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Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain…
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Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live in Now--Our… (2011)

by David Sirota

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"What happens to us in the future? Do we become assholes or something?"
--Marty McFly, 1985

Sirota starts out his book with this quote, and it's a fitting one.
Because, yeah, Marty, we kind of did. But we have a defense--we've
been deliberately programed from pretty much the womb on up. "We"
meaning those of us who grew up in the late 70's through the early
90's, the 50/40/30 Somethings who are the workforce and
"tastemakers"(some of the time at least). In a country where more
than half of the population has been born since 1979, you'd think our
80's childhood would be a faded memory. But a monster was created
back then, a seemingly immortal wizard who practices virulent
narcissism and continues to lure people into the Cult of Personality
that began with Michael Jordan as the faceman and Nike as its booming
voice, but has become legion-- all those folks who believe in "Just do
it" somewhere deep in their questionably existent souls. Either we
are the uberman or we worship and obey the uberman without much
questioning or thought. Some of it was backlash against the Vietnam
War. Some of it was greed, a grasping for money or power. Some of it
was improved technology and communication advances. But the vast
majority of it was planned, "sculpted" as Sirota says frequently
throughout the book. Page after page he points out how even the
simple, "innocent" things like children's toys and sit-coms from our
childhood shape who we are and what we do each and every day
NOW--agendas and machinations lurk within the video and movie screen,
propaganda abounds. You've got to hand it to Sirota for dishing these
dark tales out in an engaging, often funny manner, getting us to laugh
before we cringe. He's a part of this generation, he admits it fully.
But he also gives us a way to peek behind the curtain to see exactly
what the man behind it is doing, and thus we can never go back to
blissful ignorance again. I highly urge everyone, regardless of
generational identity or political leaning, to read this book because
it's going to be talked about A LOT come Spring, and the conversation
promises to be something you don't want to miss. ( )
  JackieBlem | Jan 6, 2011 |
In his effort to fit current trends to his overriding thesis, Sirota occasionally makes some sweeping statements... But the many of his arguments are well informed and sparkle with wit and irreverence.
added by Shortride | editPublishers Weekly (Jan 31, 2011)
 
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345518780, Hardcover)

An Essay from Author David Sirota

Five ’80s Flicks That Explain How the ’80s Still Define Our World
Back To Our Future posits that the 1980s--and specifically 1980s pop culture--frames the way we think about major issues today. The decade is the lens through which we see our world. To understand what that means, here are five classic flicks that show how the 1980s still shapes our thinking on government, the “rogue,” militarism, race, and even our not-so-distant past.

1. Ghostbusters (1984): Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler, and Winston Zeddmore seem like happy-go-lucky guys, but these are cold, hard military contractors. Between evading the Environmental Protection Agency, charging exorbitant rates for apparition captures, and summoning a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the merry band shows a Zoul-haunted New York that their for-profit services are far more reliable than those of the Big Apple’s wholly inept government. At the same time, the Ghostbusters were providing 1980s audiences with a cinematic version of what would later become the very real Blackwater--and what would be the anti-government, privatize-everything narrative of the twenty-first century.

2. Die Hard (1988): Though the 1980s was setting the stage for the rise of anti-government politics today, it was also creating the Palin-esque “rogue” to conveniently explain the good things government undeniably accomplishes. Hitting the silver screen just a few years after Ollie North’s rogue triumphalism, John McClane became the ’80s most famous of this “rogue” archetype--a government employee who becomes a hero specifically by defying his police superiors and rescuing hostages from the twin threat of terrorism and his boss’s bureaucratic clumsiness. This message is so clear in Die Hard, that in one memorable scene, McClane is yelling at one police lieutenant that the government has become “part of the problem.” Die Hard, like almost every national politician today, says government can only work if it gets out of the way of the rogues, mavericks, and rule-breakers within its own midst.

3. Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985): “Sir, do we get to win this time?” So begins the second--and most culturally important--installment of the Rambo series. The question was a direct rip-off of Ronald Reagan’s insistence that when it came to the loss in Vietnam, America had been too “afraid to let them win”--them, of course, being the troops. The theory embedded in this refrain is simple: If only meddling politicians and a weak-kneed public had deferred to the Pentagon, then we would have won the conflict in Southeast Asia. Repeated ad nauseum since the 1980s, the “let them win” idea now defines our modern discussion of war. If only we let the Pentagon’s Rambos do whatever they want with no question or oversight whatsoever, then we can decisively conclude the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan…and we can win the neverending “War on Terror.”

4. Rocky III (1982): Before the 2008 presidential campaign devolved into cartoonish media portrayals of the palatable “post-racial” Barack Obama and his allegedly unpalatable “overly racial” pastor Jeremiah Wright, there was Rocky III more explicitly outlining this binary and bigoted portrayal of African Americans. Here was Rocky Balboa as the determined but slightly ignorant stand-in for White Middle America. Surveying the diverse landscape, the Italian Stallion could see only two kinds of black people—on one side the suave, smooth, post-racial Apollo Creed, and on the other side the enraged, animalistic Clubber Lang. Rocky thus gravitated to the former, and reflexively feared the latter, essentially summarizing twenty-first-century White America’s often over-simplistic and bigoted attitudes toward the black community today.

5. The Big Chill (1983): This college reunion flick from Lawrence Kasdan is hilarious, morose, and seemingly nostalgic for the halcyon days of the past; but powerfully propagandistic in its negative framing of the 1960s. Over the course of the film’s weekend, character after character berates the 1960s as an overly decadent age that may have been rooted in idealism, but was fundamentally destined to fail. Sound familiar? Of course it does. The 1980s-created narrative of the Bad Sixties can still be found in everything from national Tea Party protests to never-ending culture-war battles on local school boards. The message is always the same: If only America can emulate the Big Chillers and get past its Sixties immaturity and liberalism, everything will be A-okay.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:36 -0400)

In this wide-ranging and wickedly entertaining book, "New York Times" bestselling journalist David Sirota takes readers on a rollicking DeLorean ride back in time to reveal how so many of our present-day conflicts are rooted in the larger-than-life pop culture of the 1980s.… (more)

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