The Duffer Brothers acknowledge that Stranger Things references a lot of popular ’80s films, but they don’t think that’s the reason the Netflix series is so popular.
“If the show was only working because of the nostalgia you feel for bringing back that particular piece of music or referencing that moment in a film that you love,” Matt Duffer told The New York Times, “then yeah, it wouldn’t be working with a 10-year-old.”
Ross Duffer said that they pay tribute to iconic films but added that it’s more important to “figure out how to tell this story and tell it well.”
The Duffer Brothers have been criticized for being overly derivative of filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, with the New York Times describing early criticism of the show as saying it was “little more than ’80s karaoke.” The article mentions one of Stranger Things‘ biggest critics, Slate writer Willa Paskin, who wrote that the series “misunderstands a key element of Spielberg’s work.”
The Duffers’ mentor M. Night Shyamalan also thinks the brothers have a ways to go, saying, “I think their style is going to continue to evolve.”