Halloween isn’t complete without watching at least one “Treehouse of Horror” episode of The Simpsons, which is why last night, in lieu of giggling at Harley Quinns and the Jokers drunkenly wobble down Austin, TX’s most bar-covered street, I went to “Cartoon Night.” It’s exactly what it sounds like — people watch cartoons — but with a little extra: a Scooby Doo tribute band called the Zoinks played between screenings, and attendees were invited to feast on bowls of milk and cereal. The hosts also invited everyone to dress up, so I was expecting to see various obscure Simpsons references. Nope: by far the two most popular costumes were from Rick and Morty and Stranger Things.
Rick and Morty make sense — it’s a cartoon, after all, and a damn good one at that — but there’s nothing animated about Stranger Things, unless you mean Winona Ryder’s performance. Netflix’s nostalgic breakout hit was everywhere on Halloween, though. (A brief tangent: Halloween on a Monday is the worst. Four days of partying and dressing up sound fun, in theory, but that’s a lot of forethought and by the time actual Halloween rolls around, you’re exhausted and hate candy corn even more than usual. End of rant.) I tried keeping track of the number of wig-wearing Elevens and blinking Christmas lights and toothless Dustin costumes I saw but lost count after 50. It didn’t help that I went to a Stranger Things-themed bar, which included such drinks as the “Nosebleed” and “Fireball or Protection.” No TV show has taken over Halloween as much as Stranger Things did this year since… Game of Thrones?
There are a few reasons why I think that is.
Stranger Things premiered in July, so it’s been around long enough for interested parties to binge the first season but not so long that people have already forgotten about it. (X-Men: Apocalypse, for instance, feels like it was released forever ago, and it came out in May.) It’s in a sweet spot of new-but-old, which also helps explain why it’s so popular. The show does a fine job of straddling the line between the nostalgic past and cautious present — you don’t need to have grown up with John Carpenter’s films to appreciate Stranger Things, but it helps. Halloween is a time when adults act like kids, so 40-somethings have the opportunity to relive their youth through Dustin, while younger generations feel like Stranger Things is for them because of the platform it was released on. Netflix adds a “cool” factor that something on, say, CBS lacks. In obnoxious Hollywood terms, it’s a four-quadrant series.
–Stranger Things has elements of supernatural horror, with creepy monsters and shady government conspiracies and Steve’s hair. Horror is most popular around Halloween, despite all evidence to the contrary.
-Let’s say a young girl wants to dress up as a female character from the year’s highest grossing movie, Captain America: Civil War. She’s pretty much restricted to Black Widow. (No one wants to be Scarlet Witch.) Stranger Things boasts a number of strong women, all of whom have an instantly identifiable Halloween costume: Eleven’s wig; Joyce’s Christmas lights and killer green jacket; Nancy’s equally awesome coat; and Barb’s glasses and red hair.
-Speaking of Civil War: It’s expensive to dress like Thor. Or other pop culture mainstays, such as Jon Snow from Game of Thrones or Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad. Meanwhile, to look like Eleven, all you need is a pink dress, a box of Eggos, fake blood, and a death stare. It’s the perfect costume for the average lazy Netflix viewer (everyone), as well as comfortable to wear and perfect for all body types, unlike the size zero Sexy Nurse outfit at Target.