Sunday, September 1, 2013

Back to the Future. The Grim, Grim Future



So last week I got to watch Back to the Future for the first time since I was, I don't know, twelve. It's still a pretty great movie, and especially in the coming-of-age, sci-fi genre, with far more quotable moments than I remembered. It was a blast and a half.

But.

The end of the movie is kind of disturbing. When Michael J. Fox comes back (...to the future!), his city, the city that was clean and economically prosperous in the 1950s, is back to being graffittied and depressed. The sign that we know we're back in the 80s is that the Delorean distrupts a man sleeping under a newspaper by a park bench. Fox gets out of the car, sees the adult theater downtown, the boarded up shops and knows--he's home!

Some of this is just reflecting the rosy nostalgia for the 50s that is typical of the boomers, but I'd have hoped that some of that meddling in the past would have impacted the whole city's prospects. Even disturbingly, does the fact that the city is run-down now somehow relate to its having a black mayor, the one impact on the whole city (well, that and introducing "Johnny B. Goode" to the world) that Michael J. Fox's character directly creates? Oh dear.

But it's okay, because at least his mother is thin and his father is rich. Really. This is what he has accomplished. When he sees his mom for the first time, his initial comment is that she is thin, not even that she is sober, or happy, or anything else, but that she is thin. As for his father, the impressive thing isn't that he's written a sci-fi book (obviously a side project, because when it arrives, the characters say that it's his first book, and all that money? not from writing), but that they have gobs of money now, enough that Marty can have the huge, gas-guzzling truck he had been eying. His parents both fitting the ideal for their gender roles in the 80s, the only crowning touch is that they are also more lenient, eager for their son to take his girlfriend on a trip and giving him all the resources he wants to do so.

I know it's sci-fi, but there was something where the decade of greedy 80s rubbed the wrong way against my Millennial sensibilities. Instead of going back in time to improve his community, Marty just brings money and thinness into his family. I like my sci-fi broader minded than that.

2 comments:

Margaret said...

Hear Hear! I hadn't watched this recently - and now I'm debating whether I want to go back and watch it with a more critical eye.

Jamie Zvirzdin said...

Ditto to what Margaret said!