October 13, 2019

Stranger Things: A Requiem for the American Mall

“Befitting Stranger Things’ loving ode to the ’80s, the golden age of merchandising, there sure is a lot of Stranger Things crap for sale. Need a copy of Hopper’s Magnum P.I.–inspired Hawaiian shirt for your own date night? Provided you’re not actually David Harbour–size, Hot Topic has you covered. Did you flip out over Eleven’s loudly patterned jumpsuit, the one that looks like the In Living Color credits in romper form? Hope you got to Target before everyone else did. The list of licensed Stranger Things tie-ins is both long and varied in intensity, from Funko Pops to full-on cosplay. But this year, those seeking an even more immersive experience have been making a pilgrimage to the place where all this stuff was fake-bought: the Starcourt Mall, the gleaming new addition to the perpetually endangered town of Hawkins, which in our comparably drab 21st-century reality is known as the Gwinnett Place Mall in Duluth, Georgia.

However, once again, you probably should have hopped on that already: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Starcourt set has been dismantled and discarded, largely to deter the many curiosity-seekers who have been swarming like rats to fertilizer, vying to break through the gate into Stranger Things’ uncanniest alternate dimension.

It’s easy to see what these fans are drawn to. Starcourt is easily the Netflix series’ most ambitious 1980s homage: a life-size replica of a shopping mall in its Reagan-era heyday, complete with period-accurate façades of long-gone retailers and fully stocked interiors for storefronts that weren’t even seen onscreen. It was a monumental task that, as production designer Chris Trujillo explained to the L.A. Times, was made possible only because Gwinnett Place had fallen into “a state of almost complete disrepair,” enabling the crew to take over an entire derelict wing for filming.”

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