|Feb. 15th, 2013 @ 08:54 am I've finally figured out Back To The Future: Part 2|
Now, hear me out. I’ve previously discussed having figured out Parts 1 and 3, and how the series as a whole is a metaphor for Marty McFly growing up. Coming, as it were, of age.|
Each film has its own message, an important step that everyone takes on their way to maturity. It’s a rite of passage for all of us, but Marty has the benefit of Time Travel, a vehicle (hah!) for the grander metaphor to be delivered to him, or rather unto him.
Part 1, I had stated, was about learning that your parents are people, just like you. They were children once, and they grew up. Children look upon their parents as immutable authority figures, for good or ill, whether they respect that authority or not. Marty, for example, does not respect his parents, but his parents are His Parents, and they are objects to him. They are a means to his existence. Going back in time and seeing them as they were at his age reinforces that which we all experience as we grow into adults: we see the world from our parents’ viewpoint. That they are just like us, only with extra years of experience. We become friends with our parents when we become adults, or we cut them out of our lives completely as we would any toxic relationship. And while Marty experiences this in a way completely opposite from our own - they are brought to his level rather than him being brought to theirs - the end message is the same. His parents were taken off their pedestals, and he sees that they had all the same choices and opportunities that he himself has. It humanizes them, and he begins to respect them and try to help them with problems that he knows has plagued them all their lives, because he saw the end result. He gives both his parents more confidence in themselves, and that changes the course of their history. It is not, as people are quick to point out, that he only respected them after they became healthy and rich, but that because of his respect, he was able to help them become that which they always wanted to be, instead of the life they clearly regretted.
Part 3, of course, had the extremely powerful lesson of self-respect. It doesn’t matter what other people think of you, what other people say about you, as long as you are happy with yourself and your choices. This was a lot more obvious of a theme in this installment, as Marty had, over the course of all three movies, demonstrated that he would do anything for anyone to keep them from calling him a coward. Nobody calls him chicken, after all. But as he saw, and as his ancestor Seamus McFly taught him, people will say whatever they want, and they’ll walk all over you if you give them the chance. Preventing people from pushing you around isn’t about trying to act macho to prove you’re better than them, it’s that if you’re already better than them, you don’t need to prove anything. Let them say what they want. Let them call names, and make fun. You know you’re awesome. You know you do what you have to. You know that your hat isn’t a manly hat, but it’s your hat, and it works just fine, so why do you care what other people think about it? Besides, you happen to LOVE that hat. And so Marty learns that he doesn’t have to be manipulated by everyone to prove he’s macho. He’s saved the space-time continuum. He has a hoverboard. He even has a rockin’ 4x4 waiting for him in 1985. Why get himself killed trying to prove how cool he is, when he knows how cool he is?
It took me a while to figure out Part 2. The theme for that movie is not, as my wife so generously points out, that the Cubs will never win the pennant. But after some thought, especially how Part 2 immediately leads into Part 3, I realized that it’s far more connected than I was allowing it. In Part 2, both Marty and Jennifer see that one careless decision can screw up their family forever. Jennifer sees that Marty’s need to prove how tough he is will get the McFly family into more and more trouble, and Marty in particular finds out that making one bad decision wrecks the timeline completely. The main theme of Part 2, then, is that growing up means taking responsibility for your actions, and thinking them through in the first place. Actions have consequences, even if you don’t intend them. And furthermore, there is no mistake that cannot be corrected if you try hard enough and want it bad enough. Nothing is permanently damaging if you have the will to make it right. Which is not to say that you should never take risks, just think them through and be certain about them before doing so.
Making that realization just solidified the whole series for me. It’s one continuous journey that Marty makes in growing up. Respect your parents, because they’re just as human as you. Make responsible decisions, and take responsibility for the results. And finally, be happy with who you are, because it doesn’t matter what other people think of you.
The future hasn’t been written yet. So make it a good one.