How does the design of the Byers’ home in Stranger Things (2016-2019 Netflix) reflect notions of nostalgia for a particular space in time?

Barnwell, J. 2020. How does the design of the Byers’ home in Stranger Things (2016-2019 Netflix) reflect notions of nostalgia for a particular space in time? in: Investigating Stranger Things: Upside Down in the World of Mainstream Cult Entertainment London Palgrave Macmillan.

Chapter titleHow does the design of the Byers’ home in Stranger Things (2016-2019 Netflix) reflect notions of nostalgia for a particular space in time?
AuthorsBarnwell, J.
Abstract

The home is a setting where a character’s psychology can be mirrored and explored. Character and story are closely entwined in the domestic interior and this is often the place that undergoes transformation to signify the changes taking place in the narrative arc. This chapter explores the ways in which the Byers' home is designed as a transition space physically and metaphorically – situated on the edge of the woods on the outskirts of town, a liminal space between the town, the forest and the ‘Upside Down’. Will’s return home at the end of the first season is examined and considered in relation to the importance of returning home in cult texts.

The quiet, small town landscape of Hawkins in its everyday familiarity functions as the backdrop to the supernatural events that subsequently unfold. A contrast is set up between the unexceptional location of Hawkins and the ‘Upside Down’, another dimension, where a beast dwells. This chapter acknowledges the importance of cult 80s film to the design concept and subsequent sense of place created.

Through the course of the first season a small, simple, neutral-coloured bungalow transforms, as the protagonist becomes increasingly desperate to communicate with her son and bring him home. Furniture is moved around in haphazard fashion creating a cluttered and chaotic frame, bursting with brightly coloured fairy lights. The spatial transformation of the home reflects Joyce Byers' interior landscape while also radically altering for reasons connected to the narrative development. The home is a metaphor for her psychological state, which appears fragile as she refuses to give up on the belief that her son is alive and communicating with her from another dimension.

It is in the house that traditional boundaries are broken and temporary ones created, rupturing and subverting conventional entrance and exit points. Although it is the site of struggle, pain, terror and violence it is also incredibly resilient, like the family it prevails. As a transition between the two colliding environments of normal and abnormal, the home signifies a space situated between the two and increasingly comes to reflect the danger and turmoil of the ‘Upside Down’.

In the second season, the Byers home is again the site of trauma and the key to both environments as it’s design actively participates in the narrative and forms the problem-solving visual for the series, by reflecting Will’s interior landscape quite literally. At the end of season three their home is abandoned, we see the contents of the bungalow packed into boxes and the empty house resonate with the shared memories. Their poignant departure suggests the family are ready to move on, how does this reflect on the myth of home?

KeywordsProduction design, Netflix, Cult TV, Nostalgia, Film theory and practice
Book titleInvestigating Stranger Things: Upside Down in the World of Mainstream Cult Entertainment
Year2020
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Publication dates
Published30 Nov 2020
Place of publicationLondon

Related outputs

Paddington in Prison: How does the design of the prison in Paddington 2 (2017) reflect character and story?
Barnwell, J. Paddington in Prison: How does the design of the prison in Paddington 2 (2017) reflect character and story? in: Harmes, M., Harmes, M. and Harmes, B. (ed.) The Palgrave Handbook of Incarceration in Popular Culture Australia Palgrave Macmillan.

Spies at home: How the design conveys character and narrative
Barnwell, J. 2017. Spies at home: How the design conveys character and narrative. Kosmorama . 268, pp. 1-11.

Production Design for Screen: Visual Storytelling in Film and Television
Barnwell, J. 2017. Production Design for Screen: Visual Storytelling in Film and Television. London Bloomsbury.

Permalink - https://westminsterresearch.westminster.ac.uk/item/qxv1z/how-does-the-design-of-the-byers-home-in-stranger-things-2016-2019-netflix-reflect-notions-of-nostalgia-for-a-particular-space-in-time


Share this
Tweet
Email