What Did the World of ‘Stranger Things’ Look Like in 1984?

Lauren Gallaway
Streaming Stranger Things
Streaming Stranger Things Netflix

1984. The year that George Orwell prophesied to be the year of big tech, big government and big brother. 1984 was a year of great progress in the world — great progress and trauma. It is the year in which Season 2 of Stranger Things takes place. So what was 1984 like? Who was President? What movies were in theaters? What did life look like for our young Stranger Things characters?

Government

Reagan 1984
President Reagan at the Berlin Wall.

In 1984, Ronald Reagan was President. He had been elected in 1980 and had been serving for four years. He ran for re-election in November of 1984 and won by a landslide, with 49 electoral states. His Vice President was George H.W. Bush, who would succeed Reagan as President after his second term.

Reagan was a conservative Republican whose term was marked by lowered taxes and what Reagan called “trickle-down economics.” Reagan served as President during a tumultuous time in World History. Russia was then known as the U.S.S.R., a Communist Socialist Republic. The “Iron Curtain” kept many Russian states separate from the rest of the world, including East Berlin, which was on the other side of the infamous Berlin Wall.

At the time of Stranger Things Season 2, its the fall of 1984. The Hawkins kids are about to celebrate Halloween and America is about to re-elect Reagan/Bush, hence the election signs in many of the yards in Hawkins, Indiana.

Entertainment

Michael Jackson was crowned the King of Pop in 1984. His hit album, Thriller, went number one in 1984, thanks in no small part to the album’s title track. Jackson’s music video for Thriller was more like a short film, clocking 14 minutes of pure fun and pop horror. The song can be heard over Stranger Things Season 2’s first trailer, which was released at Comic-Con this year.

As for films, 1984 was one of the absolute BEST years for releases. Dune. The Terminator. Nightmare on Elm Street. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Ghostbusters. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. Footloose. The Karate Kid. Gremlins. Once Upon a Time in America. The NeverEnding Story. Sixteen Candles. These films went on to influence almost every other film that has been released since 1984.

Technology

1984 was also a huge year for technology. Orwell may have gotten that right, at least. On January 24, Steve Jobs addressed Apple’s Shareholders and introduced the world’s first Macintosh computer. That’s right, the “Macs” that many of us use today was born in 1984. The video above was Apple’s first commercial for their Mac. It ran during the Superbowl and was designed to mimic George Orwell’s dystopian world of 1984. The Macintosh was Apple’s first personal home computer. It would go on to change how everyday citizens used computers at work, at home, and in their classrooms. It’s possible we’ll even see the first edition Mac this season on the show.

Relevance to Stranger Things

The young boys and girls in Stranger Things have no doubt been influenced by these films, songs, and historical events. We know they all went to see Ghostbusters, since they’re wearing the outfits for Halloween. If the show picks up around Halloween, they may have just seen The Terminator, which came out on October 26, 1984. Knowing their love for fandom and nerdy games like Dungeons and Dragons, the Hawkins kids also probably saw Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, as well as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Look for references to these films in Season 2.

In addition to Thriller, movies like Ghostbusters and the Mac being launched, Los Angeles also hosted the Summer Olympics, the Discovery made its first space orbit, the longest game of baseball went 25 innings. Personal computing, re-election, communism in Russia, all these things will have influences on our Hawkins kids. Are you hoping to see any of these references in the show?

Stranger Things Season 2 hits Netflix at 12AM PST Friday, October 27.

Lauren Gallaway
TV editor at Fandom. Creator of The Marvel Report. Journalist, Comic-Con reporter, Podcaster.
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