WHERE: In the living room of my apartment in Portland, ME
FORMAT: Blu-Ray on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Just had a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. Also, a fucking terrible week. Lots of disrespect and being left to do the work of others in multiple aspects of my life.
This viewing comes with two disclaimers. Enjoy!
1) If you happen to be a kid searching the web for tips on how to thwart bullies and somehow came across an article on dealing with Thomas F. Wilson pretending to be mean, please know that I am not a licensed anything in the field of handling shitty people and the things I say here are just me typing out loud. Please talk to a parent or guardian, or if they’re shitty, a teacher, or if they’re all shitty, a police officer. Don’t pray and don’t wait for karma; those things were invented by ancient shitty people so they could keep you in line. If you take anything from this article, I hope it’s that being disrespected can happen at any age, so look out. Also, once you get the bullying dealt with, I hope you have time to say hello and learn some cool stuff about movies.
2) If you’re everybody else, this is another highly personal Back to the Future article, so if those aren’t what you come to the site for, sorry. I promise I’ve got some great stuff in the chamber, but this was purely a stress-reducer article.
So fuck bullies, right?
Shall we leave it at that? Hardly.
I was bullied all throughout school. Big surprise. Once, it was by a kid six years younger than me. Really. He was picking on a kid I was babysitting and decided, hey, fuck it, why not level up? I wanted to punch the little shit’s head off, and could have, but I was sixteen and he was ten. What’s the protocol there? How do you fix that problem? Wouldn’t somebody call the police because a gargantuan teenager was pounding on a pwecious fifth grader? I just screamed in the kid’s face a couple times, thinking, “Ha, I’m being so loud, you must hate it.” The kid screamed louder and fucking followed us all the way to my house, shouting stereotypical bully things about my little gay penis and my family.
What the goddamn hell, bullies?
And then there’s George.
Prior to today’s viewing, I scoffed at the idea that George McFly would keep completing assignments for perpetual bully Biff Tannen over a jaw-dropping period of 30 years. Yet, this week, finding myself literally doing the work of others purely because they did not, I started feeling a little George-y. Nobody grabbed my tie or anything (primarily because I don’t wear a tie), but they adopted “eh, deal with it” attitudes that I couldn’t immediately solve other than just getting the damn job done myself.
In the alternate timeline created by Marty’s trip to 1955, Young George came up with a simpler solution.
A punch-flavored solution.
Now, it should be noted that George is punching a rapist mid-rape. You’d be an idiot to suggest any other course of action in that instance. Still, bully problem solved, right? Yeah, by the writers. They threw a crisis so severe at our hero that even the most pacified pacifist would knuckle up. Also, we don’t see Young Biff again after he gets clobbered. Did you ever notice that? I didn’t until today. They just leave the fucker on the pavement and dance their cares away. What’s to stop him from busting into the gym with broken glass on his fists to teach George the meaning of pain?
“Class president? No, I said there’s a huge psycho behind you with a spiked bat and a hard-on!”
But no, we don’t see Biff again until 1985, where he has apparently become a servile little wimp who wouldn’t dare to give George any shit. And all because of one magic atypical-but-necessary sock to the jaw.
Admittedly, a hilarious sock to the jaw.
I promise this whole entry won’t be made of long, rambling personal stories, but here comes another one, and it’s important to what I’m getting at. As a senior in high school, I witnessed a bully-on-bully attack. One of my minor bullies was being grappled by one of my mid-level bullies. When Minor escaped his clutches, he booked it, and Mid-Level took off in hot pursuit. I did not have time to think. I merely saw one guy roughing up another guy and the perfect opportunity presented itself… so I tripped Mid-Level. Stuck my foot out while he was whizzing by. The dude face-planted into a wall of lockers. He cried. He said, “Why ya gotta be a JERK?!” and he fucking cried like a sad idiot. Neither bully bothered me again. Minor was grateful and Mid-Level stayed away.
