In Back to the Future, Marty McFly goes from the year 1985 to the year 1955 to help his “to be” father, George, overcome his personal fears and ask out his “to be” mother, Lorraine. Marty is a pretty cool guy (because he’s Michael J. Fox, and also because he wears tight boy-pants before they were “emo”), but his father, we learn, is pretty lame. In a scene close to the beginning of the film, Biff Tannen (George’s boss, and George’s high school bully) wrecks George’s car. George does not stand up for himself. Marty is disappointed in his dad.

That’s the extreme Reader’s Digest version of that beginning scene.

When Marty goes back in time to visit the 1950’s George, he must help George gain confidence and overcome his nervousness (and geekiness), even though Marty does not seem to have those problems.

What this shows is a counter to our text’s theory on parent-child attitudes. Chapter 8 focuses on family, and says that, “boys look to their fathers for clues regarding how to act masculine, and the behavior valued by their fathers gets passed on to them” (p. 205).

However, in the year 1985, George is pushed around, and Biff takes advantage of him. (We later learn that Biff has been doing this to George since high school.) It’s Marty who stands up to bullies and instills confidence in his father. In Back to the Future, the father’s influence over his son serves as an example of what not to do rather than passing behaviors off.

SOURCES: Gale, B., & Zemeckis, R. (Writers), & Zemeckis, R. (Director). (1985). Back to the Future [Motion
picture]. United States: Universal Pictures.
Gamble, T. K., & Gamble, M. W. (2003). The Gender Communication Connection. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.