The ‘Back to the Future’ analysis you should not miss
Some of you might be not familiar with pop culture essayist Mark Hing. For years, the Chicagoan has tortured himself with questions such as How Long Does Bill Murray Spend in “Groundhog Day”?, How Rich is Scrooge McDuck? and The True Paternity of the Girls on “Full House” on his blog Wolf Gnards. Consider him the Nate Silver of couch potato porn.
This week, Hing sent himself down a rabbit hole that may make your brain hurt, an unraveling of what’s possibly the most complicated backflip in blockbuster history orchestrated by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale.
An abridged version of Hing’s opening from his latest, “Back to Back to the Future: A Tale of Two Martys“:
What I want to talk about is the end of the first ["Back to the Future"]. Marty had just returned to 1985, mere minutes away from saving Doc Brown from being gunned down by Libyan nationalists, and just in time to see himself go back in time. When you see this in the film, you think, “Oh, that’s nice, we’ve come full circle.” Except that it’s not the same Marty we saw at the beginning of the film. That’s an entirely different Marty.
See, there are two Martys. “Marty A” grew up with parents in a mostly loveless marriage built on lies, peeping, and Florence Nightingale effects. “Marty B” grew up with loving parents in a marriage built on rape prevention and mutual love of tennis. Are these Martys the same person? I honestly don’t know. What we do know for sure though is that the different households produced different siblings: a brother, Dave, who worked in some sort of “office” and a sister, Linda, who was popular with some sort of “dates.” Different parents and different siblings should mean a different Marty.
Marty A went back in time, changed a bunch of events, but didn’t go back to his future; he went back to someone else’s future. Marty B’s future. Marty B was living a pretty decent life: he had a sweet truck, parents that let him do whatever he wanted, let him go on whatever camping trips he wanted, date whoever wanted, and he had a sweet truck. The same hot girlfriend either way, but she was probably more into him, mostly do to the sweetness of his truck. Did I mention that truck? And now all of that belongs to Marty A. He has usurped Marty B’s life, he’s done nothing to earn that truck or a family that loves him or a man-child Biff to wait on him and wax various cars in various driveways. Marty A is mucking up Marty B’s whole existence: pissing off Strickland, drag racing, blowing auditions. So, where’s Marty B in all this?
So, from my understanding (which may not be much), because “Marty A” traveled back to 1955, that is now forever a part of history. Therefore, when “Marty A” returns to 1985 and assumes his new/improved life (monster truck included), the “Marty B” that existed in the new present-day timeline then goes on his adventure in the past to, presumably, reenact everything that “Marty A” already has. But what guarantee do we have that “Marty B” will, in fact, do and say everything that “Marty A” did and said back in 1955? What if “Marty B” decides not to save his father from cowardice? Even a greater question: how will “Marty B” avoid running into “Marty A”? See, there would be two of them running around at that point, wouldn’t there?
It gets worse. Also, it’s possibly the best brain exercise you’ll give yourself all morning. Charts, graphs, mind-blowing theories and possibly answers to follow in Hing’s analysis, which you should read immediately at Wolf Gnards.