Episode 487: What If They Threw a Conspiracy and Nobody Came?

On the Overthinking It Podcast, we tackle the first four episodes of Stranger Things 2.

Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Matthew Wrather apply some portion control to their binge watch, and consider Stranger Things 2 in itself, in light of the first season, and in light of the conspiracy theories they are developing.

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Further Reading

Eleven and Rambo (click to enlarge)

Eleven from Stranger Things looks like Rambo. Rambo looks like Eleven from Stranger Things.

The Nancys: Elm Street (l), Stranger Things (r) (click to enlarge)

Nancy from "Nightmare on Elm Street"Nancy from "Nightmare on Elm Street"Nancy from "Stranger Things"Nancy from "Stranger Things"

6 Comments on “Episode 487: What If They Threw a Conspiracy and Nobody Came?”

  1. Three Act Destructure #

    As someone vaguely familiar with the mythology of the Namcoverse, I can assure you that Dig Dug (AKA Taizo Hori) is, in fact, male. From Wikipedia:

    “Although Namco has given the character of the original Dig Dug the name Dig Dug, in other games where he makes an appearance, the protagonist goes by the name Taizo Hori (in Japanese order, Hori Taizo), and is the father of Susumu Hori, the main character in the Mr. Driller series. He is also the ex-husband of Toby ‘Kissy’ Masuyo, the heroine of Baraduke. His name is a pun on the Japanese phrase ‘Horitai zo’ (掘りたいぞ) or “I want to dig!” (掘り = dig, たい = want, ぞ = !) – a similar pun might be rendered in English as ‘Will Dig’ or ‘Wanda (Want To) Dig’. His real name was revealed outside Japan in the Nintendo DS game Mr. Driller Drill Spirits, where he is also a playable character. He is additionally featured in an unlockable gallery of Mr. Driller items in Mr. Driller 2. In the Mr. Driller series, Hori is known as the ‘Hero of the Dig Dug Incident’. In Japan, he is also the Hero of the South Island incident and is the honorary chairman of the Driller Council to whom most of the characters answer. This contrasts greatly with the PC remake Dig Dug Deeper, where the hero is simply named Dig Dug.


    • Peter Fenzel OTI Staff #

      I love this! Thank you for keeping Overthinking It overthinking!


  2. yellojkt Member #

    The use of puberty as a metaphor is interesting as that is the main subject of a different Netflix show “Big Mouth” which is an animated series about a group of seventh-graders undergoing “changes.” The show is astoundingly graphic and cringeworthy for anyone who ever had to go through what these kids go through.

    Two of the main characters are Hormone Monsters (one male and one female) who interact with the kids much like the Bad Idea Bears do in “Avenue Q”. These monsters are always suggesting the most blatantly sexual acts imaginable (and in some cases unimaginable). The puppy-love fumblings of the “Stranger Things” kids are much tamer and sweeter than the fumblings of the “Big Mouth” kids who masturbate and menstruate quite openly.

    I had been using “Big Mouth” as a palate cleanser to watch after mini-binges of “Stranger Things” but now they are going to get more and more conflated, no thanks to the Overthinkers.


  3. yellojkt Member #

    This episode discussed bingeworthy Netflix shows and I agree that several lately have been less than snackable. I did watch “GLOW” at a rather leisurely place and have yet to finish the current seasons of “Unforgettable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Orange is the New Black”.

    However, one show I found irresistibly compulsive. “American Vandal” is a spoof of “Serial”-like true crime shows with the premise that a high school AV team is investigating a case where 27 teachers had their cars spraypainted with crude penises. The person expelled for this crime is a dim-witted lowlife who appears to have been unjustly accused. Through eight episodes, the mockumentary delves deep into the high school milieu covering all sorts of teenage wantonness. While set in a contemporary timeframe, the teenagers of “American Vandal” map easily onto some of the “Stranger Things” characters. There are jocks, and nerds, and popular sexually active girls.

    The real achievement of what could be a one-note parody is the way the show mimics impeccably the tropes of the true-crime genre. Each episode ends on a major game-changing reveal complete with dramatic music which makes it very compelling. I bingewatched the last four episodes from 2 am to 4 am Thursday night at least in part because I knew “Stranger Things 2” was dropping. But mostly because the “whodunnit and why” aspect was so compelling.


  4. Peter Fenzel OTI Staff #

    So, I feel like I did a really bad job of explaining this on the podcast, so I wanted to reformulate my question about companies like Netflix and companies like Comcast and their relationship with content.

    I tend to think of art as having “producers/patrons,” “creators,” and “distributors/publishers/exhibitors.”

    As in, one group of people puts up the money and asks for the show to be put on of a certain sort, one group of people put on the show, and one group of people arrange some way for people to watch the show and maybe pay for it.

    Netflix historically has been a distributor, not a producer. It has benefitted a lot from huge existing libraries of content looking for an audience, and has dumped a lot of it back on the market over the years. It’s part of the recent tradition of aggregators – there’s so much out there, and content is commoditized and accessible in a bunch of ways, so the trick is to figure out a way to make money off other people’s work without paying them too much (a much safer and more predictable business than making your own stuff and trying to sell it). Buying the rights to tons and tons of random crappy movies and TV shows has been a big part of the M.O. of TV stations for a long time, but it’s also a generation or two back been a big part of the M.O. of these streaming services.

