BACK TO OUR FUTURE: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now

“Sirota 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…his arguments are well informed and sparkle with wit and irreverence.” – Publishers Weekly

In his wide-ranging and wickedly entertaining new book, 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 – from  the “Greed is good” ethos of Gordon Gekko (and Bernie Madoff) to the “Make my day” foreign policy of Ronald Reagan (and George W. Bush) to the “transcendence” of Cliff Huxtable (and Barack Obama).

Today’s mindless militarism and hyper-narcissism, Sirota argues, first became the norm when an 80s generation weaned on Rambo one-liners and “Just Do It” exhortations embraced a new religion—with comic books, cartoons, sneaker commercials, video games, and even children’s toys serving as the key instruments of cultural  indoctrination. Meanwhile, in productions like Back to the Future, Family Ties and The Big Chill, a campaign was launched to reimagine the 1950s as America’s lost golden age and vilify the 1960s as the source of all our troubles. That 1980s revisionism, Sirota shows, still rages today, with Barack Obama cast as the 60s hippie being  assailed by Alex P. Keaton-esque Republicans who long for a return to Eisenhower-era conservatism.

“The past is never dead,” William Faulkner wrote. “It’s not even past.” The 1980s—even more so. With the native dexterity only a child of the Atari Age could possess, David Sirota twists and turns this multicolored Rubik’s Cube of a decade, exposing it as a warning for our own troubled present—and possible future.

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MSNBC’S RACHEL MADDOW: “Sirota makes a compelling case that 1980s culture and politics have an outsized influence on how we think now. To build his case, he apparently hacked my brain and downloaded my entire age-7-to-age-17 cultural intake. From Rerun Stubbs on ‘What’s Happening’ to the ‘Missile Command’ videogame, the roots of how we think now are there. Scary. Wildly entertaining – and scary.”

ROLLING STONE’S MATT TAIBBI: “I went into Back to Our Future thinking that I had grown up in an era of endearingly mindless pop-culture entertainments, and came out of it convinced that from my childhood on I had been fed an almost endless stream of ruthless mind-bending propaganda of a sort that would have made the Soviets sick with jealousy. David’s book is simultaneously hilarious and horrifying. The part that freaked me out was how at the end of reading this thing you feel (and here I’m using a metaphor pertinent to the subject matter) like Sean Young’s replicant character in Blade Runner, sick to discover that the harmless memories you thought were your own were actually planted there by some sick committee of totalitarian bureaucrats. You’ll never think of Mr. T the same way.”

THE A.V. CLUB’S NATHAN RABIN: “Back to Our Future is a smart, incisive, funny and righteously angry exploration of how the divides of our current Culture war can be traced back to 1980s’ pop culture. It’s also a super-fun, eminently readable book about Back to the Future, Ghostbusters and many of your other favorite movies and TV shows. Sirota manages the tricky feat of tapping into the rich vein of Gen-X nostalgia for the pop culture of our collective youth while exposing its insidious reactionary messages.”

FUNNY OR DIE’S ADAM MCKAY: “Max Headroom, Ferris Bueller and Alex Keaton… Self centered capitalistic narcissists or fun pop culture icons? David Sirota cracks this mystery.”


ASSOCIATED PRESS: “A thought-provoking, fun (and) engaging read.”

ROLLING STONE: “Definitely recommended…it’s extremely funny (and) makes you confront all the insane propaganda buried in the movies and TV shows you grew up watching.”

WIRED MAGAZINE: “Recommended to anyone obsessed with the 1980s or the history of the second half of the 20th Century…Full of pop culture references and examples, the book explains how the ’80s have informed policies, politics, new pop culture, and society today…Even if you didn’t live through or remember the 1980s, this book still has plenty to offer…(It’s a) real treat and a great look at how history and pop culture have affected each other and intertwined through the years.”

ONION A.V. CLUB: “Don’t be fooled by that Rubik’s Cube on the cover: David Sirota’s new book, Back To Our Future, isn’t some giddy nostalgic romp through the past. Instead, it’s a forceful critique of the greed, belligerence, and narcissism that defined the ’80s…Sirota writes with an impassioned, obsessive style that will likely appeal to sympatico pop-culture fanatics…Sirota has clearly done his research, and his love for ’80s pop culture is evident on every page.”

BUFFALO NEWS: “Back to Our Future is bracing, often very funny study of how the world of 2011 was molded by the Reagan era…(It is) Fascinating, thrillingly clever (and) as involving as any text — fiction or non — this year…..The best-selling author is smart, politically astute, and unafraid to be very, very bold and (the book) is one example of how strong a writer and deep a thinker he is.”

AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN: “Back to Our Future is an energetic, frequently humorous, always pointed analysis of the decade of big…A well-supported (and) thought-provoking book (that) might change the way you look at the decade’s pop culture.”

DENVER POST: “Provocative stuff, and a fun read…Amid Back to the Future, Rubik’s Cube and A-Team jokes, Sirota weaves a more serious study of media and pop culture…Ultimately, his tour of ’80s memorabilia demonstrates how pop culture has been used to play tricks on memory and rewrite history.”

5280 MAGAZINE: “Crammed with ’80s cultural references – from movies to music to video games – Back to Our Future reads like the literary lovechild of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and ESPN’s Bill Simmons, full of wit and verve and political discourse. Between the jokes, Sirota makes a compelling argument for why we need to leave the ‘greed is good’ ’80s behind to find a more promising future.”

BOOKFORUM: “Sirota has picked through the decade’s cultural detritus to reconstruct the scene of a generation’s ideological poisoning…He tells the tale with wit and subtlety—stressing, for example, the way that adept mythmaking, wedded to new media technologies, exerted a strong pull on his mind and those of others who feasted on ’80s pop culture, and in the process transformed the politics of a nation.”

COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW: “A take-no-prisoners attitude towards cultural history (whose) result is a dense book that’s remarkably ambitious…Sirota’s writing is animated and feverishly referential (and he is) armed with a trivia master’s repository of cultural arcana…As a work of pop scholarship, Back to Our Future is impressive…”

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: “Sirota 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… his arguments are well informed and sparkle with wit and irreverence.”

KIRKUS REVIEWS: “A sharp, dizzying history lesson that packs a punch.”


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