“I just don’t think I could take that kind of rejection.”

On Back To The Future and creative frustration

A lot of Back To The Future is about creative frustration.

In the beginning of the movie, Marty McFly fails an audition with his band the Pinheads. (Huey Lewis, in a great cameo, tells him, “I’m afraid you’re just too damned loud”):

His girlfriend Jennifer tries to cheer him up, and tells him his demo tape is really good and he should send it to the record company. He replies:

What if I send in the tape and they don’t like it? I mean, what if they say I’m no good? What if they say, “Get outta here, kid. You got no future”? I mean, I just don’t think I can take that kind of rejection. Jesus, I’m starting to sound like my old man!

When he goes back in time, he discovers that his father, George McFly, is a writer of sci-fi short stories — “Get out of town! I didn’t know you did anything creative!” — but he never shows them to anybody.

His father’s fear of rejection includes asking Marty’s mother Lorraine out to the school dance. Marty uses some of Doc Brown’s words to try to persuade him: “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

When that doesn’t work, he dresses up like “Darth Vader” and threatens to melt George’s brain:

When Marty meets Doc Brown in the past, he’s a failed inventor:

When Marty shows him the time machine, he says, in absolute surprise and triumph, “It works! I finally invented something that works!”

Doc tells a story about falling off his toilet and seeing an image, then shows Marty the diagram for the flux capacitor:

The rest of the movie is all about problem-solving (with science!) — they have to get Marty back to the future, and they have to make do with what they have (pretty much the definition of creativity.)

Later on, there’s the goofy scene with Marvin Berry, cousin to Chuck, who says, “You know that new sound you’ve been looking for? Listen to this!”

Of course, most of this is an outlandish depiction of the actual creative process, but I think one reason people like me adore Back To The Future is that the movie is essentially positive — maybe even naively so — about creativity: there are problems in life, and if you work on them long enough, you can solve them.

If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.