    So now the streaming services have moved into producing/commissioning their own content in a huge way.

    While there are a lot of reasons this is happening, one big takeaway I have from it is that moving into this kind of business is seen as pretty easy, as long as you have a ton of money you are willing to burn.

    Of course, as we know from GLOW, there’s nothing special about being a producer. Anybody with money to throw around can be a producer. Being a _good_ producer depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.

    Is Netflix an especially good producer? That’s part of the proposition of Stranger Things and why it came up as a topic. Because if they are, then we can expect that maybe other companies that try to move into producing, will be not as good at it as Netflix is.

    And the question becomes especially interesting as to whether Netflix is a good producer because of some resource or capability they have other than cash, as you can’t expect a company to sustain a competitive advantage just with cash forever.

    One idea is that Netflix has lots of data about what people want to watch – and this gives them an advantage over other places in producing content. House of Cards is the biggest success case for this, I think – that they have a competitive advantage in converting customer data into successful production choices.

    So, if we see Netflix as providing a service as a “distributor/publisher/exhibitor,” that all addresses the barrier between them and “producer.” You might assume these jobs have very different requirements and different organizations or people might be good at one and not the other, but Netflix seems to be demonstrating that they can cross this barrier.

    So my question, then, is about the “distributor” versus “distributor” barrier between streaming services and telecom companies, which seems intuitively like a smaller leap in core competency and competitive advantage than the leap between “distributor” and “producer.”

    There are a lot of possible answers to this – the technology needed might be totally different. The actual people you have on staff to do these jobs (delivering internet content through bandwidth versus delivering internet bandwidth) might be totally different.

    And that’s where the division that Matt and I talked about comes in. The salient difference between these businesses is different depending on whether you are looking at the way the system ought to work in a normative sense, a moral sense, a sense for what it does to people and whether we want to live in one way or the other – versus a political realism sense, that is, if people decided they wanted to make this leap, independently of whether it was a good idea or a bad idea to any specific constituency, is it easy or hard to cross these barriers?

    For example, a political think tank that is good at influencing energy policy might decide it wants to vertically integrate and build an offshore oil rig. This is a very hard jump to make, as there are a ton of barriers in expertise, comptenecy, organization, and the deployment of capital that stop just anybody from building an oil rig. Whether it is right or wrong or a good idea or bad idea in any normative sense for a think tank to build an oil rig is, I hope, intuitively, an easy question to answer.

    And so when I’m asking for people to describe to me what the difference between the Netflix “service” and the Comcast “service” is, independently of what they want it to be, that’s what I’m looking for – what barriers are there to stop Comcast or Verizon or T-Mobil from becoming a Netflix? How are the jobs different?

    There are advantages to building a company that does specific things well, rather than everything. It’s not an “organic” situation in the economy for corporations that do absolutely everything to emerge, because of the benefits of specialization, core competency, and comparative advantage, as well as the different demands of different kinds of shareholders.

    It’s not like anybody can do anything and the only thing setting any rules at all is the collective moral will of the people, or those who find some measure to oppose it. And this is where the Roman Emperor example comes in – Constantine didn’t just become the Emperor he was because people believed in Christianity and he believed in Christianity and thus people liked him – there were a series of qualitative and quantitative factors, advantages, politically realist things that informed what happened and made him successful (and the acknowledgment that it is absurd for a man to be a saint who is likely as responsible as Constantine is for the murder of members of his own family, while a moral correction, does not change the reality of his ascension in spite of it).

    Drop a bunch of chips, and they tend to fall where they may in accordance with other factors.

    Now, with this specific question, and many questions like it, the answer includes law and regulation, but, since elections have practical consequences in addition to their moral ones, it looks like the regulatory regime that, to an extent, protects Netflix from market entry by telecoms is being dismantled. Maybe it won’t be, sure, but that seems to be the way the wind is blowing.

    And so I’m asking if we dropped the chips for the companies we want to see as “services” and companies we want to see as “utilities” – is there anything other than regulation stopping them from falling in the same place?

    I mean, Netflix likely can’t become a telecom. But can a telecom become Netflix?


    • Three Act Destructure #

      It’s an interesting thought but my first question is this: why would they need to?

      For a telecom, the advantage of becoming a producer of content would be exclusivity. If you’ve got a hit show and it’s only available through your on-demand service (or whatever) then that’s potentially enticing for people considering which service to go with. Just like loyalty cards or rewards programs or console exclusive titles or Steam trading cards, the goal is to get people who are already paying for your service to feel invested and therefore make them less likely to abandon ship while also giving potential new customers incentive to choose your service over someone else’s.

      But that assumes that there’s some kind of consumer choice to be won when that’s usually not the case:



      In the game of Monopoly, Comcast isn’t the player who controls Boardwalk. They’re Milton Bradley.

      (or, apparently, Hasbro now. Thanks Wikipedia.)


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