Critics were not surprised that Netflix’s “Stranger Things” was the most streamed show of 2022.
Described as a “runaway No. 1” by Hollywood Reporter, the show racked up more than 52 billion minutes of viewing time. The show beat out the next most-streamed show by 36%. “NCIS” came in second with 38.1 billion minutes, followed by “Ozark” and “Wednesday.”
“Stranger Things” registered the most amount of minutes watched on a television show since COVID-19 lockdowns. Variety reported that “The Office” was streamed for 57.1 billion minutes in 2020. But, at the same time, “The Office” has 192 episodes while “Stranger Things” only has 34 — attesting to the sci-fi show’s popularity.
The show seems to be popular because it works for different audiences and incorporates nostalgia, humor and more. Here are five things about the show that may have contributed to its popularity.
1. Love for 80’s nostalgia
Mullets, band posters and ’80s clothing are sprinkled throughout the series. And even though Gen Z didn’t grow up in the ’80s, there still is a sense of nostalgia that is pervasive throughout the series and attractive to audiences.
The colorful clothing and retro vibes throughout the show resonate with younger audiences because it creates a nostalgia that didn’t exist previously for them. Writing for The Conversation, Tom van Laer and Davide Christian Orazi said, “For fans of Stranger Things, buying retrotastic products and services helps fans go to the 1980s in their mind’s eye and empathise with their beloved characters. This recreation of the eighties leads to a transformation of the decade itself.”
This makes the show unique, while other contemporary endeavors depict life in a more 21st-century way.
2. Seeing true friendship on screen
Friendship is undoubtedly one of the core values of the show.
Whether it be the friendship between Mike, Will, Dustin and Lucas or Eleven and Max, the characters in the show have deep friendships with one another. Their relationships to each other model healthy, close relationships.
Siblings in the show become friends with each other and the characters show active support for each other.
Gen Z loves to see intimate, honest and open friendships. According to the Friendship Report — a global study with 10,000 people involved — Gen Zers are looking for these types of friendships more than any other generation. It’s not surprising that when it’s shown on screen, it resonates with them.
3. The show has a certain memeability
Meme culture undoubtedly drives the popularity of the show.
There’s a good chance that you’ve seen a “Stranger Things” meme circulating on social media. BuzzFeed published an article that compiled 92 of these memes.
The show’s humor creates plenty of moments where someone can make a funny meme to share on the internet, but the creation of memes also does something else — it creates a parasocial relationship. The audience feels more connected to the show and the actors due to the meme culture that has circulated, which may help drive popularity.
4. The acting is well-done
The show is well-decorated, racking up several awards and nominations, including a Golden Globes best actress nomination and several Kid’s Choice awards, among others.
The actors and actresses in the show are phenomenal, which contributes to the show’s popularity. Millie Bobby Brown alone for her role as Jane “Eleven” Ives has been nominated for 32 awards and has won 12 awards — an impressive showing.
5. Everyone can relate to the show
No show can have it all, but “Stranger Things” comes pretty close.
There’s friendship, there’s romance, there’s family relationships, there’s mystery, there’s humor — this show can be watched and enjoyed by people of many ages. That’s why it’s probably been such an important cultural moment.