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Old 01-15-2020, 01:07 PM
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What if "Back to the Future" took place in 1990?


I did a thread similar to this some years back when there was talk of possibly doing a BTTF reboot.

Anyway, I thought it'd be fun to speculate on this again. What would it be like if Marty traveled from 2020 to 1990. What would be Doc's reaction to hearing that Donald Trump was president in 2020? What would he think about seeing footage of his older self on a smart phone? What song would Marty play to shock the teens of 1990? Maybe Marty would get called Grizzly Adams for sporting a hipster beard. You get the idea.
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Old 01-15-2020, 01:29 PM
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Wasn't the consensus was it wouldn't have been as big a 'cultural' shock as 1985 --> 1955?
There was talk of Trump back then running for higher office, so President Trump wouldn't come as a shock to Doc Brown.
There was plenty of discussion of hand-held computers by then (as well as portable, albeit brief case size laptops), let alone numerous depictions of such devices in Sci Fiction, so a smart phone would interesting to Doc, but not mind-blowing (he might not like the way he aged, though).
As for music, nothing would be likely be shocking for 1990 high school teens' tastes, however some music might be considered pretty annoying (even at that, Metal Machine Music had been release in the mid-1970s...)

Last edited by SirRay; 01-15-2020 at 01:34 PM.
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Old 01-15-2020, 01:56 PM
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There was talk of Trump back then running for higher office, so President Trump wouldn't come as a shock to Doc Brown.
Except that was before The Apprentice and I think Trump was less well-known outside the New York area.
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Old 01-15-2020, 02:21 PM
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Well, there is this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rn2yZZ71tJI
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Old 01-15-2020, 04:19 PM
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Except that was before The Apprentice and I think Trump was less well-known outside the New York area.
FWIW, in January 1989, Trump appeared on the cover of Time, a magazine with considerable circulation outside the New York area.
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Old 01-15-2020, 04:38 PM
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Except that was before The Apprentice and I think Trump was less well-known outside the New York area.
Trump was well known in the 80s. Both Doonesbury and Bloom County regularly lampooned him.
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Old 01-15-2020, 04:42 PM
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Originally Posted by SirRay View Post
Wasn't the consensus was it wouldn't have been as big a 'cultural' shock as 1985 --> 1955?
There was talk of Trump back then running for higher office, so President Trump wouldn't come as a shock to Doc Brown.
There was plenty of discussion of hand-held computers by then (as well as portable, albeit brief case size laptops), let alone numerous depictions of such devices in Sci Fiction, so a smart phone would interesting to Doc, but not mind-blowing (he might not like the way he aged, though).
As for music, nothing would be likely be shocking for 1990 high school teens' tastes, however some music might be considered pretty annoying (even at that, Metal Machine Music had been release in the mid-1970s...)
Trump was well known enough in 1989 - after all, who was alternative-Biff based on?

Last edited by Andy L; 01-15-2020 at 04:46 PM.
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Old 01-15-2020, 04:49 PM
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Missed the edit window - should have said "alternative-Biff"
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Old 01-15-2020, 04:52 PM
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Wasn't the consensus was it wouldn't have been as big a 'cultural' shock as 1985 --> 1955?
This really is the crux, I think. Between 1955 and 1985 a few things happened that individually seemed like they changed the world and collectively changed it massively. An incomplete list from memory:
  • rock & roll generally and Elvis specifically
  • JFK and the assassination
  • the British Invasion
  • the civil rights movement
  • Martin and the assassination
  • Bobby and the assassination
  • Apollo XI
  • Vietnam
  • Watergate and Nixon's resignation
  • Three Mile Island
  • the hostage crisis in Iran

Between 1990 and 2020?
  • maybe, if you squint, the end of the Cold War
  • the widespread availability of the Internet
  • social media (entirely a sub-event of the previous)
  • flat screen TVs
  • smartphones (actually, just a co-event of the previous mixed with a sub-event of the Internet)
Did I forget anything?

Last edited by KneadToKnow; 01-15-2020 at 04:54 PM.
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Old 01-15-2020, 04:55 PM
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Originally Posted by KneadToKnow View Post
Between 1990 and 2020?
  • maybe, if you squint, the end of the Cold War
  • the widespread availability of the Internet
  • smartphones (actually, just a sub-event of the previous)
  • flat screen TVs (sort of a co-even with the previous)
  • social media
Did I forget anything?
Well, 9/11 (and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that stemmed from it) is probably the one big "world changing" event in that period.
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Old 01-15-2020, 04:57 PM
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Well, 9/11 (and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that stemmed from it) is probably the one big "world changing" event in that period.


