Back To The Future Is Messed Up

Back To The Future is unequivocally awesome. Virtually everyone likes it, and any person that doesn’t is probably a jerk. But  have you actually sat down and thought about the events depicted in the movie? You probably haven’t because you’re not a pop culture fiend with too much time on his hands like me.

If you do, though, you come to some disturbing realizations.

Great Scot!

Apparently, Cracked has been monitoring my brainwaves because they posted a video about the insanity of Back To The Future last Monday. There’s a good chance you’ve already seen it, but, if not, here’s the link:

They bring up some points I’ve discussed with other dorks, but I have a few thoughts that they didn’t mention. I’ll discuss both starting with Cracked’s observations.

The Ending

Marty wakes up in a bizarro world where his parents and siblings are hip, successful yuppies. However, George and Lorraine both had substantial relationships with Marty in the past. His mom even tried to seduce him. Twice. But she and George get married and have kids. One of which is an exact clone of some kid they went to high school with.

Once Marty got to high school and started looking like the Marty they both knew, wouldn’t that set off any alarms? Especially after they gave him the same name? I know, I Know, he said his name was Calvin Klein. But, he told people to call him Marty. Seriously, that wouldn’t weird you out? Wouldn’t that challenge your whole perception of reality?

But on to another weird part of the ending…


In the new bizarro-world, time-rift reality Biff is no longer an insufferable jackass. Instead, he’s a sycophantic underling of the McFly family. That’s a pretty big leap. Remember how he used to abuse George and tried to rape Lorraine? What came in between teenage thug and eunuch manservant?

"My rude and agressive behavior is really a thin veneer that hides my own insecurities...or, ah, something."

They say tigers don’t change their stripes. So, it must have taken something substantial to cause his wussery. One lucky punch from a nerd doesn’t change your whole personality. I would know. I’ve been punched by my brother many times.

My theory is: one punch caused a chain reaction. People saw George turn Biff into Glass Joe from Punch Out! and realized he wasn’t so tough. Soon, everyone was picking fights with him, and a series of public ass-kickings emasculated him.

I don’t know exactly what happened, but whatever it was, it was an essential part of the plot.


In the video, Katie hypothesizes that Lorraine is a “danger slut.” I can see the logic in that. She originally fell for George after he fell from a tree, and her dad hit him with a car. Although, the fact that he fell from a tree trying to stealth-ogle some cans might have changed her mind.

Then in the alternate time line she falls for Marty because he was being a causality-meddling ignoramus and got hit with the car. Later in that time line, she only falls for George after he stops a drunken, sexual assault. Katie also speculates that Lorraine is some sort of sexual fetishist who is only interested when violence and danger are present.

I’m not buying it, though.

I’m inclined to agree with DOB. Lorraine is very nurturing, and she can’t resist helping a poor, hurt dork. But It doesn’t really matter which theory is correct. Marty, at some point, must come the realization that his mom was basically tricked into loving his dad. I’m not saying that the feelings that came afterward were insincere; I’m just saying the foundation of the relationship was manufactured.

How would you like to come face to face with that truth?

Chuck Berry Is A Thief

Back To The Future thinks Chuck Berry is a thief and a hack.

This is the thing about Back To The Future that bothers me the most. I’m sure you know which scene I’m talking about, but in case you’ve been living in a cave, or in Utah (same thing?), I’ll give you a quick recap.

Marty is playing with the band at the dance because the guitarist sliced his hand getting Marty out of a locked trunk. The band doesn’t want to go back on, but they have to so George and Lorraine can dance and kiss. If they don’t, bye, bye Marty. Marty does his job and fills in, but the band wants to play one more song, one that “really cooks.” Marty obliges even though the clock is ticking, literally. Naturally, he plays Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.”

But, get this, the band leader is Chuck Berry’s cousin. He calls Chuck so he can hear this wild new sound, because, you know, every high school gym has a phone conveniently located just off stage. Then, the movie would have us believe Chuck reproduced “Johnny B. Goode” note for note based on that call.

