WHERE: In the living room of my apartment in Portland, ME

FORMAT: Blu-Ray on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV

COMPANY: My father, Stephen Gray, who invited himself over for part of my vacation.

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Eating some potato chips, fairly relaxed at the thought of ten days of vacation while simultaneously stressed at the thought of having to entertain my dad for two of those days.

According to Bob Gale, the idea for Back to the Future came about when he was looking through his father’s high school yearbook and discovered that his dad was nothing like him. This made him wonder: if he and Papa were the same age, would they be friends?

Or would they stare at each other in stunned silence?

Since this theme is so integral to the plot of the film, what better way to watch Back to the Future than with my own dad? (As I make sneaky observations about our similarities and differences and try to determine if we would have gotten along in high school, shhh.)

Here are some of my notes.

We hadn’t even made it through the opening credits when Dad claimed that they were going to make another Back to the Future movie, but Michael J. Fox said he would only be in it if he could play Doc Brown. I immediately wanted to ask him where he heard this, but I didn’t want to get in an argument when I was supposed to be watching a movie (for science), so I remained silent. When he later informed me that Michael J. Fox really sang “Johnny B. Goode,” however, I instantly blurted out, “No. He didn’t. It’s a guy named Campbell. The song is listed as being performed by Marty McFly in the credits and on the soundtrack, but they mention Campbell in the special thanks.”


See how I tossed in a screenshot and a couple of links? That’s how I trivia. I look things up. I don’t spread urban legends just because they sound cool, and if I do, I explicitly state that they’re urban legends. Have you seen my article on how an actor in Back to the Future may also be an actor in a porn film that’s seen on a marquee in Back to the Future? You should, and you should submit it to Snopes, because that awesome story needs confirmation. Confirmation is what makes trivia interesting. Um, to me. But if you disagree, you’re wrong.

In contrast, my father constantly makes facts up on the spot solely because it would add an interesting twist to whatever information he’s been presented with. For example, he once walked in on me watching an episode of Cosmos and said, “Did you know Carl Sagan never finished high school?” I inquired where he heard this, then paused the episode to show him several sources on Sagan’s education history. I grilled him on what he was implying with that statement, why he would pass around a rumor without verifying it, and whether or not he knowingly made it up seconds before saying it aloud. His response, the one I always get when I try to teach him that facts matter: A grin. Then a chuckle. Then silence.

Sometimes he adds: “I’m just bein’ a guy.”

Conclusion: If we are in 1973 without the Internet, I will have an even harder time getting along with him than I do now.

Dad said the line, “Hey, Dad! George! Hey, you on the bike!” along with Marty. I do the same when I remember my favorite bits of dialogue, though watching Back to the Future every week has sort of put a stop to that.

Upon reading the “Urns High Praise” pun on the wall of the café, Dad groaned and said, “Boing!” This similarity froze me in place; I frequently use the same word when I disapprove of bad comedy, even in my writing. Did I get that from him? Weird.

When Biff rammed into the manure truck, Dad quipped, “Eww, dung salad!” which, admittedly, is not a great joke, but it caught me off guard and I exploded with laughter. I flashed back to us watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 together or muting soap operas and filling in the voices ourselves.

“I’m a dumb dummy with poop on his face!” – What Six-Year-Old Me would make Biff say.

Conclusion: We might get along in 1973 if we went to the movies a lot. And there was nobody to shush us.

Midway through the movie, I showed Dad the flux capacitor app, which is coincidentally what I use to make the header for all of my viewings and is unfortunately no longer available. He launched into full-on nerd mode and thought it was the coolest thing he had ever seen. It reminded me that, despite our differences, we both adore nerdy stuff.

Ahem. Science fiction stories, I mean.

Conclusion: Whereas Marty and George are separated by their varying degrees of hipness, Dad and I would be geeking out together about Star Trek and The Fantastic Four.

It’s a tough call, one that I didn’t feel justified making based on just one movie together. So, I asked him about his high school experience afterward, among other things. Technically, that shouldn’t really count as part of a viewing, but I’ve included it below in case you’d like to hear my dad in his own words.

All in all, we may not always get along, but we sure do love this movie.

Oh, and I looked up what my dad said about Michael J. Fox wanting to play Doc. It’s true; Michael really said that. He was joking, but still, my dad didn’t make it up. Sorry I doubted you, Daddy-O.