A time capsule of 1980s media memorabilia and its relevance to contemporary society.
Born in 1975 and a proud child of the ’80s, In These Times senior editor and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist Sirota (The Uprising: An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt Scaring Wall Street and Washington, 2008, etc.) ponders what it means when America has suddenly started “speaking the ancient 1980s dialect of my youth.” Growing up with two brothers, the author recalls all three emphatically employing the vernacular and lexicon of their “eighties religion” to maximum effect. Sirota’s mildly cathartic, socially significant revival posits that as the children of the ’80s reach middle age, the mindset of that era will resurface. His proof begins at “the altar of Michael J. Fox”—specifically, his character Alex Keaton on Family Ties. The author cleverly parallels President Obama’s confidence to the popularity of Michael Jordan, adding that many Republicans believe Obama to be the modern-day Jimmy Carter. The scope of the author’s period knowledge is indisputable, and he parlays his experience as a Democratic strategist into politically charged discussions about the anti-governmental preaching on The A-Team, Ronald Reagan’s questionable approach to Vietnam veterans and the bulletproof vigor of movies like Rambo, Red Dawn and Top Gun. While applauding the morale-boosting heft of Nike’s 1988 “Just Do It” campaign, Sirota evenhandedly criticizes today’s reality-TV–obsessed, attention-starved Facebook generation for its self-centeredness as something “the 1980s did to us, and what the 1980s mentally makes us want to be.” Footnotes accompany the author’s consistently effervescent text, underscoring his contention that everything from The Dukes of Hazzard to Thirtysomething has made a significant impact on contemporary society. Maybe most important is Sirota’s chapters on the impact The Cosby Show and others like it had on ’80s black America and, now, on Obama’s “postracial” image.
A sharp, dizzying history lesson that packs a punch.