What Our Extremist Politics Owe to Batman and Captain America

THE SKY IS FALLING
How Vampires, Zombies, Androids, and Superheroes Made America Great for Extremism
By Peter Biskind
252 pp. The New Press. $26.99.

It’s too soon for this book is the problem. Peter Biskind has previously explored pop culture and film history in fizzy, captivating works, including “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls” and “Down and Dirty Pictures.” But those were written from hindsight — the eras he dissected had formed, plateaued and ebbed. Biskind illuminated facets of those eras that until his books came along had remained outside the light source of accepted opinion. He excelled at this task, peppering film analysis with gossip, empathy and playfulness.

With “The Sky Is Falling,” Biskind attempts the same feat. Except here he’s trying to illuminate a multifaceted jewel that’s still spinning in the air, nowhere near its apogee. America’s current crisis of fracture and extremism can’t be clearly explored through the lens of pop culture — especially if that lens is focused even more narrowly on superhero, fantasy, science fiction and apocalyptic horror. The range of vision is too myopic for the task. We’re in the middle of an upheaval. The paranoid, extremist politics that Biskind wants to trace back to franchise and comic-book properties are far too chaotic and changeable to withstand his schematic dot-connecting. As I write this, in August 2018, our president may have just tweeted an admission to campaign collusion with Russia. The howling conspiracy-gibbon Alex Jones has had his presence wiped from YouTube, Spotify, Facebook and Apple. By the time you read this, who knows what weirdness will have snapped loose and gone capering through the news cycle.

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A “walker” from “The Walking Dead.”CreditGene Page/AMC

Biskind’s book is as shaky as a set of surveyor’s tools in the middle of a hurricane. It’s too soon.

Right there, on Page 5 of the introduction, is a statement that will determine whether you’ll agree to take the tour he’s mapped out or scoff and pass on the journey: “As an agent of change, culture has often been treated shabbily, as…

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