Essays · TV

Millions Went Upside Down for Stranger Things

By  · Published on August 29th, 2016

The hit Netflix show surpassed the wildest of expectations

Stranger Things has been the sensation of Summer 2016. Exactly just how many people hung their Christmas lights to talk to the other side had been debatable, though, until now. The show isn’t just an internet sensation, but also one of Netflix’s most watched series.

According to Variety, Stranger Things first season is the third most-watched to debut this year. After 35 days streaming, 14.07m adults aged 18–49 have reportedly tuned in. That number makes up almost half of Netflix’s subscriber base and is only behind the Tanner-Fuller household of Fuller House and the women of Litchfield Penitentiary in Season Four of Orange is the New Black.

That also puts Stranger Things above Netflix originals such as Making a Murderer (13.35m), Daredevil Season Two (13.35m), Jessica Jones (6.26m), Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season Two (6.08m), The Ranch (6.01m), House of Cards Season Four (5.67m), and F is for Family (4.81m). Those are just the other shows that Symphony Advanced Media tracks. Yes, that number is above properties that have the Marvel name behind them. It is too soon to see where The Get Down will appear, but chances are it will be nowhere near Stranger Things.

Netflix, like Amazon and Hulu, don’t reveal their actual numbers. Netflix argues that viewership models fail to represent their members’ preferences since their revenue stream is not based on ads. But companies like Symphony Advance Media have been trying to track the number since September 2015 using an audio-code recognition software and a panel of over 15k people.

The numbers are only half of the story when it comes to Stranger Things. The series has made a new cultural icon in Barbara “Barb” Holland (Shannon Purser). Although she only appears in five of the series’ eight episodes, countless viewers have identified with the character (let’s face it, we are all a lot more like Barb than Nancy). Her unending popularity has even made the show’s creators, the Duffer Brothers, answer questions about her fate and whether or not there will be justice for her character. A minor character ended up meaning so much more than was anticipated.

Characters aren’t the only thing that Stranger Things does well. References to Dungeons & Dragons, Eggo Waffles, and John Carpenter are among its strong points. The show uses nostalgia to win over a lot of viewers. Some would accuse Stranger Things of using too many ideas from other properties, that it shouldn’t be seen as a new idea, but an agglomeration of Steven Spielberg’s and Stephen King’s greatest hits.

Stranger Things may borrow ideas from a multitude of sources, but it is still an original series. Ideas of the ‘80s films from Spielberg and others have been re-appropriated to tell a new story. A story that has connected with a lot of viewers. The amount of love from fans seemingly equals that of other hit television shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. The show has also inspired countless art pieces, fake video games, and music covers. When was the last time that something original, not a sequel or based off a book, launched a fan movement like Stranger Things?

Although nothing firm has been announced yet, it would be crazy if Netflix didn’t green light a second season of Stranger Things. Netflix claims numbers don’t matter, but even if that is indeed the case the fandom of Stranger Things has been loud enough for the streaming company to move forward. The Duffer Brothers have plenty of ideas for where to take Eleven, Nancy, and company next time around. Certainly millions will turn in to see just what new adventures await. All we need to know is when.

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News Writer/Columnist for Film School Rejects. It’s the Pictures Co-host. Bylines Playboy, ZAM, Paste Magazine and more.