Back To The Future insinuates Chuck Berry is a thief and uninspired hack. It supposes that Chuck didn’t have any inkling of that riff or song before some pencil-neck whiteboy played it over the phone. Then he stole it and turned it into a hit. Just so we’re clear, we’re talking about Chuck Berry. The Chuck Berry that had a number one hit. The Chuck Berry that kept Chess Records afloat. The Chuck Berry that’s in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. That Chuck Berry.

That’s not even the most absurd part. The fact that he would be able to hear anything is unbelievable. If you’ve gotten that call from your friend at the concert because Dave Matthews is playing “your jam,” you know that you can’t hear a damn thing. It sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher pumped through a distortion amp. Even if he were a thief and wanted to steal that sweet riff, he wouldn’t have been able to.

I could rant about, at least, three other things in that scene but I won’t.

The Mayor

The first person Marty talks to in the past is a busboy at a diner.  He recognizes him as Goldie Wilson, the future mayor. Marty stupidly blurts out that he will be the mayor some day. Then Goldie gets all excited and says he “likes the sound of that.”

It’s like he had no ambition. It appears as if he had never thought of that possibility until he met Marty. Basically, it took a white man for a black man to have any political aspirations. If you think about it, it’s just a little racist no matter how benign that scene was supposed to be.

Now on to observations that weren’t in the video

The Doc and Marty

No one has ever been able to explain their relationship to me. Why do they hang out!? Why?

We’re just supposed to accept that a high schooler is casually hanging out with the town’s resident old kook. When I was 17, I was doing a lot of things, but hanging out with the 70-year-old down the street, who mows the lawn in dress socks and shorts, was not one of them.

There are so many questions. Where did they meet? Doesn’t Marty have any other friends? Do George and Lorraine know about Doc Brown and Marty?

Too easy.

Seriously, Doc Brown should be taping episodes of Matlock and mixing Metamucil into his oatmeal. He shouldn’t be building a novelty sized amp for a high schooler, nor should he be getting said high schooler involved in the swindling of Libyan terrorists. Oh, and he probably shouldn’t be building a damn time machine, especially one that involves plutonium and the desecration of a DeLorean.

A Whole New World

Back to the ending. Marty wakes up and is confused, which is understandable. His house isn’t like his house; His family isn’t like his family; and Biff isn’t like Biff. That’s what the rest of his life would be like. Marty would be constantly perplexed.

Theoretically, he made his family’s life better. However, he didn’t get to experience it. He only got to experience his original, crappy childhood. And, because of the that, people would constantly be referencing events and people that he didn’t experience or meet. Essentially, he would be living another person’s life.

It would suck. You would be constantly walking on egg shells, trying not to mention the past that no one but you remembers. Not even that rad truck and the weekend trip to the lake would make up for that.

Principal Strickland

We see this guy at the beginning of the movie hassling Marty. Later, we see him hassling George. Apparently, he has something against slackers. Although, I’m not sure that he knows what that word means. Marty and George seem pretty industrious in one way or another. My problem is that, in 30 years, he didn’t change one bit.

This guy is like Dick Clark; he doesn’t age. He was middle-aged when George was in school. Keeping that in mind, by the mid 80’s he should be at least 60, if not 70. He should have been either: A. a geezer or B. retired. It shouldn’t look like someone froze him in Carbonite and thawed him.

And yes, I’m aware that I’m nitpicking. But use a different actor for the younger Strickland or use some make up for the older Strickland. Don’t mail it in and just change his suit.

You hear me Zemeckis?

The Doc’s Letter

The Doc keeps warning Marty not to interfere with the past, but Marty can’t seem to stop taunting the space-time continuum. He’s like Fry in “Roswell That Ends Well.” Deciding to ignore the advice of a man who was smart enough to build a time machine, Marty spits in face of causality and warns Doc Brown about his future death via letter.

This is what happens when you fill the shell of a bomb with pinball parts.

Doc Brown rips up the letter, but he ends up taping it together and heeds Marty’s warning. In what way you ask? A bulletproof vest. That’s it. Although it worked in the movie, there’s no way that vest would have stood up to all that semi-automatic gunfire. A smart guy like the Doc would know that, too.

