Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’ Dark Portrayal of Energy Department Shines New Spotlight on DOE



“Stranger Things” –- the hit Netflix sci-fi show depicting a fictitious Department of Energy Lab doing evil experiments –- is drawing a lot of viewers, including the real department itself.

“They kept depicting this sort of dark, murky national laboratory doing really twisted things,” Paul Lester, a DOE digital content specialist, told Bloomberg BNA today, after he binge-watched the show. “They have Matthew Modine as a scientist who’s a dark character, and I thought, ‘This isn’t like the scientists I know at DOE.’”

And so the idea for what is now a massively popular DOE blog post was born. The DOE has definitely gotten more than their 15 minutes in the spotlight, with follow-up articles about the blog penned by Business Insider, Marie Claire, Newsweek, Wired and Vanity Fair, to name a few.

In the post, Lester listed five things the show got wrong, including that the Hawkins National Laboratory in Hawkins, Ind., which is in fact fake.

Other amusing lines from the blog post include: “The Energy Department doesn’t explore parallel universes,” “The Energy Department doesn’t mess with monsters,” and finally, “Lights aren’t powered by monsters or other lifeforms.”

The blog post highlights some of the work DOE does at its 17 very real national labs as well. “That’s one of the things we try to do with our digital team is that anytime there is a pop culture reference we try to use it as an opportunity to talk to people about DOE’s work and all the good stuff that goes on here,” Lester said.

It even got Dmitri Kusnezov, DOE’s chief scientist at the National Nuclear Security Administration, watching. “We have a lot more light than the show, and not as much vegetative growth on the bottom floors of our buildings,” he told Bloomberg BNA. “But we do have control rooms and facilities that kind of look like that.”

Ultimately, Lester said, “If this gets some young people more excited in the actual science and the actual things that we do at Department of Energy … then that’s great.”

And that’s a good thing because Netflix has already signed on for a second season, Lester says, so let’s stay tuned for more fun, informative DOE blog posts to come.