The Future is Now

It is with a heavy heart that I admit the future is here. People the world over are celebrating this pivotal pop-culture moment, and all it does is make me sad. The movie may pre-date my existence by a scant two years, but I grew up with it all the same. I had a mother who worked in a video rental shop, and a film-obsessed brother eight years my senior — I’ve seen that trilogy more times than even The Doc himself could even calculate.

In the back of my mind I always knew this day would come, and as it inched closer I was always keeping tabs on our progress, always full of hope that the future would be how we dreamed it could be. The days passed, each one bringing with it a distinct lack of hoverboards. No self-lacing Nikes this month. Another year we’d have to live without a rehydrated Pizza Hut takeout.

The tragedy of it all is not the things that Back To The Future got laughably wrong, it’s the bleak notions they predicted all too well: windowless mass housing, getting fired over Skype while the company outsources your job to Asia, A life riddled with crime and poverty and curfews. But Future-Marty doomed his family to this kind of life with his showboating and anger problems…what about the rest of us? We never lost a game of Chicken to Flea from The Red Hot Chilli Peppers. How come we’re saddled with this burden? What was a punishment for Marty (one that he could ultimately redeem himself of) is now reality for many. Only this isn’t fiction, and there’s not a flux-capicitor out there that could absolve us of our past mistakes — presuming it was even our mistakes that begat our fate as slaves to circumstance in the first place.

Boy, would my childhood self be bitterly disappointed if she could see me now. On the cusp of my thirties, I’ve failed to befriend even a singular mad scientist. I have a barely-over minimum-wage job in the service industry that took me five years of experience to get. I’ve never skitched a skateboard, correctly predicted the outcome of a football game, or face-planted my high-school bully into a pile of manure like Marty did. (Twice.) She would weep for her wasted future, like I weep for her wasted past.

What made The Back To The Future trilogy great is that it’s not actually a story about time travel at all. It is an allegory for making things right, an advocation for second chances, a totem to remind us all that we are each the captains of our own destiny. In the end it is beholden to an optimism we millennials were just outta time for — Born either just a little shy, or over the cut-off point to fully realise a world filled with that kind of prosperity.

The movies were made in an age of hope and excitement. The Future of the Past was bright and intangible, a dazzling haze of non-stop wonderment. The Future of The Now is a barren, war-torn coastline submerged under ten feet of what was once the polar ice-caps. If the arrival of the future has taught me anything, it’s that we must carry that wonderment with us lest we fall prey to an ever-circling cynicism. Everything is amazing, and if you are reading this right now you are alive to experience it.

“You live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless; it goes on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored.” — Louis C.K

So today marks the passing of the future as we knew it. We take a beat. We mourn for it and all it represents. We move on. But it’s not enough, we have to re-capture that essence that made this trilogy so universally adored, we have to revisit that hope and that excitement, we have to go back…