Magoosh English Lesson: Stranger Things

Welcome to the next lesson in this series of Magoosh’s free English classes

Goals:

  • Learn new TV terms
  • Learn about one of the hottest streaming TV shows airing now
  • Review a common grammar topic

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

Time: Approximately 15 minutes

Stranger Things

An adult series that centers around a group of children will never work.” That’s what Matt and Ross Duffer (known professionally as the Duffer Brothers) were told by over ten cable networks when they were trying to sell their series. But now, those networks are eating their words as Stranger Things has become Netflix’s international sensation.

 

What’s the show about?

The story, set in the early 1980s, unfolds in the fictional, rural town of Hawkins, Indiana where a nearby government lab conducts secret research projects on all things supernatural and paranormal. Naturally, the results of their experiments spill into the lives of local residents including a group of children who serve as the protagonists of the story.

 

Why is it so popular?

Stranger Things taps into the inner child of many Americans who grew up in the 1980s and ‘90s. The show is full of pop culture references and brings viewers back to a time when it was okay for their imagination to run wild. The Duffer Brothers explain that the show is inspired by many of their favorite movies, books, TV shows, and video games from the era. 

 

Format

Because Stranger Things is released on a TV streaming service, it doesn’t have to follow a traditional TV show format. Each season is limited to only eight episodes which gives the show more of a cinematic feel. Many of the visual effects on the show do not use CGI as the creators wanted to avoid their use. Instead, they use practical effects and add film grain to a lot of the footage to create the atmosphere for the story.

 

The Future

After three seasons, it looks like the hit show will be around for a long run. That is, if they can keep their young actors coming back to shoot the series every year. Stranger Things actors Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton have all filmed mainstream movies since finding fame on the show. And other actors on the series are also starting to see offers for other roles. You can check out all seasons of Stranger Things on Netflix now.

 

Word Focus

  • Eat your words – (phrase) – To take back or retract your words typically after humiliation in admission that the words were wrong or incorrect.

Once my book is published, they’ll be eating their words.

  • Rural – (noun) – Associated with the country or countryside instead of the city.

Anne grew up in rural New York where the hills and trees are green and plentiful.

  • Supernatural – (noun) – Associated with some force or entity that is beyond scientific explanation.

Some houses are said to experience supernatural events because of traumatic events that happened in the area.

  • Paranormal – (noun) – Associated with events, phenomena, forces, or entities that are beyond scientific explanation.

There are research groups that attempt to study paranormal events and phenomena that occur all over the world.

  • Protagonist – (noun) – The lead, main, or most prominent character or characters in a story (film, book, play, etc…)

The protagonist in a story is typically presented with obstacles to overcome in order to drive a story.

  • Inner Child – (noun) – In psychology, a person’s childlike attributes that live unconsciously within their mind.

Consciously, I hold in my anger towards my parents, but my inner child sometimes lashes out when I think about them.

  • Run Wild – (phrase) – With no restraint.

The animals were allowed to run wild in the complex.

  • Cinematic – (adjective) – Relating to a motion picture or the presentation of a motion picture.

The play was shot and retold to accommodate more of a cinematic feel and tone.

  • Visual Effect – (noun) – Any special effect added to a video after it is originally shot (in post production).

Visual effects are a well-respected aspect of filmmaking and have a category within the Academy Awards.

  • CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) – (noun) – Computer technology used to create image effects for TV or film.

Many stunts now utilize CGI in order to protect actors and stunt personnel.

  • Practical Effect – (noun) – A special effect that is shot in live action or in real time. It is created to be filmed live.

Practical effects utilize things like camera tricks, set design, puppetry, and make-up effects.

  • Film Grain – (noun) – Sand-like appearance on a film print or negative. Originally it was a result of the processing of the film. However, it is now added as a visual effect since it does not exist in digital photography.

The editors added some film grain to create an ominous atmosphere where it’s difficult to see.

 

Grammar Center

Take a look at this sentence from the above passage:

The story, set in the early 1980s, unfolds in the fictional, rural town of Hawkins, Indiana…

In the sentence, the writer uses two adjectives to describe the same noun. He states that Hawkins, Indiana is both fictional and rural. This is an example of coordinate adjectives. They’re a group of two or more adjectives that modify the same noun.

Writers use coordinate adjectives to give added description to something they want the reader to understand or see. In other words, they help to better paint a picture of something with words. Typically, you’ll see a comma between the adjectives and/or separated by the word ‘and’. 

Examples:

  • They looked at the tall, bushy tree with wonder.
  • She looked down and saw a small, smelly, and wet puppy sitting on her porch.
  • Johnny pulled up in a red and damaged car he just bought for a thousand dollars.

 

Coordinate adjectives always modify a noun independently and are fairly easy to spot if you test with these two rules.

  • If you can add ‘and’ between the adjectives and it still makes sense.

OR

  • If you can reverse the order of the adjectives and it still makes sense.

 

Let’s try that with the example from the paragraph.

  • The story, set in the early 1980s, unfolds in the fictional and rural town of Hawkins, Indiana…
  • The story, set in the early 1980s, unfolds in the rural, fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana…

And that confirms it! Rural and fictional are coordinate adjectives for the word town. Keep an eye out for these in your reading and feel free to give us a few examples you’ve used in your writing in the comments below!

 

Quiz

 

1. What is the main reason the writer cites as the reason for the popularity of the show?

A. It’s set in the 1980s
B. It revolves around a group of children
C. It’s full of pop culture references
D. It’s released on a TV streaming service

 

2. Stranger Things is limited to how many episodes per season?

A. 22
B. 13
C. 10
D. 8

 

3. Which of the two types of effects described in the word center is added after the production?

A. Visual Effect
B. Practical Effect

 

4. Which of the following words is the best synonym for supernatural?

A. Invisible
B. Mystic
C. Legendary
D. Obscure

 

5. Coordinate Adjectives must be able to independently modify the noun they describe.

A. True
B. False

 

6. Which of the following is NOT an example of coordinate adjectives?

A. We stood next to each other under the pale, blue moonlight.
B. A tall, dark, and handsome man walked into the bar.
C. We like to play our favorite rock music at the camp.
D. The angry and hungry children rushed into the kitchen.

 

Answers:

  1. C
  2. D
  3. A
  4. B
  5. A
  6. C

 

Jake Pool

Jake Pool

After working in the restaurant industry for over a decade, Jake left to pursue his career as a writer and ESL teacher. He now creates content that informs, inspires, and educates ESL students on a wide range of topics. Jake also records audio for his articles to help students with pronunciation and comprehension.
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