Sky Captain and the Self-Hating Yuppies Trapped in Yesterday

Remember the 2004 film Sky Captain and World of Tomorrow? When it debuted in 2004, Wired magazine had an interesting take on the film, one of the first “green screen” movies, where the actors were surrounded by digital CGI added in post production. Wired dubbed Sky Captain “the Restoration Hardware of movies — manufactured to evoke our notions of cool stuff from some imaginary golden age. It’s grainy and textured, and filled with nifty gadgets, storybook landscapes and Tinkertoy-looking robots.”


Similarly ever since his debut, Obama, a self-described “blank screen” manufactures, with the help of his scriptwriters and the MSM, his imagery to evoke our notions of cool stuff from some imaginary golden age of progressivism. Like the makers of Sky Captain seeming to rifle through catalogs of forties-era imagery that it hoped its audience would respond to, Obama has borrowed since 2007 from the words and memories of JFK, FDR, Wilson, Truman, Lincoln, Reagan, and now as we’ve all seen this week, Teddy Roosevelt.

But at the Daily Caller, Alexis Levinson catches Obama recycling themes from the failed Democratic presidential campaigns of the MTV era, the men whom Reagan and then Bush #41 vanquished (and a grateful nation said thanks):

It’s not just Mondale and Ferraro whose messaging is seeing rebirth. If you’re nostalgic for the days of side-ponytails and Molly Ringwald, dust off your parachute pants and your fingerless gloves because the Democratic National Committee’s current messaging against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney seems like an eighties retread.

Decades before the DNC launched its website to highlight Romney’s alleged issue flip-flops, President Jimmy Carter’s 1980 re-election campaign aired “Flipflop,” an ad attacking Ronald Reagan for changing his position on nuclear proliferation.

“In this debate, in this whole campaign, Governor Reagan has changed important positions to get votes and then blandly tried to wipe out the earlier position,” says the narrator in the ad. “Which Ronald Reagan should we believe?”


If Obama’s handlers are unconsciously borrowing material from the MTV-era, they’ve certainly got the right boss signing off on their imagery.  As Jonah Goldberg noted in April of 2008, Obama and his wife often seem like “self-hating yuppies straight out of the 1980s:”

There’s always been a certain cultural lag time to Barack and Michelle Obama, a kitschiness that’s hard to pinpoint. But I think I’ve got it: They’re self-hating yuppies straight out of the 1980s, which were to the Obamas what the 1960s were to the Clintons.

For those too young to remember, “yuppie” was shorthand for young urban professionals — think Michael J. Fox as Alex P. Keaton in the TV series “Family Ties” — who allegedly represented the collapse of ’60s values and the triumph of ’80s greed. Yuppies sold their souls for a BMW and a condo.

Ironically, the biggest complaints about yuppie materialism came from self-loathing liberal yuppies — like the Obamas.

The Obamas still seem stuck in that time warp, clinging to ’80s-style resentments and political assumptions. Michelle Obama is never so eloquent as when she’s complaining about the burden of student loans for her two Ivy League degrees and covering the high cost of summer camp and piano lessons for her kids on her family’s half-million-dollars-a-year income.

“Don’t go into corporate America,” she exhorted low-income working mothers in Ohio in February, even though she is a highly compensated hospital executive. She admits to being consumed with “a constant sense of guilt” over having to balance work, politics, and family. “It’s guilt, feeling guilty all the time.”

It’s telling that for the Clintons, JFK defined politics, but for Obama, Ronald Reagan is the role model. Last year, Obama admitted to admiring the Gipper’s “transformative” leadership (though not his policies). Indeed, not only did Reagan restore confidence in the nation while reducing confidence in government, he put a stake in the heart of the “Vietnam syndrome” and the blame-America-first ethos of the Democratic Party. The Reagan Revolution moved the country durably to the right — so much so that even Democrats saw the writing on the wall. Obama wants to erase that writing.


But will rifling through the failed imagery and slogans of the Martha Quinn era accomplish that?


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