We’re living in a unique moment in time. Right now is the future that Back to the Future II tried to predict. Obviously there aren’t too many similarities between the real world and the fantasyland where every homeowner has access to a personal flying car. But it’s a movie. That’s one idea of what a future might look like.
It makes me wonder: which version of 2014 is better, ours, or the one imagined back in the 1980s? While there’s a lot to consider, I’d have to say that the real 2014 has shaped up to be far superior in almost all respects to the future from the movie. And yes, I’m taking into account the fact that mostly everything made in the eighties looks super cheesy in hindsight. But even after acknowledging and compensating for that handicap, the real future is still so much brighter.
That’s not to say that they got everything wrong. I’m obviously talking about Hoverboards here. And while this futuristic neon pink play toy had only a minor role in the movie, it’s lasting grip on our collective imagination only serves to underscore its very noticeable absence from the future that we inhabit today. Yes, the flying cars were also pretty cool, as were the sneakers that tied themselves up with a push of a button. But come on, why do we not have Hoverboards yet? It’s almost enough to make me want to rule in favor of the eighties future, if only to encourage us to realign our modern priorities, shift away from whatever it is we’re currently working on and reorient our goals to making Hoverboards a viable consumer technology.
Almost. But the rest of the eighties future is depressing enough that I can forget for a few moments that I live in a world where Hoverboards remain a distant fiction. Which is weird, because from a cursory glance, the future in Back to the Future II looks really cool. Everything is clean and hi-tech, people seem to be happy. In essence, it’s not Mad Max or Robocop or any of the dystopian visions of the future commonly portrayed in the eighties.
But it still kind of sucks. Marty McFly had dreams of becoming a rock star, but in 2014, he instead finds himself living in some highly automated cage where his boss can appear anytime he wants on giant wall mounted TVs. When they decide to fire McFly, it’s not enough to just tell him that he lost his job, they start streaming in commands to all of the printers around the house, “You’re fired!” spelled out in giant type for his whole family to read. Talk about lack of privacy, I’d rather have the NSA reading my emails than my boss having the ability to weasel his way into my off-the-clock hours.
And speaking of work, why does everybody in the eighties future have to wear two ties? In my version of the future, we’re all wearing less ties, zero ties, not an additional tie. A tie is the stupidest must unnecessary piece of clothing currently in every man’s closet, and yet it’s somehow required for any sort of formal event. What’s the point of looping a piece of fabric around our neck? It’s just dumb. Dumb, dumb, dumb. And yet someone who made this movie thought it would look a little more advanced if we all got to wear an extra.
It’s just a subtle way of showing how maybe their future wasn’t meant to be as appealing as its glossy coated exterior made it appear. Everybody in the house is working. Work, work, work. Everybody’s so busy that they barely have enough time to feed themselves. They can’t cook dinner, they don’t even have time to go out for a bite to eat. No, instead, Marty’s mom comes over and rehydrates a Pizza Hut pizza in some futuristic kitchen appliance. So not only are the people of the twenty-first century forced to eat dehydrated junk food, they have to fit their houses with expensive appliances that deny them even the ability to enjoy their fast food outside of the house.
And why do Marty and his future son appear to be identical twins? It’s too easy of an answer to say that they just wanted Michael J. Fox to play both roles. No, I think that in this vision of the future, gene therapy has advanced to a point where parents could customize the DNA of their offspring, mapping their appearance to the most minute detail. Of course, Marty being a total self-absorbed rock-n-roll wannabe, he basically molds his son into his clone, ensuring and predicting a perpetual stagnation of the human race, of eighties American decay, endless suburban sprawl, and lame retro-themed diners.
Yeah, the real future is so much better. Seriously, they didn’t even predict the Internet. How do you not predict the Internet? And the further we march ahead, the sillier Back to the Future II looks in the rearview mirror. I say we leave it all behind, stop airing Part II on TV, and try to forget all of those unexplained temporal paradoxes (Like, when Biff steals the time machine, he comes back to the future after having dropped off the sports almanac, but nothing’s changed yet. Why? Shouldn’t he have come back to a future continued by the timeline in which he’s a ruthless billionaire? It doesn’t make sense). Except, let’s not forget about the Hoverboards. I’d really, really like a Hoverboard. But I said that already.