(Note: I debated whether to write something here. The above writeup is very powerful and talks about some very powerful things. The things I talk about might seem silly in comparison, but I feel that they are relevant, because I think that if people have problems remembering minor aspects of their own history, they will never be able to comprehend the major things)
Most fans of “Stranger Things” think that it is an almost pitch-perfect recreation of the 1980s, with only a few minor nit-picking details of anachronisms. One of these anachronisms is so minor that it doesn't even get mentioned by most of the people who compile such lists. In the first season, after the telephone burns out due to supernatural interference, Winona Ryder's character goes to the small store she works at, buys a telephone, and installs it on her wall. Pretty simple, right? But in 1983, before the break-up of AT&T, almost all phones were owned by AT&T, and had to be installed by AT&T. If she had burnt out her phone, she would have to call AT&T and report that fact, and then wait perhaps several weeks for AT&T to send a technician out to install a telephone.
Which, of course, would have disrupted the narrative of the story. And which is also something that even an eagle-eyed viewer might not notice. After all, it was true that a few years later, by the late 1980s or early 1990s, you could go to a local pharmacy and buy a new replacement telephone for a small price, come home, and plug it in. Little details about time tend to get mixed together. When people remember a certain year, they might, covertly, remember things from before or after, mixed in with it. Sometimes these things are objective, people will remember a physical artifact being present that wouldn't have been in existence yet (or at least wouldn't have been common: you probably weren't listening to CD's in 1985, even if they did exist). But it is even easier to just push attitudes and beliefs back, imagining that we viewed events around us with the experience of later years.
The way people in the United States look at things has changed greatly since I was a child in the 1980s, and even more so than from the 1950s, or earlier. And this different in viewpoint and expectations is not confined to a certain political or social group: it is not just the over-discussed millenials with obvious political and social agendas whose viewpoints and attitudes have shifted. It has happened to everyone. But often, the change isn't even noted because people have subtly edited their memory of the past. What is left is a strange hybrid where elements of the past 50 or 60 years (many of those themselves being an adaptation from television or secondhand media: in 2018, someone would have to be close to 70 to have even a child's recollection of growing up in the 1950s, but a lot of people have watched Leave it to Beaver reruns.) These elements hybridize in areas minor and major. In this past, the guys could watch football on a color television while eating hummus, not on a black and white television while eating pretzels. A woman could enjoy traditional values and male chivalry, but not be called a “divorcee” by her peers. Boys would have the wholesome values of Boy Scouts in the 50s...but also the shaggy hair, blue jeans, and rock and roll attitudes of the 1970s. It was a world where sexual promiscuity and wildness were curtailed...but a man and a woman could still reasonably date and maybe even cohabit before marriage. People could eat in Denny's without the danged Millenials poking away at their phones...but they also wouldn't be breathing an atmosphere of smoke and grilled liver fumes. It was also a world where you didn't have a nanny state stopping you from smoking cigarettes, but you didn't have to watch people die of lung cancer in their fifties. People would go to Chuck's Hardware on Mainstreet and have old Chuck leisurely help them out with their local maintainance problems, but where, vaguely, there was a
Big Box store open 24 hours out on the highway where they could get anything for cheap.
It was a world where women could have their ears pierced twice and still get an office job, a world where a man could listen to rock music on a radio (that didn't exist yet, in reality) in his office without raising the eyes of his churchgoing boss. It was a world without haughty young people drinking coffee at Starbucks...but without the reality of drinking 50 cent swill coffee out of styrofoam cups. It is a world of so many anachronisms, a salad buffet of attitudes and artifacts, that people unconsciously pick and choose out a past that perfectly fits them.
There are, of course, some people who would do away with all these changes, because they think all of them are sinful. There are some people so conservative that they would be happy to get rid of all rock music and unnatural hair colors, if it meant getting rid of homosexual marriage. Even if it meant having to go back to eating the three flavors of overprocessed ice cream that we had in the early 1980s, and waiting two weeks for AT&T to send a technician to your house to repair your phone. But most people who idealize a conservative past are themselves the product of a sea change in matters of personal mores and personal expression, and in the amount of lifestyle choices they have, that has been so radical that they wouldn't even recognize a world before it happened. And in some ways, many of the hallmarks of the so-called “conservative worldview” are about an attitude of confrontation and subversion, something that would have been anathema to conservatives in the 1990s or before. Much of the loudest braying about “the good old days” has come via social media, a change in technology and social organization that has radically changed life---and allowed people to romanticize a time before it existed. The desire for the past is being amplified by the very things that destroyed that past and make it impossible.
Wolfgang Pauli famously said “That isn't even wrong”. So is the past that people want based on a lie? No, it isn't. It isn't even a lie. Its a mixed-up, hodge-podge fantasy where people have conflated and combined different eras of recent history, forgetting what it was like before their current technology and lifestyle was available. It is an impossible dream, that, if they did try to sort out, if they did remember what it was like to live in a time of polyester clothing and chain smoking and Ham and Banana Hollandaise, would quickly realize how much they liked the present.
The past that people are trying to get back to isn't based on a lie. It is not even a lie.