Back to the Future as Undeniably ’80s

by Mark Wilson

From Kottke.org, “Back to the Future as period piece.” Postulating that Back to the Future is a movie about the 1980s, not the 1950s.

What I think is more interesting is the sharp, sharp contrast between 1955 and 1985 (“nobody has two TVs,” “a portable television studio,” etc.). But if Back to the Future were made today, Marty McFly would travel thirty years into the past — to 1981. Consider the contrast between the world of 1955 and the world of 1985. There isn’t such a contrast between the world of 1981 and the world of 2001. Except, perhaps, for the prevalence of computers and the ubiquity of the Internet, things are more or less the same. We recognize cars, TVs, radios, etc. Even computers weren’t unheard of in 1981.

I wonder what that says about American progress after World War II and American progress during the Reagan era.

Even so, when Marty told 1955 Doc Brown that Ronald Reagan was the president, Doc Brown was shocked. “Ronald Reagan? The actor?!” But I think the Doc Brown of 1981 would be just as surprised to find out that Arnold Schwarzenegger was the governor of California. (“Arnold Schwarzenegger? From Hercules in New York?!”)

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