Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Liberal Arts (M.L.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Humanities and Cultural Studies

Major Professor

Scott Ferguson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Andrew Berish, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Amy Rust, Ph.D.


horror, motherhood, new media, nostalgia, television


I posit that contemporary fears about the effect electronic media has on us and our children is anything but new. Therefore, reminiscing about the "good ole days" and wanting to go back would not actually solve the problem. However, looking back to a time when there was also anxiety about electronic media and the shifting field of public and private may reveal new possibilities for relating to and with these media. Rather than flatly blame media as an apparently new cause of harm, it is essential to reveal media's historical and political conditions, only in this way can we better assess its possibilities and limits.

I argue that the figure of the mother in Poltergeist (1982) and Stranger Things (2016-) can be read as both a metaphor and model for media. The mother exhibits, what I call, active-passivity, which means that she does not amputate herself from her media use and its implications, but rather provides oversight and intervenes when necessary. I draw upon the work of media scholar Marshall McLuhan in order to read the figure of the mother as a cool medium that demonstrates and invites a high level of involvement. The figure of the mother's method of media use is affirmed by the film and offered as not only a mode of media use but also a mode of politicization. In our present moment, we are constantly technologically extended into the world with our networked media. I contend that Stranger Things returns to the 1980s to reveal that even while using cool media, what is important is how one uses that media. I utilize the work of Svetlana Boym in my argument that not only can we learn something from media that is nostalgic, but we can learn something about our relationship with media through nostalgia.