We Are All Will Byers Now: One Family’s Journey Through the Upside-Down on Stranger Things

I’m a mother of two pre-tweenagers. We are in the midst of a global crisis. Life is scary enough without a sci-fi Netflix series about a bunch of kids trying to ward off evil in a quaint all-American town, right? Well, yes and no. Because once my family and I started watching the ’80s-set Stranger Things—about a young boy, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), who finds himself stuck in a dark, deadly universe called the Upside-Down—we realized that the show was the perfect metaphor for the pandemic itself. Soon we made a game of calling out all the parallels between the events, themes, and characterizations in Stranger Things and life as we were experiencing it in real time, including: 

The presence of a complex virus that nobody truly understands—and dark forces at the highest level of government may be trying to conceal. Meanwhile, Will, quarantining in his Upside-Down treehouse, recites the lyrics to his favorite Clash song: If I go there will be trouble. If I stay there will be double. Our family, here in our small New York apartment, feels your pain, Will! Hang in there; people in lab coats are coming soon.

Two types of human beings are at risk of infection: Those who know that the virus is real and others who refuse to believe the truth. 

There are also ragtag groups of in-betweeners who have one foot in reality and the other in a fake-news-driven altiverse, often heavily armed and dressed in fatigues, AKA superspreaders… whether they know it or not. No spoilers! 

Anyone who plans to enter the upside-down must wear a facial covering. A bandana will work; swim goggles are optional. Medical professionals, secret military operatives, and everyday citizens whose curiosity doors can’t stay closed are best served by N95 surgical masks, hazmat suits, and Normcore Reeboks. 

Some respond to the angst of the era by going to the gym in crazy, colorful spandex uniforms while others are just, like, fuck this: I’m taking my leggings to the streets in the light of day. Athleisurewear is always good in a crisis. So are Mom-jeans and neon hair scrunchies.

Oh, and everyone is riding bikes. But the kids on the show don’t wear helmets, Mom. No fair!

Thanks to big-box stores, Main Street is suffering. And thanks to the Mind Flayer—which we all know is one big, slimy metaphor for Amazon—even the mall is under attack. Related for those seeking refuge in the deep woods where expedited, touch-free delivery is less feasible: Men’s flannel shirts never go out of style. 

Note from Mom: Neither do Dad Bods. I’m looking at you, Hopper (David Harbour).  🔥

But above all, Stranger Things offered my family a hopeful message: In the end, science always wins. Dr. Anthony Fauci’s mind is even better looking than Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery) in his 501s and his lifeguard shorts. Be smart, use caution, and follow the data. It’s six feet away or six feet under: RUN! ❏

Elizabeth Wildman’s last piece for WryTimes was Menopause or Pandemic: A Quiz.

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