Stranger Things Season 3 has been streaming on Netflix since July 4th, so you’ve probably binge-watched the whole season at least once by now, right? If you haven’t, you’re going to want to avoid the following section because it contains all the spoilers.
Since its inception, Stranger Things has been all about the nostalgia. I mean, sure, there are compelling characters who have rocketed from obscurity to worldwide fame (save for Winona Ryder who has always been and will always be a shining star); macabre mysteries that literally lurk beneath the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana; and an intense sense of dread that comes from knowing that not all of our favorite characters might make it to the season finale alive. (RIP Barb, still.) But the feel-good factor that makes the bits and pieces of Stranger Things so familiar and so enjoyable have been lovingly cribbed from a myriad of beloved horror, sci-fi, and drama narratives that have come before it.
Stranger Things Season 3 continues this successful trend by doubling down on aesthetics the previous seasons have already established: Super-powered youth, clandestine government-run experiments, other-worldly monsters crossing into our own reality, and the camaraderie of a group of childhood friends going on dangerous and often deadly adventures together. There have been nods to the works of Stephen King and John Carpenter, properties like Dungeons & Dragons and Ghostbusters, and many more. So what other pop culture icons does the new season include?
Quite a few, actually. And most of them factor into the story in a pretty epic way, from either informing the big bad beastie at the heart of the conflict or by literally appearing on the small screen, which is a pretty big deal (and probably a rather costly one, as far as licensing is concerned). But is an assemblage of pop culture references as good as those original references themselves? Is it somehow better? As Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) puts it when talking about New Coke, “The original is a classic, but the remake … sweeter, bolder, better.” But is it really? Your mileage may vary, but here are the sources of inspiration for Stranger Things Season 3 if you want to seek them out.