Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Not the Hellfire Club (or The Ups and Downs of Late Night Talk)

The Netflix series Stranger Things was a surprise hit, and over its 4 seasons has become a full-blown pop-culture phenomenon. In many ways, it is a love-letter to us Gen-Xers who grew up in the 80s, with tons of references to television shows, movies, music, and about anything else you can think of that was popular during the decade.

Given the sci-fi/horror/fantasy themes of a series set in the 80s, it isn't surprising to hear that Dungeons and Dragons plays heavily into the plot of the show. The first episode of the entire series starts out with the main characters involved in a long-running D&D campaign. Creatures featured throughout the series are heavily inspired, if not lifted verbatim, from the source material for the game. If you ever played the game growing up, or play it now, you will immediately feel familiar with the core of the series.

The recent season 4 introduced us to the Hellfire Club. This was a group of kids that were very serious about the game, including having scheduled game days, LARP-esque props, even matching t-shirts, and campaigns that apparently lasted for weeks at a time. It was a way for this group of social misfits to feel part of a group, which is why a lot of us got into the game in the first place.

My own experience with Dungeons and Dragons was not nearly as involved as the Hellfire Club. We had no matching t-shirts, no prop weapons, no miniatures. In general, we stuck to campaigns that we either purchased from TSR, or things that were printed in Dungeon Magazine. It was unusual for a campaign to last more that a couple of nights, much less multiple weeks. And we weren't ever faced with the threat of a Lovecraftian monster hellbent on destroying our town.

The latest season of Stranger Things touches on the hysteria around the supposed demonic origins of the game, fueled by news services looking for the next big story which, in turn, fueled the largely Christian backlash against the game and those that were playing it. There were definitely parents that forbade their kids from playing the game, fearful that it would lead to a life of satan worship and debauchery. Fortunately, our parents didn't subscribe to such theories, and let us enjoy our game time.

There were some similarities between our gaming and how it is portrayed in the show. We partook of copious amounts of junk food, pizza, and soda during our gaming sessions. We listened to a fair amount of moderately-hard rock like AC/DC and Metallica. Our play sessions would often start Fridays after school, going into the wee hours of Saturday morning. And it was some of the best time that I remember from my school years. As a bullied nerd longing to belong to something, it was the perfect outlet.

Watching Stranger Things transports me back to those days, and the power of nostalgia takes hold. If you grew up in the 80s, even if you weren't someone who nerded-out to things like D&D and video games, you'll still find something to identify with in the series.

Now for something completely different...

"Night Talk with Furble" extends its season.

Strip 126/166 - Political humor. Har, har, har.

If you step in the Way Back Machine to the late 80s, George H. W. Bush was elected President, with running mate Dan Quayle as his VP. Compared to the 70-year-old Bush, the 42-year-old Quayle seemed a kid in comparison. But, when Quayle tried to correct a 12-year-old's (correct) spelling of "potato", comparisons to a school child by the comedians of the day were inevitable.

Strip 127/166 - Maybe a taller chair?

Well, somebody had to bring it up.

Strip 128/166 - A second reference to the Bakker scandal

It isn't unusual for the late-night set to address the same scandal on multiple occasions. This comic came after Jim Bakker had been sentenced to jail for fraud. Perhaps someone should fire whomever is in charge of booking guests for the show. Unfortunately, that may be FC. It was never established.

Strip 129/166 - Going to have to get set construction on the phone

This is the only time we see Furble in full during the "Night Talk" series. Kind of made it easy on myself by having two panes with simple onomatopoeia here. Don't worry, the set will soon be back in order.

More "Night Talk" next week!

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