Okay, that.

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Old 01-15-2020, 05:04 PM
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Except that was before The Apprentice and I think Trump was less well-known outside the New York area.
Here's Trump in 1988 being asked by Oprah about his potential candidacy for president.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEPs17_AkTI
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Old 01-15-2020, 05:07 PM
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With the Republicans in office in 1990, we were still years away from Bill Clinton’s leap forward on gay rights — by which I mean ‘signing the Defense Of Marriage Act into law and saying that homosexuals who “tell” will be kicked out of the military’.

Plot it around a gay Marty McFly, is what I’m saying.
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Old 01-15-2020, 05:49 PM
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I thought about mentioning gay marriage becoming legal as another thing that changed in the past 30 years.

In the original BTTF they show a lot about how the town of Hill Valley changes over the decades: In 1955 there was a thriving downtown business district; In 1985 there's a big shopping mall on the outskirts of town and downtown was decaying. A reboot could probably flip that around: The hip, gentrified neighborhood where Marty hangs out today was a scary, crime ridden, inner city neighborhood in 1990. Meanwhile the mall that's struggling today was thriving in 1990.

Another small detail was how the Toyota dealer with the 4x4 truck that Marty drools over in 1985 was Studebaker dealer in 1955. This, I'm sure, was meant to show the rise of Japan as an industrial and technological powerhouse (and the fall of the "independent" American car makers). Or at least the mainstream acceptance of Japanese cars between the 50s and the 80s. I'm not sure what country could be considered the equivalent today? South Korea maybe? Hyundai was considered cheap crap by Americans in 1990, and is now a respected mainstream car company.

And what car would the present day Doc make into a time machine? I'm thinking maybe a Tesla. The Model X even has gullwing rear doors like a De Lorean.

Last edited by WildaBeast; 01-15-2020 at 05:51 PM.
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Old 01-15-2020, 05:55 PM
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The Cybertruck would be good for this.

And perhaps instead of needing 1.21 gigawatts, perhaps the latter-day equivalent needs some amount of computing power that is easily achieved today but would be difficult in 1990.

Last edited by Dewey Finn; 01-15-2020 at 05:57 PM.
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Old 01-15-2020, 05:59 PM
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"Why is my brother fading from this picture on my phone?"

"Yo, Kurt, it's Marvin! ... Your cousin, Marvin Cobain!"
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Old 01-15-2020, 07:56 PM
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First of all, I don't think this movie should be remade, but if they rebooted, I think he should still go back to '55. Maybe it's just me but I think the cultural shift between '55 and '85 is much greater than 1990 to 2000. At best you'd have some gags where Marty laments not having a cellphone or GPS.
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Old 01-15-2020, 08:15 PM
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"Why is my brother fading from this picture on my phone?"

"Yo, Kurt, it's Marvin! ... Your cousin, Marvin Cobain!"
I did think of that, but Nirvana was formed in 1987 and released Bleach in 1989. (And recorded some of Nevermind in April 1990.) The basics of what was to be called grunge had already been well-established in Seattle by then.

Yeah, music-wise I'm having a tough time finding anything with the massive cultural impact something like rock or rap had. I mean, I think dubstep would sound somewhat odd to a '90s ear, but not all that far out as an outgrowth of late 80s and early 90s electronic and club styles. The "democratization" of music and access to vast catalogs of music immediately is a big change, as are the editing tools and the ease of home recording -- so technologically, huge changes, but in terms of sound, I don't think at least today's popular music would sound all that twisted to a 1990 ear, as opposed to all the new sounds in 1985 vs 1955 (I mean, besides rock, you have early-ish rap and electronica/house/techno, etc. I mean, imagine hearing "I Feel Love" in 1955!)
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Old 01-15-2020, 08:16 PM
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“You’re going to be the Mayor!”

“An openly transgender mayor?! I like the sound of that!”
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Old 01-15-2020, 10:38 PM
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Marty chases after his teenaged future father, notices some creepy activity:

Marty: [to himself] He's an EFnet troll!
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Old 01-16-2020, 12:37 AM
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Donald Trump, the casino mogul??!! Who's vice president, Michael Corleone?
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Old 01-16-2020, 02:31 AM
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My joke script in my head for this was always Doc Brown is Neal Degrasse Tyson and Marty is Jaden Smith, and most of the jokes are about finding out the fates of early 90s celebrities.

