Do 'Stranger Things' and 'Parks and Recreation' Exist in the Same Universe?
As Stranger Things has continued to attract new viewers and repeat watchers alike, the fan focus has inevitably shifted from general excitement to something much deeper—and maybe a little bit convoluted. In other words: fan theories. One of the more interesting was first proposed in 2016 byJason Nawara of UPROXX, who expounded on the possibility that the show exists in the same universe as Parks and Recreation—another series that's set in a fictional town outside of Indianapolis.
Nawara has three theories, two of which revolve around Parks and Recreation's Jean-Ralphio Saperstein, and one that is a general theory about how the towns connect. The first is that Stranger Things's Steve Harrington is actually Jean-Ralphio's father, which Nawara supports with a colorful, made-up narrative that involves Steve and Nancy having a kid (or kids) before either being eaten by a monster or committed to psychiatric hospitals:
"In swoops Steve’s brother (Dr. Saperstein) who was away at medical school. He raises little Jean-Ralphio and Mona Lisa, his real daughter, changing their names to shield the family from a prying media and Steve’s (rightful) madness. They pick up and move to nearby Pawnee, where Dr. Saperstein holds dark secrets. That’s why he spoils his children."
Nawara also claims to have the geographical distance between Pawnee and Hawkins—where Stranger Things takes place—figured out. He uses details from the Parks and Rec Wiki (90 miles from Indianapolis), and the fact that a character in Stranger Things was able to drive to "the big city" and still make it home for dinner, to suggest that Steve could logistically father Jean-Ralphio (and maybe Mona Lisa) in 1985, two years after the events in Hawkins. Steve has a mansion in the show, which means that his parents have money—as did Jean-Ralphio's grandfather, which is how he got the money to start his media conglomerate. And, of course, the characters totally look alike and have similar hair.
Nawara's third theory suggests that Pawnee is a "sunny version of the Upside Down," and that Jean-Ralphio is Pawnee's monster, but the familial ties theory seems to have (somewhat) more evidence to support it. Excuse us while we binge-watch both series to see what other clues may have been hiding there the whole time.
Shortly after the theory was posited, Joe Keery and Ben Schwartz—the actors who play Steve and Jean-Ralphio, respectively—got in on the fun and seemingly confirmed the news: