[Spoilers ahead for Stranger Things 3].

Stranger Things has spawned a lot of pretty outlandish conspiracy theories.

From the proposal that the show takes place in the same universe as It to the idea that Chief Hopper's daughter was a lab experiment, speculation seems to be venturing closer and closer to Upside Down levels of absurdity.

Recently, one fan theory has surged in prominence, and it has to do with Winona Ryder. Or rather...Winona Ryders.

Think about it: The actress shot to prominence with the films Edward Scissorhands, Heathers, and Beetlejuice, becoming world-famous by the late 1980s. Stranger Things 3 takes place in 1985, and if Stranger Things 4 finds itself in 1986 or later, Winona Ryder would've already been starring in films. Thus, there's a good chance that the Stranger Things kids have heard of her. Maybe they'll have seen her in a film. Maybe they'll notice that she looks strangely like Will's mom.

Image via giphy

Some fans have proposed that the series will create some sort of time warp scenario in which, because of some wrinkle in time created by the Upside Down, the real Winona Ryder exists alongside Joyce Byers.

After all, many of the characters who have fallen into the Upside Down have encountered their doppelgängers in that glowing, dark universe. Could it be that Joyce Byers' younger doppelgänger might make her way onto the movie screens of the "right-side up" world? Could it be that she's somehow been working with the Mind Flayer this whole time?

Image via i-D Magazine

Perhaps the "real" Winona Ryder might even encounter the kids, and in a Bandersnatch-like scenario, she could inform them that a show called Netflix is recording and broadcasting their every move to the general public in the distant year 2019.

Some Mashable reporters actually asked one of the show's producers, Shawn Levy, about this very theory. "That's really funny, and I suppose it's possible," he said, adding, "Eventually, there will be an interesting new relationship between [the Stranger Things production timeline] and what's going on in the time period we are watching the show in... But as far as how those two timelines will sync up, I can't predict."

This Winona Ryder theory might be far-out, but it's not unmatched in scope. Some fans have proposed that Stranger Things is connected to the series Chernobyl, which makes sense when you think about the important role played by the Russian government in each show.

Image via Metro

Maybe the Chernobyl accident wasn't the fault of a nuclear power reactor at all. Maybe it was the result of a breach in the portal between our world and the Upside Down. According to one Reddit poster, "So did a nuclear reactor explode or did El have the greatest battle of her life?"

Other fan theories have been slightly less speculative. For example, many fans have noted that every character who dies has a name that starts with "B,"and of course, nobody thinks that Hopper is actually dead.

In some ways, Stranger Things seems designed to incubate conspiracy theories. According to The Atlantic, "Conspiracy theories, in fact, are in the show's DNA, a counterforce to all the cuddly Spielberg evocation and the tween-age bonding." That article cites the fact that before the series was called Stranger Things, it was entitled Montauk, after rumors about government-led psychological experiments on humans in military bases in Long Island, NY.

Government land in MontaukImage via Thought Catalog

"The show's story is built on the premise that various strains of delusional thinking are actually true," continues the article. "The government has conducted highly unethical drug tests on human subjects. Terrifying alien monsters are real. People can become possessed by dark external forces that absorb them into one diseased hive mind. On the rare occasions when these events are exposed, the military does cover things up."

As a proposed Area 51 invasion gains momentum in the real world (albeit the digital portion of it), Stranger Things seems to be brushing closer and closer to our reality. Some have noted that the Upside Down resembles a world ravaged by climate change. Or maybe it's indicative of the technology that, with the advent of Apple and other technologies, would soon erupt into the world, effectively ending the good old days of bike rides and walkie talkies. Could it be that the Upside Down is nothing more than...the future?

To find out the truth, of course, we'll just have to wait for Season 4.

Image via Vice


Nazi-Chic: The Aesthetics of Fascism

Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.

Villains always have the best outfits.

From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.

Way more handsome than Batman. static.giantbomb.com

But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.

Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.

Oh, right.

Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.

Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did. i.imgur.com

Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.

As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.

History of Nazi Chic

For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.

The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.

Very rotten, Johnny. i.redd.it

Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.

The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com

Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.

Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.

Lady Gaga looking SS-uper. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com

Nazi Chic in Asia

Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.

A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.

In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.

OF COURSE. i.imgur.com

That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.

In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.


So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?

The answer is not so black and white.

On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.

But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.

Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.

Darren Cox

Not two hours before curtain of his first Beetlejuice preview at DC's National Theatre, Alex Brightman was at Hamilton – the restaurant, not the show.

Calm, comfortably dressed, Brightman took time to hug familiar faces and meet their dining companions, charming as ever – impressively collected for an actor about to climb into the character of a demon who personifies pure id. At that point, fewer than 200 audience members had witnessed Broadway-bound Beetlejuice – which returns Brightman to his former Dewey Finn dressing room at the Winter Garden next spring, earning him the rare distinction of starring in back-to-back musicals making their Broadway debut in the same theatre. This time, in lieu of teaching ten-year-old Zack Mooneyham to get his workaholic dad to hear him via face-shredding guitar solos in School of Rock, Brightman teaches Lydia to capture her work-focused father's attention through terrorizing people to the point of sh*tting themselves.

By Matthew Murphy

A raw electricity–accompanied by an infusion of nerve-wracking energy in the case of material headed for Broadway–permeates the first preview of any play. All theatre is ephemeral, here one moment and gone the next, but a first preview offers the possibility to see a show that, in all likelihood, will never appear in that particular form again. For those involved behind-the-scenes, first previews provide proof of the magic that exists inside true theatre folk: ready or not, come curtain time the show goes on. For the character of Beetlejuice, this includes tracking fire and musical instruments tossed up from the pit, riding multiple set-pieces and a number of ad libs Brightman merges effortlessly into Scott Brown and Anthony King's book, as though part of his body's exhalation. From first preview, Brightman breathes as Beetlejuice.