It’s hard to believe that that’s the only precaution the Doc would take. Unless it was his plan to stage a dramatic recreation of his death to play a sick joke on his uncomfortably young friend. But it probably wasn’t. He could have bought an MAC-10 or AK-47. He could have actually built the bomb for the Libyans, but, no, he still decided to screw them. He could have booby-trapped the parking lot. He could have done a lot of things, but he took the most passive option, which was also the option most likely to get him killed.

Okay, so another option would have been less dramatic. But how sweet would it have been to see the Doc pull out an RPG and go all Arnold on those terrorists?

Marty’s Mind

This entry kind of encompasses the rest of the list. For all the things that happened and all the things Marty found out, he takes it surprisingly well. Unusually well. Marty learns that he might have unmade himself and all he says is, “That’s heavy.” He also learns things about his own family that no one should have to know.

First, he sees his friend get murdered by terrorists. Then, he ends time traveling while trying to escape from the terrorists, and it only gets worse from there. In the past Marty: learns his mom is kind of boozy and loose, kisses his mom, finds out his dad is a pervert, sees his dad get owned by Biff, almost gets his ass kicked by Biff, faces his own mortality and barely makes it home.

I don’t know about you, but that would freak me out. I wouldn’t be having a good ole’ time jamming with the band during an encore. I doubt I would have even made it that far. After the first time my mom tried to seduce me, I would be huddled in corner crying. Marty endured the kind of mental trauma that would put most people in therapy for years. Yet, at the end of the movie, Marty opts for more trauma and travels to the future.

It just doesn’t add up.

And that concludes my little examination of  Back To The Future. Is there anything you noticed? Do you agree? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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15 thoughts on “Back To The Future Is Messed Up

  1. cmxstevenson says:

    What I noticed was that although lightning struck the clock tower at 10:04 PM, Doc assumes it struck at 10:04 and 0 seconds. Big assumption, if you ask me.

    For most of what you’ve mentioned, I would submit Comment A: Both the movie and your comments (no offense) playfully ignore that any variation of history will alter all of the subsequently affected events. Such as, all of Marty’s memories would instantly be altered by the changes to his parents’ history.

    On the other issues:

    Parents remembering Marty: If they’re like me, Marty’s parents been trying to forget high school for years. Memories of Marty could have been actively expunged. (Or they could be heavy drinkers.)

    Chuck Berry: If Chuck Berry is a thief, then the song would have written itself. Similarly, Skynet invented itself according to Terminator II. See Comment A.

    The Mayor: Mr. Wilson developed the ambition to run for mayor of Hill Valley (I love that name), whether or not Marty ever visited the coffee shop. See Comment A.

    The Doc and Marty: Marty is easily identified with because of his archetypal character as Scientist’s gofer. You know they are going to louse things up. Does it make any sense? Would I have worked as an errand boy for a loopy scientist in high school? No. I didn’t invent the archetype.

    Principal Strickland: I’m sure anytime that directors can pull one over on the Screen Actors Guild, they do it.

    The Doc’s letter: The really ludicrous part is that after he saw Doc rip up the letter, Marty intends to go back early and warn Doc. “Ten minutes oughta do it.” With an infinite amount of time available and death hanging in the balance, is ten minutes really adequate?

    Marty’s mind: Even when you consider the time Marty spends in the entire trilogy, he doesn’t ever seem to have time to catch his breath. It’s entirely possible – nay – highly probable, that he will spend a good portion of his remaining years in a government-run institution. If only for being a cohort of a scientist who stole plutonium. (Yes, yes. He has kids and a goofy job in II. I’ll see Comment A.)

    Thanks for the post.

  2. rick says:

    its a fucking movie use ur imagination
    dont take it to fuckin serious

  3. Fred says:

    About Martys mind:

    That is a person aware of death, struggling to keep existing. Marty had the determination of a person with full knowledge of his time line of breathing, and can see the end, actually he can touch it.

    I wouldnt be in the right mindset either.

  4. oxwilder says:

    I always wondered why the brilliant Doc didn’t just string the lightning-charged cable down the length of the street to avoid unnecessary calculations requiring split-second timing.

