Imagining the 1980s: Representations of the Reagan Decade in Popular Culture - update

deadline for submissions: 
December 1, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
McFarland Publishers
contact email: 

Popular culture scholars often refer to a 40-year cycle of nostalgia, and so it is not surprising that there has been a recent wave of movies and television shows set in the 1980s.  The Netflix series Stranger Things, the film IT: Chapter One, the interactive film Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, and the ninth season of American Horror Story, titled “1984,” all provide prominent examples of recent texts that have used the semantic texture of the 1980s as a dramatic setting.  These examples of ’80s horror suggest a contemporary apprehension of an undercurrent of demonic violence that undergirds the glittering fads, suburban affluence, and Reaganite yuppieism associated with the 1980s, even as they suggest parallels between Reagan’s America and that presided over by Donald Trump, himself an iconic 1980s figure.  This motif of the bloody ’80s can be traced back to the book and film adaptation of American Psycho, and it manifests itself beyond the horror genre in texts such as The Wolf of Wall Street, Donny Darko, Turbo Kid, Chernobyl, and Precious, a web of representations that suggests how the “meaning” of a decade is not fixed, but evolves and mutates in accordance with a complex interaction between the actual past, representations of the past, and contemporary reevaluations of social values and historical events.  While the horror genre looms large in recent representations of the 1980s, the decade has also been revisited as a site of comedy, romance, and nostalgia.

McFarland is interested in publishing a multi-author volume about "retro" representations of the 1980s in imaginative fiction, with an emphasis on filmic and televisual texts.  Chapter topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Discussions of the representation of historical events, political or economic conditions, race and/or gender relations, aesthetic trends, or other aspects of the 1980s within a particular text or across several different texts.
  • The manner in which 1980s texts such as Back to the Future, Heathers, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, etc. “self-periodize” the decade.
  • The contested meanings of the 1980s evident in the critical discussion of the novel Ready Player One and its film adaptation, as well as in the re-boots of 80s film franchises such as Rocky, Star Wars, and Ghostbusters.
  • The figure of “the yuppie” as characterized in popular media of the 1980s, and the way that iconic ‘80s personality has been revisited and reinvented in later iterations.
  • The relationship between the boom in 1980s horror films (Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers) and the socioeconomic context of Reaganism, and the manner in which that connection has been advanced and formulated by later horror films set in the 1980s.
  • The frivolous 1980s as a comic landscape of risible fashions played for laughs in texts like The Wedding Singer, Hot Tub Time Machine, and The Goldbergs.
  • Representations of HIV and sexuality in the 1980s, as in Angels in America, The Normal Heart, and The Dallas Buyers Club.  
  • Race relations in the 80s, as depicted in films such as Basquiat, The Pursuit of Happyness, and This is England.
  • The sounds of the ’80s: the way films and television shows use popular music from the 1980s to communicate moods, attitudes, and values.

Please send 300-word abstracts to Randy Laist at rlaist@goodwin.edu by December 1, 2020, or feel free to contact me with queries at any time.