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Fixing the Fifties

Presentation at the Society of Cinema and Media Studies, March 17 2010. For the Panel
by

Michael Dwyer

on 16 March 2010

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Transcript of Fixing the Fifties

Fixing the Fifties:
Time Travel, Nostalgia, and the Reagan Era
Michael D. Dwyer
Syracuse University
mddwyer@syr.edu
twitter.com/popthought
"Bring Me a Dream..."
Back to the Future (1985)
Hill Valley, 1955 is so legible to the film's audiences because by the time of the film's release its “fantasy version” of the Fifties had gained hegemonic status in the national popular, and become part of the collective memory and cultural identity of the United States.
Fixing Our Fathers,
Fixing Ourselves
Before
After
As Marty coaches his father from a wimp to a rescuer, Reagan set out to coach America from acting the part of the ’wimp’ of the Carter years. . . . From the man/country that gave his children/citizens only shame, George McFly and the America he figures is turned into a father who can give his children just what they want—a well-rounded family and material success.
-- Susan Jeffords, _Hard Bodies_, 70-71.
Return, not Rejection
Reagan's phrases like “renew the American spirit,” “recapture our destiny,” and “rebirth of the American tradition” gesture backwards to the period (in Reagan mythology) when America strongly embraced its values of “family, work, neighborhood, peace, and freedom.”
Full transcript