WHERE: In the living room of my apartment in Portland, ME (Isla Nublar)
FORMAT: Blu-Ray on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: A little sleepy, glad to have company to keep me awake.
Before we begin, here are the stats on my first non-Cinemanaut viewing companion.
Name: Adam Ferguson
Notable viewing companionship qualities: Was suggested as a viewing partner by mutual friends claiming him to be a huge Back to the Future geek, proved this true during a Facebook chat conversation on all things Hill Valley.
Introduction to Back to the Future: First saw Part II at age 9 as part of an after-school program. Was confused, but loved the hoverboards. Saw Part III the same night. Eventually sought out the original.
Last Back to the Future viewing before today: Two years ago at a friend’s house.
Most recent fandom nerd-out: Played the Telltale video game a month ago, can’t shut up about it.
Evolves into: Adam Fergizard
THINGS ADAM SAID WHILE WE WATCHED:
- “Is Kal Kan still around?” Sort of. It’s Whiskas now.
- “This movie is like a double time capsule for the ’50s and the ’80s.”
- “Principal Strickland is wrong about George being a slacker. He did all of Biff’s homework.” Maybe George never got around to his own?
- “Did you know Thomas F. Wilson (Biff Tannen) was bullied as a kid? Check out his interview on the Nerdist podcast.” Thanks!
- When asked about why Doc stands directly in the path of his oncoming DeLorean: “He’s absent-minded. He’s not thinking of the consequences at the moment.” Yeah, we’re coming back to that.
- “You should check out a documentary called Reel Bad Arabs. They mention the Libyans and how most stock terrorists in movies are of Middle Eastern descent.” Thanks again!
- “It’s worth noting that we’ve been yakkin’ this whole time, but Lea Thompson shows up and we both go silent.”
A QUICK NOTE ON INCEST:
Because, let’s face it, you gotta talk about it at some point. I questioned the idea of Lorraine being attracted to her own son, due to MHC and its supposed side effect of incest prevention. (The short version: You seek out mates with different MHC genes from your own to strengthen your offspring’s immune system. So, when you smell similar MHC genes, you are sexually repulsed.) Adam briefly argued that the filmmakers might not have known about MHC at the time (the Nobel Prize awarded for this research was given out in 1980). However, we both shared the same idea on Lorraine’s attraction to Marty: If you take yourself and someone you love, combine them into one person, make them the same age, and aren’t told that you might be related, that’s a pretty attractive person, isn’t it? Assuming you have high self-esteem and are also sexually repressed ’50s-style, holy hell, you’re gonna jump this person, right?
Remember to factor in an earth-shaking libido.
Could you honestly tell if you met your future son or daughter at a party? Even if the two of you looked practically identical, would time travel be on your mind? Or would the sweet pulse of humportunity be screaming from your nethers? Before you judge Lorraine, make sure you don’t have any flowers in your temporal attic.
ROLL FOR DAMAGE:
Things really got good when I told Adam about my notes for the now-published “Butthead in the Mirror” article, in which I posited that Biff Tannen is a portrait of recklessness and, as a villain, never makes any intricate evil plans, but instead pushes and shoves his way through life without thinking about how it could come back to bite him on the ass. Going back to Adam’s comment about Doc Brown’s absent-mindedness, I realized that Doc probably isn’t considering the consequences of his actions either. Maybe Biff and Doc both have that problem? That’s when Adam nailed it:
“It’s kind of like Dungeons & Dragons. Biff is Chaotic Evil and Doc is Chaotic Good.”
Holy… whoa. Yeah. He’s got something there. I guess. I don’t know, I’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons.
Hey. Don’t give me that look.
Putting tabletop wizardry shit aside for a second, let’s look at some of the things Doc does without thinking ahead.
- Right at the very beginning of the movie, we see that he left all of his automated gadgets and gizmos on.
- He forgets to tell Marty that all of his clocks are slow.
- He royally pisses off a bunch of terrorists just so he could get some plutonium.
- He drags a teenager directly into the path of an oncoming time machine without knowing if it will work or not (it’s Temporal Experiment Number One, after all).
- He neglects to pack extra plutonium for his first trip through time.
- He has Marty send a wind-up car directly into an electrified wire without realizing that it could start a fire.
- He decides to read Marty’s torn-up letter after specifically stating that this would be a terrible idea.
- Probably my favorite example of them all: Doc takes the time to pour the contents of a beer can into Mr. Fusion, then tosses in the beer can itself. This may be the most telling of Doc’s scatter-brained antics.
“How will I possibly get every last drop of– oh, yeah.” *KLONK*
The Wikipedia description for a Chaotic Good character is one who “favors change for a greater good, disdains bureaucratic organizations that get in the way of social improvement, and places a high value on personal freedom, not only for oneself, but for others as well.” I suppose this fits Doc Brown. Most science comes from a place of change for a greater good, and doing your experiments alone in a parking lot with something you slapped together in your garage certainly shuns the idea of having a corporation do your dirty work for you/steal your idea. Time travel might throw a brick in personal freedom, though. If some time traveler were secretly mucking up the events in your past, things you might not have even considered a freely selected choice beforehand… my god, that’s a debate for the ages. Still, Doc helps Marty return to 1985 without much personal gain beyond a clean conscience, so that bumps him from Neutral to Good. As for his ways of getting things done, the article goes on to add that characters of this sort “intend to do the right thing, but their methods are generally disorganized and often out of alignment with the rest of society.” That’s certainly Doc. Strickland’s open disapproval of Marty’s acquaintance with him shows how Doc is viewed by those who don’t know him personally, and I’m pretty sure that checklist I made displays Doc’s disorganized nature. You might argue that Doc reading Marty’s letter was the wrong thing to do, but time travel ethics aren’t exactly commonplace yet.
“Oh, what would Aristotle say? Wait, I’ll just ask him myself!”
Moving back to Biff Tannen, Chaotic Evil characters “have no respect for rules, other people’s lives, or anything but their own desires.” Yep, I covered that. Also, they’re the type who “usually behave themselves only out of fear of punishment.” Well, ain’t that two punches and a truck full of crap in the face?
So, even though one is a friend to Marty and the other a foe, both Doc Brown and Biff Tannen are full-on agents of chaos in Hill Valley, regardless of their moral codes.
Thanks to Adam Ferguson for joining me! It’s always good to watch an old favorite with a new friend.
You can follow Adam Ferguson on Twitter at this link to the account he made thirty minutes before I published this article so that he would have something I could link to. Tweet him up!