Back To the Future Part II isn’t trying to predict the future.
by MATT STOKES | FEBRUARY 9, 2018
The discussion of Back To the Future, Part II starts at 02:30.
The filmmakers of Back To the Future, Part II have said that their goal for the portion of the movie that takes place in the future world of 2015 was not to make predictions but to have fun. They wanted a deliberate response to the bleak futures depicted in science fiction films like Blade Runner.
Because audiences had lived with Marty McFly for an entire movie already and grown to love him, it would be very startling to see him living in a dystopian future much more typical of science fiction. On the disconnect between how we view our own futures and how we view the world’s future, Prof. Gary Wolfe says in his lecture series, How Great Science Fiction Works:
I’ve asked the students to make lists of historical events they thought would happen in the next hundred years or so, and to attach dates to each event. Then I kept those lists, and a couple of weeks later, when they thought we were just discussing their own plans after college and their personal goals and career goals, I asked them to make another list. This one concerned future events in their own lives, with the ages at which they expected each event to happen. And then I matched up the two lists. So, one student had himself retiring to Florida a few years after he’d predicted in his earlier list that rising sea levels would pretty much wipe out the entire state. And another was happily watching her oldest grandchild graduate from college some time after she’d had a giant meteor strike obliterate the whole planet. And so on. Admittedly, in that first list the students were just letting their imaginations run wild, and in the second they were expressing real hopes and dreams. The point is, our ideas of our own personal futures don’t always match with our ideas about global futures. When we think about our own futures we tend to be optimistic, but our ideas about the future of the world can be a lot less sunny.
Seeing Marty living in Mad Max or Children Of Men just doesn’t compute, but we generally don’t see ourselves in those movies either. I’m always making bleak predictions about the future—whenever Russia gets up to its shenanigans in Crimea or the Baltics, I’m always like, “This is it, guys: World War Three!”—but I fully expect my kids to be happy and healthy and in a totally normal world 50 years from now.
I would like to be seen as the kind of person who has some sort of inside scoop on how bad everything is, but I don’t actually approach life this way. I’m still fully expecting hover boards, Jaws 19, and the Hydrator.
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