Stranger Things is filled with 1980s pop culture nostalgia – featuring everything from games, to movies, to TV shows. So, in a second season that covers everything from overt nods to Ghostbusters, to more subtle homages to Gremlins, it was unsurprising to find that eagle-eyed viewers spotted a possible connection between new character Bob (Sean Astin), and the story of Stephen King’s It.
This connection theory refers to a scene in the third episode, where Bob sparks a conversation with the young Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) – who’s being targeted by the ‘Shadow Monster’ from the Upside Down. Bob has already revealed to Will’s mother, Joyce (Winona Ryder), that his parents live in Maine, and while trying to bond with Will by offering advice, he relates a tale about having recurring childhood nightmares about an evil clown. The point of his story is that he was able to halt the nightmares by facing the clown and telling it he wasn’t afraid – which is essentially the plot of It, given that Pennywise The Clown is attracted by fear.
Much has been made of this theory of connection – not least because Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard also features in the recent cinematic adaptation of It, directed by Andres Muschietti. Now, while discussing the third episode of the new season with Vulture, co-creator Matt Duffer has specifically addressed the It connection.
“Well, we both have a problem with clowns. I’ve had it my entire life. I had it when I was really little, so when there were clowns at a party, it was a real problem for me. Then in 1990, we saw the It mini-series and Tim Curry’s performance as Pennywise really messed me up. Like, it scarred me in a major way. It was one of the first true horror things I had seen, and I had not experienced Stephen King before. That was my first experience with Stephen King, so that was a really huge point in my life. It was two weeks, at least, of no sleep because of that. So yeah, I think [Bob’s clown story] was really me describing something that just freaked me out. I didn’t have that experience myself. I just had nightmares like that.”
Continuing on, he said:
“I’m sure we were just like, ‘It would be cute if [Bob] suggests moving to Maine, right next to Stephen King.’ Stephen King exists in this world. Some of the characters have read Stephen King. But Bob definitely does not read Stephen King. He’s not interested at all in Stephen King because he hates that kind of story.”
So, rather than being an attempt to directly link Bob to the events of Stephen King’s It, the story he relates to Will is simply inspired by a pop culture event that played on existing fears, and became a seminal part of The Duffer Brothers’ childhood – just as it was for millions of other viewers of the 1990 television adaptation.
What’s wonderful about the theory of connection between It and Stranger Things, though, is that it’s clear how closely fans are paying attention, which is something that will only add to the anticipation for season 3.