Dangers of Nostalgia in Back to the Future

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Have you ever witnessed something so drastic or extreme that all you could do in that moment was laugh? Bill Cosby once said, “Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.” In the classic film, ‘Back to the Future’, Marty McFly had to travel back in time to find his friend and fellow scientist Doc so that he could fix the broken time machine, and so Marty himself could attempt to save Doc’s life in the present day. Whilst in the foreign era, Marty had to configure situations that led to future occurrences based solely off of his fond memories. The writers of the film found numerous ways to involve comedy in what we’d normally describe as humorless situations. For the duration of the film, the dangers of nostalgia are illustrated as facetious, and as a result, the audience views these heavy issues depicted in the movie in a less serious fashion.

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Moving along, for those wondering what nostalgia is, it’s a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. One example of it would be, when Marty met Doc in an abandoned mall parking lot to witness his newest experiment. Because it was a time traveling machine, Doc started to reminisce on important dates in time. One in particular was November 5th, 1955—30 years prior, and the day he invented time travel. Doc began to tell Marty about how he’d stolen nuclear fuel from Libyans and used it to generate his time machine. Moments later, Libyan terrorists storm through the abandoned lot and start shooting at Doc and Marty. After successfully killing Doc, they began to race after Marty. Generally, these type of scenarios are never funny. Honestly, who would expect angry Libyan terrorists to appear at that moment in an outdated Volkswagen van, yelling random threats, and start to chase Marty around the parking lot like crazed animals? Luckily, the shooter’s gun jammed and Marty was able to escape in the time machine. Comparatively, terrorist threats alone in today’s time include headlines across many media outlets that can leave even a whole nation in fear. Yet, Doc was unbothered by the fact the Libyans were searching for him… until they found him. Marty was even shocked at his nonchalant behavior. However, the utter confusion in that scene can make any viewer let out a few giggles.

In addition, in the movie, Marty ends up going ‘back in time’ in the midst of escaping the terrorists who were trying to kill him. Arriving in the year 1955, he starts to recognize his town’s features and even spots a few familiar faces in their youth—like his parents in their teenage years. Now, because he’s traveled backwards, he technically doesn’t exist. This leads to one of his biggest problems in the film: getting his parents together. Before Marty’s travel through time, his father’s character was rather nerdy and unexciting, while his mother was more so concerned about everything her children did and uneasy at times. Greg, his father, was being bullied by his own supervisor, named Biff and was considered a “slacker” by his colleagues. When Marty arrived in 1955, he witnessed his father being harassed by that same man. Biff would often bully Greg into doing his homework, and taunt him in public places. For example, when Greg was eating in the diner and Biff, along with friends, decided to bother him. Biff manhandled Greg all whilst telling him he ‘better’ complete his homework. Remembering how crude Biff was towards his family in present day led Marty to talk his adolescent father into standing up for himself. But due to Greg’s character being quirky and rather odd, his run-ins with Biff were more than comical because his reactions were so irregular. Because of the sarcastic occurrences that would take place whenever Marty, Greg, and Biff were together, the bullying was considered amusing to the audience.

Furthermore, another presentation of support would be the act of lewdness in the film. Typically, females are told to “be the chase, and not the chaser.” Women are put on a pedestal, and a greater number of them believe being “easy” or “loose” is godawful. Developmental psychologists at Cornell University have conducted studies with college-age women who all agreed that being identified as promiscuous has a negative effect on future relationships because a lot of men would find them unsuitable. Keep in mind, prior to the time travel Marty’s mother was viewed as a woman in religious order. Marty even jokes during the film and says he thinks she was “born a nun” due to her holier than thou act. Her thoughts about something so innocent as girls riding in cars with boys, or even girls talking on the phone with boys were absurd, but knee-slapper worthy. Here’s the conundrum: when Marty time traveled, he unintentionally made his mother lust over him and even go as far as make advances at him. Thus, leading him to see his mother was indeed promiscuous. She started off as shy, and hesitant though. When Marty first arrived at her home she sympathized with him due to the fact her father had hit him with his car just moments before. He was new to the town, and she showed compassion and warm-heartedness from the moment she saw him. The laughable part is, the same way she found interest in Marty was identical to the way her and Marty’s father originally started talking. Remembering how uptight and judgmental his mother was in his modern day, led him to think his mother was a hypocrite. Not to mention, seeing his mother in her earlier years wearing seductive clothing and being suggestive was a parody in itself.

In conclusion, nostalgia can be induced by remembering past events and experiences. It’s not a good nor bad thing. Studies show that nostalgia play a constructive role in people’s lives. The reminiscence in the movie conveyed Marty’s journey’s during the continuation of the film. It got him out of deadly situations; like escaping murder, and even put him in an affluent position towards the end of the movie. All in all, there was an assortment of issues displayed in the movie. Some would be considered serious subject matters, while others may be considered as clever remarks that most people would just give the side eye. The use of humor in all aspects of the movie grabbed and held the moviegoers attention. Psychological theory states that, “comedy is equal parts darkness and light.” The writers addressed topics listed above in a joking manner, but really exposed underlying problems that occur in everyday life. The comicality just made the situations humorous. Someone watching can possibly relate to an overbearing, prude, judgmental mother, or bullying issues, or even being pressured to have sex. There were a multitude of controversies presented that can cause anybody watching to have a flashback and think, “I remember when…”

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