    As for Chuck Berry, it could be that, as you said, he couldn’t hear anything over the phone. He might have come up with Johnny B. Goode because he’s Chuck Berry and he was going to anyway.

    I hope you’re right about Biff’s torment, at any rate.

  5. slobeachboy says:

    You are right about all this of course but in an off the wall comedic sci-fi movie like back to the future we don’t really expect everything to make sense or be scientifically accurate. And in this kind of a movie you get so caught up in the characters and their adventures that you really don’t care about technical details. In a supposedly serious sci-fi movie like Avatar on the other hand I expect more (which I did not get). I have not seen Avatar yet but just the previews were enough to make me sure I would be disappointed. After all we are supposed to believe that 150 years from now we will have the technology to travel to distant worlds, create avatars, and transfer our consciousness into those beings, yet we still cant repair a simply spinal cord injury? Really? Gimme a break! And apparently wheel chair technology hasn’t improved much in 150 years either. Another thing that bothered me is that their voices are the same when they are in their avatars. With completely different vocal chords not to mention larger and different shaped sinus passages your voice would not be anything close to that of your human body’s. I could go on all day, and that just from seeing the previews. Back to the future on the other hand is all about the silly characters and doesn’t need to be picked apart for technical accuracy. If you do want to pick it apart though you should probably mention how it would have been impossible to get that car to hit that small contact point just as the lighting strike hit the tower (as Oxwilder also pointed out). In fact even if he had put up a steel mesh net across the road which ran for the length of an entire city block, rather than that single wire connection point, and thus allowing them to maintain a connection for several seconds traveling at 80mph, it still would have been a million to one shot that they could have timed it just right. With the setup they had they would have had to predict accurately within a ten-thousandth of a second or less when that car would reach that point which is impossible. Anyway it’s a great movie and always will be.

  6. chris s says:

    “Basically, it took a white man for a black man to have any political aspirations. If you think about it, it’s just a little racist no matter how benign that scene was supposed to be.”

    wtf? no no no.

    good article overall though, you brought up some good points I’ve never thought about, that are a bit suspicious… great movie all the same

    • Jorge says:

      When I watch BTTF, I am focused on the fun part and pay little attention to continuity or time paradox issues. However, there are some good points there.
      I agree with you. The author overplays race in the article. What tells us that Goldie didn’t have some inner thoughts about someday becoming President, and by hearing Marty at that point, he “settled” for Mayor. It’s obvious for us to think the other extreme, but no reason to make it about race.
      In any case, it’s acceptable to assume Goldie would be mayor anyway, Marty just fulfills a role of messenger that otherwise would have been filled by someone else at some point.

  7. needles says:

    RE: Biff’s emasculation, the bit at the end of III (I think) where he sees Marty messing with the truck in the garage and before he realises it’s Marty, shouts “hey butthead” or something in an aggressive manner. But as soon as he realises its marty, he goes all wimpy again. This implies that Biff is still a hardcase, and that it’s just in dealings with the McFly family that he is cowardly and craven.

  8. […] racist? Holy shit, I’d better talk about that first since nobody ever has, oh, wait, all of these links here, […]

  9. Sheldon says:

    Im surprised that nobody got the by far LARGEST screw up in the movie. Although I didnt think of a lot of the points many others have made up I still think this one is still pretty damn big. Remember when Marty buys the book that shows that shows sport championship history? (Running a Blank on the name). When Biff steals it and the time machine and goes to the past to give himself the book, he comes back to the future, STOP, thats just the problem, he came back to the SAME future he left, when he comes back he should be coming back to the future he made, after his younger self won all the bets and became Rich and Famous/ Infamous, dont believe me? Then watch further into the movie and Doc Brown will say it himself, after they go to the past they cant go back to the future because they will show up in the NEW future. Minds blown? Mine was.

  10. science geek says:

    You’re an idiot. If anything it’s an homage to Chuck Berry plus it introduced his music to another generation. Why are critics so pretentious? They can find a way to not enjoy any movie, well almost any movie, if the movie has the same wooden spoon deep inside it as the critic does.

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