The Sky Is Falling

How Vampires, Zombies, Androids, and Superheroes Made America Great for Extremism

A bestselling cultural journalist shows how pop culture prepared Americans to embrace extreme politics

“Your book was . . . like a bag of pot, with me saying, ‘I’m not gonna smoke.’ But I was insatiable.” —Quentin Tarantino on Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls

Almost everything has been invoked to account for Trump’s victory and the rise of the alt-right, from job loss to racism to demography—everything, that is, except popular culture. In The Sky Is Falling bestselling cultural journalist Peter Biskind dives headlong into two decades of popular culture—from superhero franchises such as the Dark Knight, X-Men, and the Avengers and series like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones to thrillers like Homeland and 24—and emerges to argue that these shows are saturated with the values that are currently animating our extreme politics.

Where once centrist institutions and their agents—cops and docs, soldiers and scientists, as well as educators, politicians, and “experts” of every stripe—were glorified by mainstream Hollywood, the heroes of today’s movies and TV, whether far right or far left, have overthrown this quaint ideological consensus. Many of our shows dramatize extreme circumstances—an apocalypse of one sort or another—that require extreme behavior to deal with, behavior such as revenge, torture, lying, and even the vigilante violence traditionally discouraged in mainstream entertainment.

In this bold, provocative, and witty investigation, Biskind shows how extreme culture now calls the shots. It has become, in effect, the new mainstream.

Praise

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. This is a book about the seismic change at the very heart of today’s society, and a book for all those who want to know exactly what a mess we’re in.”
—Slavoj Žižek
“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
“A bold, witty, and brilliantly argued analysis of the role pop culture has played in the rise of American extremism.”
—Ruth Reichl
“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