Wondering why we’re being inundated with zombies, vampires, witches, shape shifters, cyborgs, aliens from outer space, extras from the Book of Revelation, and a Pandora’s box full of other supernatural creatures, fringe anomalies, and occult comings and goings, not to mention the tsunami of dystopian and apocalyptic fantasies — all at the same time that extremism is tearing our political system to shreds? How did Avatar, a movie in which Americans are bad guys, while jumbo-sized blue humanoids are the good guys, get to be the biggest grossing picture of all time? How did The Shape of Water, in which the U.S. army is villainous and an aquatic monster is a hero, win an Oscar in 2018? Putting pop culture under a magnifying glass, it becomes clear that extremism has had a make-over.
Movies and TV are far from simple escapism. They are killing fields in which clashing ideologies struggle for advantage. Right assails left, left batters right, and both gang up to clobber the center. The Sky Is Falling traces the collapse of postwar, bipartisan, mainstream culture, and the rise of extreme culture. Where once we had consensus, now we have polarization. Since popular culture both incites and enhances social change that may or may not have its roots elsewhere, the breakdown of generally agreed upon norms of behavior, belief, and trust has played a key in paving the way for today’s extreme politics.
“Peter Biskind’s kaleidoscopic deep dive into the symbiotic relationship between the narratives of popular entertainment and our political culture had me talking out loud to myself. You’ll never look at your favorite movies and TV shows the same way again. And you shouldn’t.”
— Steven Soderbergh, director, cinematographer, and editor
“The Sky Is Falling is not only insanely readable, it demonstrates how the way for Trump and all kinds of fundamentalists was paved years ago by apparently apolitical popular culture.”
— Slavoj Zizek
“The only thing better than seeing a good movie is reading what Peter Biskind has to say about it. Who else can explicate the hidden politics of movies and make you laugh out loud at the same time?”
— Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed and Natural Causes
“A bold, witty, and brilliantly argued analysis of the role pop culture has played in the rise of American extremism.”
— Ruth Reichl, author of Tender at the Bone
“Culture matters, Peter Biskind assures us in this funny, intelligent and frightening book, but not quite in the ways we like to think it does. What happens when pop turns to pulp? When ‘nothing entertains but disaster?’ When ‘democracy has all but dissolved in the acid rain of money?’ Read this marvelous account of the way movies and TV have paved the way for political extremism, and find the answers to these and many other questions.
—Michael Wood, professor emeritus of English and comparative literature at Princeton and author of Alfred Hitchcock: The Man Who Knew Too Much
“The sky has fallen and Peter Biskind has done the impossible: mobilizing countless examples, he has thoughtfully made the persuasive and highly readable case on why and how our ‘extremist’ popular culture has given us our most unpresidential president ever.”
— Victor S. Navasky, former publisher and editor of The Nation