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Mace & Crown | May 27, 2017

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Future Retroism: Where We’re Going We Don’t Need Roads

George Plank
Staff Writer

For many, it probably felt like they couldn’t step outside without hearing about the hit ‘80s film “Back to the Future II.” Television news outlets reported on the arrival of Marty McFly and Doc Brown, radio stations played selections from the expansive soundtrack and USA Today even printed a facsimile of their paper from the film.

What is it about this film that has so many excited about a particular day?

The film picks up exactly where the first left off. Doctor Emmet Brown shows up in his time machine, made from a DMC-12 Delorean, and insists that Marty McFly and his high school sweetheart, Jennifer, come with him. Doc Brown loaded the car’s fusion reactor with aluminum cans, banana peels and other assorted refuse from Marty’s garbage.

After pulling out of the driveway, McFly suggests that Doc Brown back up, as there isn’t enough road to get up to speed for the car to travel through time. Doc Brown casually flips down his shades and said that now all too familiar line: “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.”

McFly and his girlfriend are whisked away to the distant future, October 21, 2015, approximately 30 years from when the first movie took place. Once there, they are greeted with a magnificent vision of the future, in which the “Jaws” franchise was still going strong with its 19th installment. Flying cars are a reality and Hover Boards are mass-produced by toy manufacturer Mattel.

The future featured in the film was a mix of gleaming optimism and jaded cynicism. Yes, we had flying cars, but the economy had faltered to extreme levels. We have incredible amounts of technology in the home, including closet fax machines, so therefore there is no true personal interaction anymore.

In that regard, the film came very close to our current reality with several of their predictions. Children spend meals and every other waking moment on their personal devices. Video conferences are more popular now than they have been before. We may not have Jaws 19, but films like “Sharknado” and “Sharktopus” show that the interest is still there.

The economy has gotten worse, though luckily not so much that we need $100 to get ourselves a Pepsi Perfect, more like $20. People can’t go down to their local Café 80’s and have a burger served by a Max Headroom-esque effigy of Ronald Regan or Michael Jackson, but our current culture has a retroactive obsession with ‘80s culture and style.

So, what is it about this movie that sends people into a frenzy? Is it the date that has now come and gone? Probably not. When the film came out, it represented all of the potential for the future and the hope for a bigger and brighter tomorrow.

“Never has there been a more exciting time to be alive, a time of rousing wonder and heroic achievement,” U.S. President Ronald Regan, giving a speech about the potential of the nation’s youth, said. “As they said in the film Back to the Future, ‘Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.’”

That hope still resonates with citizens today. The year doesn’t matter, because our potential as a society can still not be capped. Even after Oct. 22, when the “future” in that movie takes place in our past, people will still watch it again and again. Many viewers will return to “Back to the Future II” to once again, go back to the future.