portray the bond between the young friends. It is evident that these young charters know the real meaning of friendship. They never gave up looking for their friend no matter how many people said he was dead or how scary the situation was. The friends finally were reunited in this episode after a long separation. The excitement was clear when the boys ran into the hospital room to find their missing friend. Viewers who understand this concept take the dominant position. This position recognizes the meaning of friendship and how the show defines it. One example of the dominant position comes from a blog on the show. “Much of Stanger Things is about friendships, and the relationships the characters have with each other. Obviously, we have Mike, Will, Lucas, and Dustin. The OF, or original friendship, if you will. When Will goes missing, Mike will stop at nothing to find Will so that his group can be whole again” This core friendship is the basis of the show. Stranger Things continues on the message of friendship by using supporting characters as well. Nancy and Barbra help viewers decode the message through their friendship. Nancy also doesn’t give up looking for her friend, helping the audience completely take the message in.
Not every viewer takes the dominant position. Sturken further explains this in his novel. “Viewers make meanings that are not intended or anticipated by producers” (Sturken 55) It is proven hard to portray one message to a wide audience. Not every viewer is able to grasp the producers intended meaning. One reason for this could be different tastes. “Taste, however, is not simply a matter of individual interpretation. Rather taste is informed by experiences relating to one’s class, cultural background, education, and other aspects of identity” (Cartwright 56). Because audience members all have different upbringings, access to television, and beliefs, the message is not always clear. “Watching #StrangerThings got me shook who knows how many people who’ve vanished w/o a trace were abducted by aliens” This tweet represents a negotiated position because they do not completely get the dominant message behind the show. The show did not intend for audiences to only see it at surface level: aliens in the real world. “Negotiated codes operate through what we might call particular or situated logics: and these logics are sustained by their differential and unequal relation to the discourses and logics of power”(Hall 60). Not every viewer is able to relate to the intended message, which gives him or her the negotiated position.
The final position viewers’ take is the oppositional position. This position refers to viewers who completely disapprove of the show. Hall depicts viewers in this position, “He/she detotalizes the message in the preferred code in order to retotalize the message within some alternative framework of reference”(Hall 61). This describes someone who has the capability to understand the discourse but decodes the message in a globally contrary way. Stated in this blog, “Jonathan took photos of Nancy naked without her knowledge, a federal crime in most states that the show appears to view as a starry-eyed youthful indiscretion. While there’s clearly some mutual attraction between the two, by the end of the series Nancy opts for the more popular and conventionally handsome Steve.” This viewer does not agree with what the show is portraying. The producers want the audience to decode that Nancy sees the good in Jonathan, which later leads to their trusted friendship. Some people disregard this completely, putting them in an oppositional position.
Stranger Things has become a phenomenon in the entertainment world. It has earned a highly anticipated season two. Viewers can expect to decode the same message that was present in the season one finale: the power of friendship. Friendship is the core aspect of the show and holds the characters and storyline together. Some viewers take the entire message in, while others don’t or refuse too. The three specific positions viewers take can either support or contrast the message. The fan base for Stranger Things that stretches across different media platforms contains all these positions.
Hall, Stuart. (1980). Encoding and Decoding.
Sturken, M, & Cartwright, L. (2001). Practices of looking: An introduction to visual culture. New York: Oxford University Press.