We’re going to the future, Marty!
The cult classic, Back to the Future II, begins with Doc dragging Marty and his girlfriend, Jennifer, 30 years forward in time to what was then an extremely futuristic date, October 21, 2015…
Wait a minute, that’s today!
This movie had a lot of fun portraying what a day in the future might look like and, while some of the movie’s projections of the future are pretty silly, others are surprisingly accurate. In truth, there are actually a lot of things about real-life October 21, 2015 that would likely shock Michael J. Fox’s iconic character just as much as crazy world of the film…while some of them come from self-fulfilling prophecies (like the hoverboard) other changes since the ’80s represent huge advancements in technology and the way it’s changed our whole society. Also, there are are some things that, surprisingly, haven’t changed all that much since 1985! So without further ado, here are some things that likely would shock Marty and the Doc if they were to arrive in the real October 21, 2015.
1.Smartphones and our obsession with them. Imagine you’re from the early ’80s and you suddenly find yourself walking around in a 2015 park or busy city center with lots of people. You would immediately notice, and be completely confounded by, the fact that everyone is constantly staring at their own small, thin, rectangular device as they walk around and do other things. Frequently, these people of future stop to poke their device quite quickly. What are they doing? What is this thing? You would probably assume it was a futuristic version of something you knew: handheld gameboy, a walkman, a
recording device or a mini TV.
The truth is, it’s the smartphone, and it’s all of these things…and more! People of the future are so addicted to this versatile gadget that they have a really hard time detaching from them, even when they are home and it’s time to relax. That’s heavy, Doc.
2. The way we speak. Language has changed a lot since the 1980s, and a great deal of that has to do with the development of technology and social media. Think about it, “Googled,” is a verb. I can easily imagine a time-traveling Marty McFly hilariously misusing that one. People of the future also use phrases like, “He twittered this last night,” “that’s trending,” and, “I saw that from your status.” Of course, there’s also messaging/texting lingo like ttyl and lol. How’s a ’80s traveler gonna catch up?
3. Downloadable music and movies. I’m pretty sure Marty would have loved this one. In the future, you can carry all your favorite “tapes” around in one, pencil-thin device and jam all day with the privacy of some tiny “headphones.” Of course, there’s also Netflix, Amazon Prime and the luxury of not having to go out and rent a video. People of the future have the ultimate in convenience when it comes to entertainment (though this 2015 girl has a certain nostalgia for Blockbuster, if she’s being honest).
4. Skype and Facetime. Back to the Future II (and let’s not forget Star Trek) accurately predicted that we would be able to communicate face to face via technology in the not-too-distant future. However, this is one case in which people of the future are even more high-tech than we could have predicted in the ’80s. In the film, Marty’s future self communicates with his boss via a large, projector screen, but in real-life 2015, we can conveniently call someone on Skype or Facetime and see their face from….our smartphones, of course.
5. Our current fascination with and revival of 1980s culture. When making Back to the Future II, it seems likely that film writer Bob Gale or director Robert Zemeckis must have already known that the 1980s would be an iconic time period for music and fashion. After all, one of the few places Marty stops in is “Cafe ’80s.” Today we are seeing a re-visitation to musical trends that were popular in the 1980s as well as a revival of leggings, denim and over-sized sweatshirts. Also, as a Zumba instructor I can attest that dance aerobics are still going strong. However, while Michael Jackson’s music never stopped being cool, I’m pretty sure Marty would be disturbed to find out the King of Pop is no more, or that he looked like this in his last few years:
Regardless, many of us citizens of the future can still do the “Thriller” dance…and that’s pretty a impressive legacy, 1980s.
6. Adulthood and Jobs of the Future. It’s a bit harder to get jobs than it was in the 1980s, despite the fact that over 10% more people graduate from college than they did back then. Financial economy has also changed, meaning that more money pays less bills. Overall, more people are going for graduate degrees in order to better compete in the workplace. Because of this, more people are also living with their parents until closer to age 30, and 18 is becoming less and less synonymous with “adult.” On the positive side, the technology of 2015 has created all kinds of opportunities for telecommuting, work-from-home jobs which diminishes 1980s stereotypes about family gender roles and moms in the workplace.
7. Star Wars Episode 7. Without subjecting them to the early 2000s prequels, I’m pretty sure that if a time-traveler from the 1980s watched the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer, they would probably want to stay in the future until at least December 18. Maybe the Doc would even allow it, time-space continuum issues aside…. Maybe this one’s a tad subjective but-hey-it’s Star Wars. As the son of a science fiction novelist, I’m pretty sure Marty McFly would be down with it.
Great Scott! A lot of things have changed since the 1980s. The technology we’ve achieved continues to change not only the gadgets we use, but also our culture as a whole… at an exponential rate! That being said, I think that Marty McFly would also be surprised that there are many things about October 21, 2015 that a time-traveler from 1985 would be able to feel at home with.