The other night, my husband and I sat down to watch “Stranger Things” on Netflix. As the title sequence played, something was nagging at me from the murky recesses of my brain. About ten minutes into that first episode, it hit me: the font they used reminded me of Stephen King.

When I was 10 or 11, I found a battered copy of “The Shining” on the school bus. I was hooked, and over the next decade or so, I read nearly every book the man wrote. Needless to say, I was familiar with his work, but more importantly, I was reading many of those novels when they first came out.

That’s why I pinged on the font used in the opening to “Stranger Things.” My husband, brilliant man that he is, Googled “stranger things font” and found this article, which talks about how that the show’s creators wanted the titles to be in the style of “those old vintage Stephen King books.”

Is there anything more satisfying than finding out you were right about something?

Typography is what happens when a graphic artist uses different font types and styles to create a certain look or mood and to bring otherwise boring text to life. On the opening sequence and chapter titles created for “Stranger Things,” the typography is as important to creating the atmosphere of a 1980s sci-fi horror film as the show’s set designs, costumes, hairstyles and makeup.

In a totally unrelated way, that first episode also brought me face to face with one of my biggest grammar peeves: the Oxford comma.

Jill likes reading, stargazing, and kayaking.

See that comma before the word “and”? That’s an Oxford comma. While some people firmly believe in its use, others regard it as superfluous. I believe it’s worse than that; the Oxford comma can actually cause confusion.

Case in point: while my aging brain was percolating on the title sequence of “Stranger Things,” I was met with another surprise. In one of the opening scenes, Winona Ryder enters, dressed in your basic cashier’s smock. I turned to my husband and said, “I thought she was a cop.”

He agreed, so I turned, as I so often do, to the IMDB app on my phone to see what the mix-up was and found this summary:

When a young boy disappears, his mother, a police chief, and his friends must confront terrifying forces in order to get him back.

See that Oxford comma before “and”? It made me and my husband read “a police chief” as what the boy’s mother did for a living rather than as a separate character (who, in turns out, is played very well by David Harbour). Without the Oxford comma, it’s crystal clear that the police chief and the boy’s mother are not the same person. The prosecution rests. Upon reflection, I probably should have known that a small town in Indiana circa 1983 would not have a female police chief, but (say it with me now)…stranger things have happened.

About Heather Carroll

Heather Carroll joined the Agency in 1996 and is involved with nearly every aspect of copywriting and content development, including print, PR, television, radio, digital and social media. She graduated from Pensacola Junior College with honors and went on to attend the University of West Florida. She has 20 years’ experience as a copywriter/editor and project manager.

4 Comments

  • matthew says:

    Interesting thoughts. Thanks for sharing!

    I have to tell you though… I will never look at the Oxford Comma the same way again!

    I owe you for that one.

    I’ve often heard it didn’t matter whether you used it only that you use it consistently. Ha! Your example from the IMDb page proves that it does, in fact, matter – I think 🙂

  • Heather Carroll says:

    Thank you, Matthew! I’m glad you found something of interest in the post. Like most of the writer types I know, I am a hot mess of grammar peeves, but I’ve always embraced the fact that the English language is a living thing, constantly adapting, growing and evolving. While I do try to (notice I said “try to” not “try and”) conform to grammar norms, I tend toward the bohemian when it comes to “The Rules.” To me, that means never sacrificing clarity on the altar of tradition. Rules were made to be bent and, if found too rigid, snapped into kindling. It happens all the time, and one fine day, long after I’m gone, it will happen to the Oxford comma.

  • Bart Rowell says:

    That IMDB sentence could be clarified by reordering the parties. With or without the Oxford comma, this is a clearer message: “When a young boy disappears, his mother, his friends, and a police chief must confront terrifying forces in order to get him back.”

    My only nitpick with your post, Heather, is that you neglected to mention the show’s absolutely stellar music–particularly the synth score.

  • Heather Carroll says:

    Bart, you are so right. Totally my bad. I tend to associate the 80s with terrible, horrible, no good, very bad hair bands, but the decade wasn’t a total bust. You can never go wrong with The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” And the synth score is perfect, like a spookier, moodier version of the old “Knight Rider” theme…not that my family watched that show or was in any way obsessed with KITT, the super-cool talking car.

Leave a Reply

Contact Us Today
phone: (850) 494-2194