Stranger Things has always made good use of its inherent nostalgia, sprinkling callbacks to the films that inspired it throughout its first two seasons. The Halloween episode in Season 2 was the perfect time to make more explicit references to the '80s movies that influenced the series, with the kids dressing up as characters from Ghostbusters and Risky Business, among others. But there is one thing you missed while watching Stranger Things Season 2: Eleven's hopeful costume was a throwback to yet another '80s classic film, and once you catch the reference, it's pretty much impossible to ignore.
Eleven's brilliant plan to stay hidden from the evil scientists chasing her (but still get to take part in the Halloween festivities) was to disguise herself from head to toe. The simplest way to do that was with the most timeless costume of all: a ghost. It was low maintenance and easy to make, because all it required was a white sheet with two holes cut out for eyes. Hopper didn't seem to have the access to thousand-dollar lace-front wigs that the Wheelers did, so a ghost sheet was the best Eleven could do on short notice. And it just so happened to look like it was referencing a moment from 1982's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
In E.T., brothers Elliott and Michael sneak their alien pal out of the house on Halloween by dropping a similar white sheet over his head. The shapeless costume hid E.T.'s bulky shape and made him impossible to distinguish from all the other trick or treating kids in the neighborhood. If Hopper had allowed Eleven to leave the house, then she might have been just as well concealed. She could have enjoyed a normal childhood tradition (something Eleven clearly craves because of her upbringing) without being discovered. It was too bad that Hopper wasn't quite so into the idea. I mean, just look how much fun E.T. was having...
While Stranger Things didn't officially confirm that the ghost costume was a nod to E.T., it still felt like the kind of allusion the show would make. It's timely to the the 1980s setting and the specific genre the show is built on: a rag tag group of kids in the suburbs getting embroiled in matters way beyond their understanding, but ultimately triumphing anyway. The series creators Matt and Ross Duffer cited E.T.'s director Steven Spielberg as an influence in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, acknowledging that the things affecting the younger characters had the most Spielberg-ian elements.
Ross Duffer explained that the storyline of the teenaged characters had more of a John Carpenter or Wes Craven vibe (with a healthy dose of Stephen King), but the same was not true for the youngsters. "With the kids it's more, yes there's the Spielberg stuff, but that's where it get's a little confusing, because part of it is the Spielberg stuff like E.T.," Ross said, before going on to say that the adults were influenced more by Close Encounters and Jaws.
The ghost costume might not have been the only connection between Eleven and E.T., either. Her aforementioned blonde wig from Season 1 called to mind the time E.T. found himself donning some luxurious blonde locks. It might be a stretch, but it is certainly coincidental. Eleven may not be an alien, but she is someone with a lot of power who arrived unexpectedly and made close friends with some tween boys while they tried to help her find her place in the world. The parallels are there even outside of the fashion choices, making the handful of homages Eleven does to E.T. feel like charming little Easter eggs scattered throughout the show.
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