Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live in Now—Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Everything

David Sirota, Ballantine, $25 (304p) ISBN 978-0-345-51878-1
Sirota (The Uprising) ushers readers back to the era of big money and bigger hair, the yuppie and the Gipper to show how the 1980s transformed—and continues to influence—America's culture and politics. As Carter's presidency began to crumble in 1978, a revival of back-to-the-'50s theater, television, and film productions (Grease, Happy Days, La Bamba) overtook grittier 1960s imagery of "urbanity, ethnicity and strife" and came to define the Reagan era in a country eager to forget—or unwilling to learn from—the failure of Vietnam. Sirota argues that the combination of Reagan, the "candidate of nostalgia"; hypermilitarist movies that re-demonized communism; and sophisticated marketing campaigns glorifying the cult of the individual led to our current culture's narcissism and obsessive pursuit of wealth and celebrity. In his effort to fit current trends to his overriding thesis, Sirota occasionally makes some sweeping statements, such as claiming the military's public relations campaign was so successful that Americans "never dare question" the military, ignoring the numerous anti–Iraq War protests and the outrage over the Abu Ghraib photographs. But the many of his arguments are well informed and sparkle with wit and irreverence. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2011
Release date: 03/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
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