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presumably the Mafia, though that is never stated outright—­ and we gave the story line an explicitly political edge. Kennedy from his novel, AVCO, 1977. MGM/United Artists, 1975.

never learn much about why his victims have been slated to die. Scorpio 43. The Domino Principle, directed by Stanley Kramer, screenplay by Adam 44. Network, directed by Sidney Lumet, screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky, 45. Another popular Spielberg film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind

(1977), offered an alternative to the era’s apprehensive atmosphere by imagining a Benevolent Conspiracy. Two benevolent conspiracies, actually: There are the aliens who want to welcome humanity to the

larger cosmic community, and there are the government officials who good.

plant disinformation and cover up important facts for the citizens’ own In 1982, widely perceived as a time of greater faith in public in-

stitutions, Spielberg returned to the cinema of suspicion with E.T., a sentimental but sometimes terrifying tale in which children have to hide a friendly extraterrestrial from the government. The agents

of the American state are portrayed here as a fearsome squadron of

secret police. The liberal pundit David Sirota later criticized E.T. for “depict[ing] the government as a faceless menace,” arguing that this we think, why should we let those jackbooted federal sentries from amounted to propaganda against intervention in the economy: “Yeah, E.T. make our health care decisions?” David Sirota, Back to Our FuOur Politics, Our Everything (Ballantine Books, 2011), 86, 93. For a July 2011.

Our Culture, ture: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live in Now—­ critique of Sirota’s book, see Jesse Walker, “That ’80s Show,” Reason, 46. Ira Levin, The Stepford Wives (Random House, 1972), 50.

47. Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (Dell, 1963), 234–35.

48. The Stepford Wives movie was the basis for three made-­ for-­ TV follow-­ ups. Revenge of the Stepford Wives (1980) changed the scenario somewhat: The town’s women are drugged and brainwashed rather than replaced by robots, a sign that possession and imposture are close

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