What if the Upside Down is just...the future?
[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
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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.
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.
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The Similarities Between Black Mirror's 'Bandersnatch' and 'The OA' are Too Strange to be Coincidental
There are also major parallels between these shows, Russian Doll, and Stranger Things. (This article contains spoilers).
(This article contains major spoilers for both Black Mirror's Bandersnatch and The OA Season II.)
For a moment, the camera remains focused on the protagonist's bewildered face.
Then it pans out to reveal that the entire world of the show we've just been watching was nothing more than a TV set. Cameramen and directors scurry around; the actors fix their costumes. The main character stares, open-mouthed.
If you make a particular series of choices, you'll arrive at this scene in Black Mirror's Bandersnatch. You can also see it in Season II of The OA, when—extreme spoiler alert—detective Karim Washington finally peers out the mysterious Rose Window, and sees a dimension in which everyone he knows is only an actor in a movie set.
In Bandersnatch, this revelation occurs in a therapist's office, and in The OA it happens on the top floor of a San Francisco mansion, but despite these immediate differences, the two scenes are uncannily similar.
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch -- Neflix Fight Scene www.youtube.com
The OA: Part II - 2x08 - Ending Scene (1080p) www.youtube.com
This is only one of the many major parallels between two of Netflix's most mysterious, mind-bending shows. Initially, they start with very different premises. Charlie Brooker's
Bandersnatch is a two-hour-long roller coaster, notable for its "choose your own adventure" feature, which allows viewers to design their own plot by making various decisions at different points. (Choices range from which kind of cereal to choose to whether the protagonist should kill his father). The protagonist in question is a young computer game coder named Stefan, and the show follows him as he descends into madness while designing an ever-more complex computer game.
The OA is Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij's ambitious, fourteen-episode brainchild. Its first season follows Marling's character, Prairie, as she tells the story of her near-death experience and subsequent abduction by the show's villain, Hap, a scientist who has become obsessed with studying the brains of people who have brushed close with death. The first season ended on a major cliffhanger; the second begins in a new dimension, when Prairie awakens to find herself inside the body of Nina Azarova, a Russian socialite and medium living the life she would have if not for her NDE.
Objectively, the shows aren't that similar—after all, Bandersnatch takes place in the '80s and mostly focuses on an isolated Stefan as he descends into homicidal madness. On the other hand, the ultra-modern cast of The OA includes everyone from Zendaya to a massive, talking octopus named Old Night.
Image via Buzzfeed
Image via Buzzfeed
Still, upon closer inspection, the similarities are undeniable. Here are some of the most notable places where the two shows' universes meet.
A Computer Game as a Portal to Multiple Realities
In The OA's second season, children lose their minds as they attempt to win money by playing a computer game, which leads them into a mansion that's actually a portal to other universes. The mansion itself is designed to work as a continuation of the game, which allows winners to reach the Rose Window and its mind-bending, reality-altering view.
Similarly, in Bandersnatch, Stefan loses his mind while designing a game that leads him to question every aspect of his reality. While attempting to understand these games, both the kids in The OA and Stefan draw cryptic illustrations on their bedroom walls, isolate themselves, and wind up harming themselves and everyone around them. In each show, the central game lures characters in by promising greatness and wealth—but instead leads them towards either a state of enlightened understanding or paralyzing madness.
Ultimately, both shows use games and technology as vessels that can be used to leap between worlds. Both identify alternate realities that run alongside each other and that intersect at certain points; and both claim that—through deep science, communion with nature, or a few well-placed dance movements—it might be possible to cross from this world to the next.
when you realize that not only are WE (the viewers) controlling stefan’s actions, but the black mirror creators are… https://t.co/RVg7EdGdmY— Erika (@Erika)1545990630.0
A Charismatic Tech Guru with Dangerous Theories
One of the most memorable moments in Bandersnatch is the scene where Stefan drops acid with Colin, the Steve Jobs-esque brains behind the tech company Tuckersoft. As soon as the drug kicks in, Colin delivers one of the trippiest monologues in modern television history.
Black Mirror - Bandersnatch (Colin's speech about the PAC-man metaphore) www.youtube.com
Image via Reddit
Colin is a prophetic source of wisdom throughout the show—just like The OA's leading tech guru, Silicon Valley 'prophet' Pierre Ruskin, orchestrator of the game that leads children to the house. Ultimately, both gurus are firmly convinced that there is more than one reality, and both are dedicated to reaching it, no matter the cost.
