We’ve Lost Our Sense of Community
Two shows have got me thinking about community, or the lack thereof. They are Netflix’s gothic thriller Stranger Things, and the Broadway musical Come from Away, the story of the Newfoundland community of Gander that sheltered over six thousand strangers in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
I took my mother to see the latter a few weeks ago, and she sobbed so much the usher had to bring her more Kleenex. I found myself tearing up too, remembering the six years we lived in Newfoundland in the 1970s.
I’m also in the middle of watching the third season of Stranger Things, a show set in the early 1980s and the shock of loss hits me with every episode.
I think the sense of community depicted in this show accounts for its popularity and uncanny power. Children ride their bikes together on the street with no adult supervision. People know the names of people who serve them in stores. Women gather at the local pool and know the lifeguard (even if he does become his own evil double in disguise, but I digress).
The story fits very well into the gothic tradition as outlined in Andrew Smith’s wonderful work on this tradition, Gothic Literature: a creepy atmosphere, characters have ghostly doubles, and, most importantly it reveals political anxieties relevant to the viewers’ time, not the time the characters are experiencing.
Those political anxieties include the interference of a foreign power meddling in America’s affairs. Russian interference in American elections, for example, is transmuted into evil Russian scientists unleashing a destructive entity known as the “mind flayer.”
The show makes me think of my local K-mart store in the early 1970s.
No, there were no Russian agents performing evil experiments on an unwitting population.
In 1971 in St. John’s, Newfoundland, the K-mart store on Torbay Road was the unofficial community centre of my neighborhood, Wedgewood Park. Kids would hang out there and look at stuff they would like to buy…