Many theatre-goers avoid attending first previews, knowing the work remains in a state of transition and final tweaking. Some, on the other hand, seek them out: perhaps for the thrill of the unknown, perhaps due to the likelihood of a lower ticket price. Braving Beetlejuice's inaugural public performance offered a unique bonus: be among the first to witness the musical's "REALLY F*$#&*G EXPLICIT" departure from its family friendly source material. The creative team took a risk, exorcising Beetlejuice from his PG-rating and unleashing him into a show that explodes out-the-gate with references to puppet sex, butt stuff, and snorting a hefty forearm's worth of cocaine.

In sharp contrast, audiences meet the show's co-star, Lydia Deetz at the funeral of her mother; new ghosts on the block Adam and Barbara Maitland begin their arc as a waspy couple facing the recent aftermath of a miscarriae, coping through crib polishing and carrot peeling. After their sudden and untimely deaths, the mild-mannered Maitlands scheme to scare Lydia and her businessman father, Charles, out of their home – before Deetz converts it into the model unit of "rural retreats for urban elites" that shoehorn the concept of "family" into a shallow and misguided abstraction of wealth and sophistication.

Lydia and the Maitlands each start their journeys in a state of sincere grief and loss, Charles surrounds himself with the superficial: all the while, Beetlejuice is on-hand to make gibes about guacamole, herpes, and Katharine Hepburn. No subject matter is safe, from boners to Broadway musicals: Brightman's Beetlejuice pokes fun at several classics of The Great White Way, some cleverly concealed Easter eggs for theatre-dorks (which Brightman unabashedly is) – others actual callouts.

Though the show's title belongs to Beetlejuice, its heart belongs to Lydia, played by seventeen-year-old Sophia Anne Caruso.

Broadway World

Unleashed by Lydia in a moment of extreme desperation, Beetlejuice is what happens when the root of a problem isn't confronted head-on – a metaphor made painfully real by the production's current proximity to a Trump-run White House.

Navigating adolescence, a move, dead mom, dismissive dad – plus ditzy Life Coach Delia, whom dad hires to heal his daughter's pain, ghosts and demons seem appropriate playmates for a death-obsessed teen who longs to reunite with her mom on the "other side." Much like an extra-angsty Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden, Lydia finds herself isolated "high on a hill [in] a big old house with something wrong inside it," equally intrigued by the idea of invoking spirits – except the insufferable male hidden up in Lydia's attic is an actual demon, not just a whiny brat with a bad back.

Audiences may recall Caruso's brilliant performance as Helen Keller, a role she tackled at age nine, under the direction of Patty Duke (who had originated the role on Broadway in 1959) – or perhaps her heart-stopping appearance alongside Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams in the 2016 Broadway revival of Blackbird. The point being: Caruso is the real deal when it comes to embodying vulnerable trauma on-stage, and it will be exciting to track the evolution of her journey in this role opposite Brightman's Beetlejuice.

The show's second act deals with an arranged marriage/murder plot between "Creepy Old Guy" (Beetlejuice) and his underage bride (Lydia), played out alongside jokes about pedophilia, dead parents, and pubic hair ("just like Lolita – but fine!"). Recognizing this taboo topic and the dark brand of humor Beetlejuice brings, Director Alex Timbers at one point turns the entire cast to face the audience – Beetlejuice included – to express disbelief that "some cultures think this kind of thing's alright!?" At all times it is clear: the show does not promote this behavior.

A ballad from Barbara Maitland attempts to balance the bawdy darkness, taking a beat to sing about the "mother [she] never got to be." Kerry Butler's performance is sweet and heartfelt, framed overhead by a strip of attic ceiling boards that resemble a white picket fence suspended in mid-air (shout-out to set designer David Korins for this lovely detail).

There is a subtle connection between Brightman's back-to-back Broadway leading roles – one akin to a line from Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, confessing a feeling of connection between the author and his homicidal subject: "it's as if [we] grew up in the same house. And one day he stood up and went out the back door, while I went out the front." Where Dewey Finn wanted to compete in the Battle of the Bands, Beetlejuice wants to "kill lots of people and f*ck sh*t up" – almost as if Dewey Finn never stepped foot into Horace Green Prep and, instead, melted his mind with psychotropic drugs and died horrifically. Lydia's version of a climactic "Teacher's Pet" guitar solo is committing murder, forgivable in context – heart-warming, even – because she did it alongside loved ones and is now "seen" by her dad.


If for no other reason, to witness Brightman's artistry in taking on another massive leading role – and crushing it with inspiring commitment to character and unbelievable energy, which seems to be his wheelhouse. (Ditto for Caruso: she's certainly one to watch hone her own distinct frequency.)

A dare to parents: consider taking your kids – seriously – especially if they're budding Broadway geeks who caught Brightman's Tony-nominated performance in School of Rock. (There's nothing more extreme here than the more memorable lyrics from Book of Mormon's "Hasa Diga Eebowai" or "Joseph Smith American Moses" – and it's highly unlikely Beetlejuice will get more filthy between its first out-of-town preview and Broadway.)

Have a pre-show discussion about the reasons behind using shock value in art – in this instance as a way of showing the dangers that befall emotional struggles that go unaddressed. Celebrate an actor's artistic range – that the same guy who got them picking up guitars and drum sticks is now tap dancing and making dick jokes and riding a Graboid on the very same stage. (And, two hours before his first preview, took time to make rounds at a nearby restaurant, playfully helping a server hand-off a gluten-free beer – to the author of this piece.)


concludes its out-of-town tryout at DC's National Theatre November 18, and begins Broadway previews March 28, 2019: check it out.

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