Pretty satisfying narrative, right? Congratulations, you’ve just witnessed what I called “morality math” as a kid. It’s exploited in movies all the time, and it’s why I never really enjoyed the end of Return of the Jedi.
“Sorry, master, I just crunched the numbers and this all checks out.”
You know, Luke can’t kill the Emperor, ‘cuz killin’ is bad? So what to do? Throw your lightsaber aside and nobly get your ass zapped to death. It’s the Jedi way, I guess. But then the previously dark side-y Vader is all, “Aww, what? No. I love that lil’ Luke.” And then he tosses the Emperor down a space well. The bad guy is killed in a way we feel nice about. The morality math checks out.
Here’s my problem: if you remove Lorraine’s rape or Vader’s paternal love explosion from their respective movies, what becomes the new solution to the equation? Would we still like the hero if he just plain beat the stuffing out of the bad guy? Was he just in the right place at the right time for us to deem him a hero?
You can crap on the screenwriter as God all day, inserting convenient scenarios wherever he sees fit to make everything come up roses. (And rape as a “mere plot device” is a whole ‘nother topic for another week, I assure you.) But the urge to jump on bad writing disappears when the story is non-fiction, which is why I included my own bullying story. How would you view me if I just up and clocked either of those jerks? I’ll tell you right now that I shy away from fights whenever possible. But what if High School Me decided to deliberately smash Mid-Level’s face into a locker, in plain view of Minor? Same outcome, but not so heroic.
Alright, stopping Biff without violence, wild card hero situations be damned… what’s the plan? Here’s a list of suggestions I made for George while watching the film (in narrative order, not chronological):
- Refuse to loan Old Biff your car. This one only works if Biff is regularly borrowing it.
- Tell Old Biff that driving drunk is a serious crime and threaten to report him to the police.
- Refuse to do Old Biff’s work reports. He gets fired, and you no longer work with him. If he beats you up, again, report him to the police.
- Get a job somewhere else. This removes Old Biff’s power over you completely. Again, unless he beats you up, at which point you report him to the police.
- Refuse to do Young Biff’s homework. If he beats you– yeah, you got that one? Good.
- Alright, seriously, if Young Biff asks for your money or he will physically assault you? That’s called a mugging. Police. Police, dude.
- Talk to him. About anything. About not being a dick, sure, but maybe try being his friend?
There could be a nice guy in there.
This list was very frustrating to write, by the way, because I would be furious if my mom or a teacher told me ANY of these solutions to dealing with one of my bullies. I think the honest truth is just that bullies exist and they suck. I’ve previously analyzed Biff as one chaotic son of a bitch who never plans ahead and just does whatever he wants whenever he thinks of it. This may be the problem with all bullies. You can’t teach them lessons because they don’t want to learn. When dealing with them, don’t be passive, try not to punch ‘em, and take it a day at a time.
No, I’m not oblivious to the fact that trying to solve the Tannen Conundrum was a therapeutic way to work out my own problems, which brings me to the final item on my list: move the hell out of Hill Valley. If you want to avoid the people that are driving you crazy, start packing and send out some résumés. Seems like a plan to me.
So long, suckers!
By the way, I know I’m trying to keep all the focus solely on the first movie, but in Part III, Marty does actually confront Buford Tannen, the Old West bully, without violence, even going so far as to take off his gun and suggest they “settle this like men.”
Beer and a football game?
Buford, naturally, shoots him.
Nice plan, dipshit.
Now that the bad guy has straight-up attempted a crime, our hero (secretly protected by a bulletproof shield) is justified in springing up and doling out a little bit of that good old-fashioned violence we know and love in our movies.
The last thing Buford sees before Marty knocks his head through a goddamned tombstone.
Talking him down would have been boring, but if Marty had punched him before Buford tried to shoot him, would he seem as heroic?
Aww, poor guy.
Morality math achieved.