Stranger Things producers Matt and Ross Duffer reportedly have proof that clears them from allegations of plagiarism on their hit Netflix show. The sci-fi series became a global sensation when it debuted in 2016. Set in Indiana in the 1980s, the show focuses on mysterious and terrifying happenings revolving around a government research lab.
With its heavy '80s nostalgia elements, Stranger Things proved a huge hit with audiences, leading to a second season in 2017. But amid the show's spectacular success, the Duffer Brothers have come under fire for allegedly ripping off the premise of Stranger Things. In a lawsuit, Charlie Kessler claims the Duffers pinched their idea from his 2011 short film Montauk, which dealt with real life conspiracy theories about alleged secret experiments taking place in a mysterious government facility in New York. Furthermore, Kessler claims he pitched the Duffer Brothers on the idea for an expanded Montauk project in 2014. But Kessler's claims may have already been shot down.
TMZ reports they've obtained emails which prove the Duffer Brothers did not in fact plagiarize Kessler's story. In two emails dated from 2010, prior to the release of Kessler's Montauk film, the Duffers lay out their idea for a project described as a "real, paranormal, gritty '80s" TV show. There are also specific references to the Montauk experiments.
In another document from 2013, a year before Kessler's alleged pitch, the Duffers laid out their idea which would eventually become Stranger Things in even more detail. One passage outlines the abduction of Will Byers, the incident that kicks off the story in season 1:
"Benny [later renamed Will] leaves his friend Elliot's house, a bunch of kids are there, eating pizza, dungeons and dragons ... Benny leaves on bike, hears voices, goes into strange world, taken by some evil force."
Two more emails written in early 2014, before the alleged meeting between the Duffers and Kessler, talk about the show's setting in "1980s Long Island" and refer to its "vintage Stephen King" feel. One of the emails even mentions a location scout already poking around in Montauk. The show's setting would, of course, ultimately switch to Indiana. In a statement to TMZ, the Duffer Brothers' lawyers said:
"These documents prove that Mr. Kessler had absolutely nothing to do with the creation of Stranger Things. The Duffer Brothers were developing their project years before he claims to have met them."
Given the level of detail in the reported emails, it does seem that the Duffers were already well on the way to developing the premise of Stranger Things long before Kessler's own ideas surfaced. Overall, it appears that this is a case of two separate projects being developed along parallel lines from the same source, with one project taking off and the other falling by the wayside. This, of course, is not the first time such an apparent coincidence has led to claims of plagiarism. Recently, Oscar-winner Guillermo Del Toro came under similar fire for allegedly plagiarizing The Shape of Water from a very similar play written by Paul Zindel. The thing is, in Hollywood, there are always a million ideas floating around, and there are bound to be similarities.