It is quite fascinating to me that the stars of one of the most influential movies of the 1980s, Heathers, have both headlined television shows featuring similarly disaffected characters and environments. Both Mr. Robot and Stranger Things seem to encapsulate the zeitgeist of the era in which I grew up, of which Christian Slater and Winona Ryder acted as the role models and contemporaries of Generation X.
Slater’s anarchic “J.D.” in Heathers was the true spiritual predecessor of Fight Club and Tyler Durden—making him the natural choice to portray the tulpa-like alter-ego of Elliot Alderson. Ryder made the entire 1st act of her career playing moody and jaded young women, caught between the allure of nihilism and a higher impulse; in Stranger Things she is embodies an exhausted, chain-smoking version of that earlier incarnation.
I cannot help but “read” these characters in Mr. Robot & Stranger Things as the inevitable progression of my own generation, our fears and frustrations and even how we are ultimately viewed by those who have come after us. The casting of these two actors was no coincidence; they were meant to evoke immediate and subconscious reactions, touchstones from an earlier era.
J.D.’s incoherent revolutionary impulse is now splattered all across the Internet in the guise of countless keyboard warriors, and Veronica Sawyer—much like Lydia Deetz before her—retreated into her house, preferring communication with the undead over the living creatures who disappointed her. It is not quite the zany Animal House-type “where are they now” closing credits sequence we had initially fished for, but it will have to do.