Stranger Things: Callbacks And References You Missed In Season 2

Though Stranger Things is famous for riffing on popular ’80s callbacks, you’ll also find more than a few references that stretch outside that decade in season 2. So let’s delve in as we break down a bunch of the pop-cultural references woven into the clash threatening to rip Hawkins, Indiana to nothing.

Punky Brewster
When Eleven and her “sister” invade the home of someone who can help them unlock their past, they find the man pathetically watching Punky Brewster all alone. If you’re familiar with the show, you’ll remember that Punky Brewster was about a young, abandoned kid (Punky) adopted by a grouchy, older man. Sound familiar? (Episode 7)

Pretty In Pink
Dustin may not have gotten girl at the big dance, but, like Jon Cryer’s Duckie in Pretty in Pink (1986), he does get lucky – he does get a girl. In Stranger Things, Nancy takes pity on Dustin and asks him to dance. The scene is a callback to when Duckie got friend-zoned by Molly Ringwald’s Andie Pretty in Pink. Duckie hooks up with a young Kristy Swanson. Extra points to Gaten Matarazzo for getting the greased-back ducktail period correct. (Episode 9)

Jurassic Park
It doesn’t get much more overt, reference-wise, than using an iconic line from an iconic movie like this wink to Jurassic Park. Both Sheriff Hopper (David Harbour) and Jurassic Park’s Muldoon (Bob Peck) are understandably interested in how many creatures they’d have to get past to find the circuit breaker and turn the lights and door locks back on. (Episode 8)

Siouxsie Sioux
Jonathan got it all wrong, this girl is not dressed as Kiss, nor is she Robert Smith from the Cure, or Dr. Frank-N-Furter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Any in-the-know goth can tell you that she was definitely dressed as Siouxie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees, circa 1985. (Episode 2)

Billy from St. Elmo’s Fire
Stranger Things’ Billy Hargrove is a direct lift off Rob Lowe’s sax-blowing Billy in St. Elmo’s Fire (1985). The Duffler brothers get an A+ for getting the look and the vibe of the original Billy — from the complicated, perfectly tousled hair to the dominant eyebrows and dangling earring. But that’s where the comparison ends. Lowe’s Billy is a loveable dumbass, while Hargrove’s Billy was modeled after Jack Nicholson in The Shining. (Episode 1)

Baby Fae’s Baboon Heart
Baby Fae’s Baboon Heart is a very obscure bit of ‘80s pop culture in that the only people who remember it were no young than a junior high kid, which is why the reference is perfectly placed. In this episode of Stranger Things, the headline on the cover of Mr. Sinclair’s newspaper, “Baby Fae’s Baboon Heart,” is a reference to a real-life medical case that took place in October, 1984. Stephanie Fae Beauclair was the first successful infant heart transplant case—and, yes, they used a baboon heart. Sadly, Fae die within a month of the procedure. (Episode 5)

Period-accurate Halloween costumes
I won’t waste your time with the guys’ Ghostbusters Halloween costumes, we all know they were pretty great. But what about some of the lesser celebrated costumes in the background of this Hawkins high-school Halloween party: “Like a Virgin”-era Madonna (1984), Alex Owens from Flashdance (1983), Rocky from Rocky (1976), and Johnny from The Karate Kid (1984) all cheer on Billy’s keg stand. There’s also Bluto from Animal House (1978) somewhere in the bushes. (Episode 2)

Fabergé Organic shampoo and conditioner
Another very timely, and rather obscure nod to the mid-‘80s when Fabergé Organic shampoo was one of the more popular hair care products of the time, thanks to Farrah Fawcett endorsing it in the early ‘80s, then handing the campaign off to Heather Locklear in 1984. She was arguably considered one of the most beautiful women in the world, so it’s no surprise that Steve would crack wise about the commercials. (Episode 6)

In Stranger Things’ first episode, Paul Reiser’s Dr. Owens is introduced almost the same way his Aliens character, Burke, appears on the scene in that film. Both approach the bed of a traumatized survivor of the first installment and attempt to gain their trust. Both are employees of a company the lead has every reason to distrust. In Aliens, Reiser’s Burke is lying when he tells Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley she can trust him, so audiences watching Stranger Things may view any Reiser character as skeptically as Winona Ryder’s Joyce does. (Episode 1)

Scarface montage
Hardcore Scarface fans immediately recognized the questionable song used during the Hawkins High School basketball practice. It’s the same song used in Scarface during its ridiculous “getting rich” montage. The song – “Scarface (Push it to the Limit” – was mocked mercilessly by South with a 2002 parody “Montage.” (Episode 4)


Supermarket Sweep
Supermarket Sweep was a game show from the mid-late ‘60s, then went away before returning like gangbusters in 1990. That means this punk kid is quoting a… decades-old game show? Interesting. Anyway, it should ring a bell for ‘90s kids who know full well that boxes of instant mashed potatoes and Kraft macaroni and cheese are the keys to winning this crazy game show.

All photos: Netflix