‘Winona Forever’ goes the slogan. Immortalised by a generation raised on the Gothic glamour of Beetlejuice, it was also the phrase that was, ironically, temporarily etched onto the arm of eccentric movie alternahunk Johnny Depp. Even more ironically, such a statement – delivered in honour of Winona Ryder – hasn’t exactly rang true, for career-wise, Miss Ryder’s adulation has been the very definition of transitory.
Admired in the ’80s, adored in the ’90s and abolished in the noughties, recently Winona Ryder has undergone something of a career resurgence. Thanks to the cyclical nature of commercialism and a new generation raised on vintage fodder, Winona’s clout has been freshly anointed, young people the world over fawning over her antics in Heathers or her giddy graduate in Reality Bites. Not only that, but her new role in the stunning Netflix show Stranger Things has won her the kind of plaudits last uttered when she inadvertently played second fiddle to Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted.
Stranger Things has succeeded in capturing kudos thanks to its love-letter approach to nostalgia – the science-fiction forays recall the gloriously kitsch ’80s output of E.T., the “kids fight back” ethos of The Goonies and generally enticing, character-driven stories of Spielberg. The scripts are strong and it is the perfect show for Netflix, a platform where binge-watching is almost a pre-requisite.
For Ryder, it’s an important role. Since her infamous shoplifting incident and appearance in an Adam Sandler movie, she became something of a Tinseltown pariah; or so you’d be led to think. Instead, she became more selective about her roles, taking on acclaimed performances in Show Me A Hero, Turks and Caicos and, most notably, Black Swan. However, Stranger Things marks a strong resurgence, the chance to re-appeal to a younger generation that have no doubt swooned over her slight, offbeat personalities in movies by Tim Burton and Ben Stiller.
It has also been a chance for Ryder to a play a role devoid from the rest of her output. From Edward Scissorhands to Mermaids, Ryder’s roles have generally been that of the proactive, the kooky and the off-kilter. She also often played characters a lot younger than her actual age, thanks to her seemingly ageless exterior (it’s startling to accept that she is now actually 44). As an actress, Ryder has shown consistency and versatility throughout her career, and taking on a role different from her previous posts has shown another side to her considerable acting talents.
From the 1980s to present day, anyone of a certain bent will adopt the same individualism, fashion styles and traits of Ryder, from her dark, luxurious hair, junkets of jewellery and her adoration of indie. She is an actress that has stood out for standing out, her Generation X wardrobe, pixie haircut and string of myriad roles giving her indefinite credence.
Winona Ryder still emulates the effortless chic that she did when she was hailed as the queen that wouldn’t conform all those years ago. Mixing adolescent innocence with a detached, world-weary reticence, Ryder’s personality is aloof, exciting and lovingly ironic. Her characters, always killer, sometimes cartoonish, have the ability to slide from enigmatic to excitable with one glance of her trademark wide-eyed stare. A born outsider, for those who struggle in their own skin, Ryder’s development in the public eye has been perversely refreshing, watching someone different, secluded offering glimpses of hope and realism to a generation raised on catwalk perfection. Her style, films and personality are permanently endearing, relatable and, above all, real.
Winona Forever…maybe it was apposite, after all.