My media studies teachers told me that once I started studying and analyzing film I wouldn’t be able to sit back and enjoy them. Fortunately I generally seem to be able to juggle my analytical and my ‘brain-off-popcorn-in’ sides of my gray matter, allowing to both enjoy a film or look at it from a different view. Unfortunately sometimes I’ll sit down to watch a film thinking the Casual Captain is in charge only to find out that Admiral Analysis is at the helm.
This happened most noticeably when I got comfy to have a nice nostalgic afternoon with 80’s classic and generally acknowledged feel-good, intelligent, comedy masterpiece Back To The Future. I figured I’d be lounging about smiling at the oh-so-familiar scrapes that denim-clad Marty McFly gets himself into as he inadvertently almost erases himself from existence. Instead I wound up getting angrier and angrier with the film as I grew more aware of its sickening 1980’s MTV generation material sensibilities and by the film’s surface-value close I was not bathed in a warm glow of re-established status quo but rather I wallowed in puddle of murky values and questionable responsibilities.
Marty McFly is the most abhorrent product of the 1980s, a skateboarding slacker who grumbles about his own ‘failures’ whilst skiving his education due to his abuse and destruction of a mentally unstable old man’s property all for the purpose of ‘rocking out’, and then zipping into school to the sounds of Huey Lewis and the News in order to play some pop-rock with his band The Pinheads; who sound remarkably like Huey Lewis and the News. His eye, as his attractive girlfriend Jennifer tries to console and comfort him, is drawn to the behind of another lady passing by and then a great big truck with flames on the side, like totally awesome.
McFly’s home life is shot in turgid browns that heighten the pathetic existence eeked out by his NHS glasses and braces wearing nerd-father George and alcoholic, jowly mother Lorraine. His brother wears a terrible visor and his sister stuffs food into her face. Meanwhile former school bully turned car dealer Biff continues to tease, ridicule and intimidate George.
As we all know Marty ends up traveling back in time to the 50s, almost ruining his parents’ relationship and negating his birth, but instead he manages to effect the character of his father, ultimately leading to him punching Biff in the chops and winning Lorraine’s heart rather than her pity. Once Marty travels back these actions have had a repercussion on McFly’s existence that extends beyond a better of understanding of the love bond between his folks. In fact, it never seems that Marty really cares for his parents beyond the concept of keeping himself in existence; which to some extent is entirely understandable, but outside of the fears of incest and eradication Marty doesn’t re-evaluate his parent’s need to be together. This is because that Lorraine, like her son, is something of a shallow and material person.
Marty’s rewards for recoupling his mother and father are a complete overhaul of the decor in his home to success-indicating pastels, a change of attire and posture for both father and mother (including contacts for Dad, glasses are a sign of weakness after all), a business suit and better job for his brother and the latter for his sister and the change of career into science fiction romance that seems to have funded this paint-job and tennis-playing alternate-lifestyle. Not only that but that one right hook from George has crumpled Biff into a sniveling, track-suit sporting toady with bad hair, now reduced to polishing George’s car rather than spilling beer over it as he writes it off.
But the ultimate example of Marty’s material belief system is safely locked up in the garage, the sunlight shines in on that big black truck with the flames down the side and Marty’s life is complete. All the character’s goals have been summarised in the ownership of a gas guzzling behemoth, in which he can drive off with his girlfriend to make-out point. Of course, Marty is a high school student, and it’s quite a relief that he doesn’t go all My Super Sweet 16 on his family and start bawling that the flames are the wrong colour. At this point his equally-denim clad girlfriend Jennifer shows up, but to further cement Marty’s desire for the material she is roundly replaced by the far more aesthetically appealing Elisabeth Shue for the sequel.
© BRWC 2010.
We hope you're enjoying BRWC. You should check us out on our social channels, subscribe to our newsletter, and tell your friends. BRWC is short for battleroyalewithcheese.