MEDIA MONDAY: MARTY MCFLY AND A PROMISED FUTURE NEVER DELIVERED
Marty McFly did a lot of cool shit. He invented rock music. He dated a girl who seemed to be a shapeshifter. Oh yeah, he traveled through time. It wasn’t always easy. When Marty went back in time he had to deal with his mom trying to make a move on him (which never stops being disconcerting). Marty played guitar, and he played it loud. Oh, and he skateboarded. Way back in 1985, Marty was at the forefront of skating.
Back to the Future is a seminal ‘80s movie. Its legacy lasts to this day. Michael J. Fox will always be a star because he played Marty. It turned Christopher Lloyd into a star for a whole new generation. Marty is in a little bit of a weird role in the landscape of Hill Valley. He seems neither cool nor not cool. On the one hand, he does have a girlfriend and some style. He plays guitar and he skates. On the other hand he doesn’t seem super successful at everything. He’s not like Ferris Bueller, thankfully. Ferris is a narcissist and a selfish friend. Marty is supposed to be both aspirational and relatable, and I think the movie nails it.
One of the first things we see Marty do in Back to the Future is skateboard. He’s quite good at it, but he’s also reckless. Marty infamously gets to school faster by hitching on cars. He grabs the bumper and lets the car pull him along. That’s a bit dangerous, speed-wise. Also what if one of the cars hit the brakes? That’d be a nightmare. However, since it’s a fun sci-fi comedy, that doesn’t happen. Marty is safe, and it’s shot pretty well.
Marty’s board looks a little flimsy, but it’s an ‘80s board so that’s understandable. Plus the McFlys aren’t a rich family. Well, not at first. After Marty goes back in time and changes things they are rich. Speaking of going back in time, while there Marty also basically invents the skateboard. He takes a soapbox scooter and turns it into a board. This was in 1955, mind you. He did it in a small town, though, so it didn’t become a thing. Unlike rock and roll music, which is proliferated because Chuck Berry’s cousin Marvin happened to be at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance.
Marty McFly is one of the preeminent skaters of the ‘80s pop culture. Skateboarding plays a significant role in Back to the Future. However, now we have to address Back to the Future II. We have to address a glimpse of the future that never came to be. In the first movie of the trilogy, Marty travels from 1985 to 1955. In the second movie, he actually goes to the future, namely 2015. Of course, 2015 in the past now, which means we know what predictions have, and haven’t, come true. The most glaring thing is the fact in 2015 of the Back to the Future universe they have hoverboards.
I feel it is fair to talk about hoverboards in a skateboarding piece, especially the way hoverboards are designed in 2015 Hill Valley. They are basically skateboards that hover. They are also made by Mattel apparently. Instead of moving around on wheels, you hover in the air. That gives you way more movement ability. You can turn better and move faster. There is no friction. Oh, and you can go over the water. Well, if you’re charged up, which is some movie bullshit. That’s just something designed to cause a problem during a chase scene. That is a fun chase, though. This also makes me realize that we never see Marty using a skateboard or a hoverboard for anything fun or casual. He’s either being chased or racing to get somewhere. Marty is a practical skater.
It is now 2020. The future of 2015 is now five years in the past. As you surely know, in 2015 we did not have hoverboards. We still don’t have hoverboards. I don’t know if we will ever have hoverboards. Sure, we’ve had hoverboard-like things, but they aren’t what we’ve spent our lives dreaming of. Skateboards are great. I’m not knocking skateboards. You can’t grind with a hoverboard. Watching Back to the Future II is fun. It’s my favorite movie in the trilogy. And yet, it’s hard not to feel a pang of disappointment when Marty is riding a hoverboard. I don’t care about not having shoes that lace themselves. I do kind of wish that instant pizza thing existed. Mostly, though, I wish we had the hoverboards we were promised.
Marty McFly is a skateboarding icon, and he could also be a hoverboarding icon if only they existed in real life. Maybe someday I will be writing for a hoverboarding magazine. Not yet, though.
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