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: Just re-read a great article. More on that… right now.
A few days prior to this viewing, I read an excellent article by Alyssa Royse on why the idea that men must “hunt” women for sex is damaging to society. (It was written partially as a response to an article on why straight men can’t seem to write about sex without being perceived as douchebags, which is a side quest for today.) Royse claims that many children are taught at a young age that the man does the pursuing and the woman does the accepting or rejecting, rather than the two recognizing an attraction together and acting on it like smart, sexy, safe adults. The message is that male sexuality is to be feared and female sexuality is to be repressed. She goes on to list some films (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Superbad, The Amazing Spider-Man) that perpetuate this idea, which is where Cinema 52 enters the picture. As a lifelong Back to the Future fan who’s watched it 27 times this year (with 25 more to go in the name of science), you can probably guess which film automatically leapt to mind.
We meet again.
Yes, it’s the movie I came to hate thanks to 52 viewings of it for 2012’s experiment. Maverick is just an absolute creep, through and through. After being brushed off by Charlie, he follows her into the bathroom and practically begs to fuck her right there. What the hell, man? There’s a difference between confidence and stalking. Later in the film, the tables are turned and she chases after him. Literally. On his motorcycle, as she barrels through traffic in her car. And we’re supposed to be swept up in the romance when they finally kiss. Gender swap or not, the message is still, “Love means hunting down the object of your affections and threatening it until it gives in.” There’s nothing like that in Back to the– aww, dammit, yes there is.
SOMETHING LIKE THAT IN BACK TO THE FUTURE:
Marty McFly spends his time in 1955 trying to preserve a future where he exists, and to accomplish this, he has to make his parents attracted to each other again. He mainly follows his father George around giving him advice on how to woo his mother. It starts off as some simple but nevertheless deceptive dating tips…
Marty: “Girls like that stuff.”
…to fully “staging” a scenario that leaves George looking like a hero.
Marty: “It’s just an act!”
Now, Marty is resorting to these tactics out of reality-warping desperation, after first trying to simply introduce George and Lorraine without any success. (Science fiction moral dilemmas, am I right?) And even in the above scene where Marty coaches George on what to tell Lorraine, his initial recommendation is to say whatever comes to mind. Still, there’s one other option that isn’t seen anywhere in the film; why doesn’t he try giving Lorraine advice on how to attract George?
The short answer: women aren’t supposed to hunt.
Which is bullshit, because the fiercest huntress in the movie is none other than Lorraine Baines.
The Maverick of this movie.
When Lorraine is interested in meeting up with Marty, she follows him all the way to Doc’s house. While this hunting instinct is just as misguided regardless of gender, the film clearly plays it up for comedy. That’s not how this is supposed to work, Lorraine! We’ve gotta get you paired up with George and put an end to this kooky independence!*
“Psst, Doc, get the fire extinguisher…”
Yes, of course the other reason to resist her advances is because she’s his mother, but that doesn’t mean the film isn’t trying to mine laughs out of her aggressive tactics. And even if you argue that Marty would try to avoid Lorraine because of her attraction to him, why can’t he sit George and Lorraine down together and talk to the both of them about how great he thinks they’d be as a couple? Maybe she’d ogle Marty a bit, but he can just leave them alone to chat. Even if it didn’t work, he could have at least tried it.
Shoving George in Lorraine’s general direction that one time doesn’t count.
Lest you think that a simple date alone together before going to the dance wouldn’t have lead to more conversation, keep in mind that Lorraine did smile at George’s goofy “density” speech, so at the very least she doesn’t seem to dislike him.
Her friend, on the other hand…
By the way, I’ve only mentioned the predatory male that we’re supposed to be rooting for. The antagonists in Back to the Future don’t even bother talking to Lorraine before pawing at her. No argument is needed to call the two of them sexual predators.
That includes the legal sense of the term.
This just makes the metaphor even worse. Now you’re all hunting for the same prey, and you also have to fight off the other hunters. Once they’re down, you wait for the prey to submit. You win! You win at sex. Uck.
Man, even the confident version of 1985 George creeps me out. I noticed that you don’t see a single moment of physical contact between George and Lorraine in the beginning of the film, but by the end, now that George is a successful “hunter,” they show him pinching Lorraine on the butt while she protests. Because a hunter’s gotta hunt, I guess.
Come on, female, he’s earned that grope!
HOLDING THE MIRROR UP TO MYSELF:
This was my favorite movie as a child. I don’t necessarily think it’s the responsibility of films to present perfect morals 100% of the time, but I can’t help but wonder what I got out of repeat viewings as an impressionable youth. I did simply ask about the first few kisses in my life, and at the time, I was just thinking, “This is the best way to find out if she’d like this.” After each, I laughed a little bit that it was nothing like the movies, but Royse’s article (and today’s viewing) reminded me that that’s probably a good thing.
And seriously, those were great kisses.
Does he look like he’s enjoying that? Should’ve asked, Lorraine.
*The subject of female sexual repression in Back to the Future is one of many topics expanded upon in the BFI Film Classics book by Andrew Shail and Robin Stoate. It would be virtually impossible to summarize or write a separate article on without feeling like I was merely rehashing it. I’ll be reviewing the book shortly, but if you’re a die-hard BTTF fan or love film analysis, you’ve probably already ordered it by the end of this sentence.