Childhood Trauma as a Point of Divergence
At the heart of The OA and Bandersnatch—amidst all their static and science—are specific instances of childhood trauma, which are identified as the points where the characters' lives began to diverge into multiple pathways. In The OA, that moment is Nina/Prairie's NDE, an experience she's forced to revisit when trying to re-access Nina Azarova's memories. In Bandersnatch, that moment is when the young Stefan spent too long searching for his toy, causing his mother to miss her train and catch a later one, which derailed.
Prairie lost her father and her vision in her traumatic event, and Stefan lost his mother, but both shows give their protagonists the ability to revisit these traumas and, effectively, to undo them, to experience lives in which these moments had never happened. Prairie's moment of recollection and reversal is in a bathtub, where she relives her own drowning; Stefan's is in the reality in which he has the choice to accompany his mother on the fatal train ride.
Black Mirror Bandersnatch (2018) | Train Ending Scene www.youtube.com
An Extremely Meta Ending
Bandersnatch not only breaks the fourth wall—it shatters it. In one scene, viewers are literally able to choose whether or not to tell Stefan that his actions are being controlled by something from the future called Netflix.
Then, of course, there's that television set-scene, the moment where the whole illusion collapses and we're faced with the reality of what's happening: all that we're seeing has been filmed in some Hollywood studio. Stefan's therapist is an actor. Stefan himself is an actor. Nothing is real. That same exact idea is at the crux of The OA's finale; in its final scene, Brit Marling and Jason Isaacs call themselves by their real names, effectively annihilating the line between our reality and the one(s) onscreen.
Image via PopBuzz
So, Is Netflix Using the Same Algorithmic Plot for Many Shows On Purpose?
Though The OA and Bandersnatch might be particularly alike, they aren't the only shows on Netflix that revolve around the concept of other realities and alternate, interconnected universes.
Recently, Netflix's Russian Doll made use of a nonlinear view of time, giving its protagonist the ability to transcend death in order to correct her mistakes and—you guessed it—make peace with a childhood trauma, which had to do with blaming herself for her mother's death. The show also uses concepts based on quantum physics to explain its multiple timelines.
Is #RussianDoll the Bandersnatch we deserved?— Tareque Laskar (@Tareque Laskar)1549013778.0
The portal from Stranger Things, via Hollywood Reporter
The portal from Russian Doll, via Vulture
Another hit —
Stranger Things—also relies on quantum physics-based ideas to explain its Upside Down, a parallel universe that operates similarly to the alternate dimensions in The OA.
The flea and acrobat metaphor from Stranger Things. Image via weheartit
Millie Bobby Brown's character Eleven is also a startlingly similar figure to Brit Marling's Prairie/Nina; both were trapped by scientists for many years, and both emerged from their imprisonment endowed with the ability to create portals between dimensions (and sometimes, to levitate). The list goes on.
Can’t see Can’t speak Can’t hear Can’t decide #Bandersnatch https://t.co/HPYUqJ5L6t— lisa mc breen (@lisa mc breen)1546018961.0
It's not that these shows are copies of each other. They all seem to utilize similar plotlines, ones that revolve around suppressed childhood traumas and a quantum-physics-inspired tangle of dimensions. In a way, the shows themselves seem to be parallel universes to each other. In each, the traumas and the multiple realities both unveil themselves about three-quarters of the way through, sparking climactic endings that, ultimately, imply that the bonds between humans are strong enough to transcend time and death.
So what's the draw to the multiverse idea? Is our era of catfishing, fake news, and mediated simulacra making us feel like we're living in many realities once? Are we all just seeking ways to escape our linear lives, to escape the passage of time, or to change the past? Can we all sense that this isn't the only world, that we're not the only ones here (after all, what's religion other than a poetic promise that other worlds and greater forces exist)? Does this subject just make for great television?
Regardless, people are into it. YouTube just announced that it will be creating interactive content like Bandersnatch; Season 3 of Stranger Things will officially drop on July 4, 2019; and Black Mirror's fifth season will also be released this year. It seems like TV's journey through interconnected parallel universes has just begun. (Though of course, it's probably already finished in the universes next to this one).
Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York City. Tweet your best conspiracy theories to her @edenarielmusic.
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