"Ice T plays a cop on TV?!? And Michael Jackson touches kids!??"
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Old 01-16-2020, 02:45 AM
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I want to yell OK Boomer.
There are massive humongous changes between now and 1990, moreso than ‘85 to ‘55.

The internet, smartphones, Gay rights, rise of China, the fall of Communism and the resurgence of Russia,
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Old 01-16-2020, 09:03 AM
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I want to yell OK Boomer.
There are massive humongous changes between now and 1990, moreso than ‘85 to ‘55.

The internet, smartphones, Gay rights, rise of China, the fall of Communism and the resurgence of Russia,
The internet existed in 1990, albeit in primitive form. Marty couldn't show Doc modern internet because he wouldn't have an internet to use. He could tell him about it, but Doc's response would have been "Thanks for letting me know technology improves over time."

Same with smartphones, if Marty had brought one back he couldn't have connected it to anything. Doc would have been fascinated with the pocket computer, but he wouldn't have been shocked by it.

Gay rights were already a thing in the 90's. Act-up was formed in 1987. Doc would have been interested (and hopefully pleased) in Gay Marriage being legally recognized, but it wouldn't have been shocking. I remember trans people coming into my store in the early 90s.

The Berlin wall fell in 1989.

Geopolitical events like the rise of China and the history of post Soviet Russia might have interested Doc, but he would know that history is a thing and power ebbs and flows. These things don't have too much impact on daily life in a small California town anyway.

You can "OK boomer" all you want, but there is simply no denying that rock and roll, the sexual revolution, the civil rights movement, the counter-culture, and the post Vietnam/Watergate cynicism about government were socially transformative like nothing ever since. This was the source of the movie's humor and would be impossible to replicate with a 2020-1990 trip.

For the record, all those things were before my time.

Last edited by Larry Borgia; 01-16-2020 at 09:06 AM.
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Old 01-16-2020, 09:18 AM
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My joke script in my head for this was always Doc Brown is Neal Degrasse Tyson and Marty is Jaden Smith, and most of the jokes are about finding out the fates of early 90s celebrities.

"Ice T plays a cop on TV?!? And Michael Jackson touches kids!??"
As Eddie Murphy pointed out in his SNL monologue, Bill Cosby is in jail, while Eddie Murphy is a boring stay-at-home father.
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Old 01-16-2020, 09:31 AM
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Trump was well known in the 80s. Both Doonesbury and Bloom County regularly lampooned him.
Yeah, can confirm. I was a young tween living in a trailer with only a rooftop antenna and no cable in the mid-80s. It's always strange to me that people refer to him as a "reality TV star," because that's not the foundation of his celebrity. It was his celebrity that led to his casting as a reality TV star.
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Old 01-16-2020, 10:11 AM
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The internet existed in 1990, albeit in primitive form. Marty couldn't show Doc modern internet because he wouldn't have an internet to use. He could tell him about it, but Doc's response would have been "Thanks for letting me know technology improves over time."
By that theory, cars won't be surprising to people from 1700 since they already had 4 wheeled transportation which used roads and was powered by an external source.

Quote:
Same with smartphones, if Marty had brought one back he couldn't have connected it to anything. Doc would have been fascinated with the pocket computer, but he wouldn't have been shocked by it.
Differnce between a smartphone and a late 1980's era "pocket electronics" like like the difference between a kite and a 747 but ok.

Quote:
Gay rights were already a thing in the 90's. Act-up was formed in 1987. Doc would have been interested (and hopefully pleased) in Gay Marriage being legally recognized, but it wouldn't have been shocking. I remember trans people coming into my store in the early 90s.
How fast gay marriage has gone from laughable to legal has been shocking to those who experienced it, never mind those who lived before it was even a proposal.

Quote:
The Berlin wall fell in 1989.
The Soviet Union in 1991. In Jan 1990 it was not at all clear how it would go.

Quote:
Geopolitical events like the rise of China and the history of post Soviet Russia might have interested Doc, but he would know that history is a thing and power ebbs and flows. These things don't have too much impact on daily life in a small California town anyway.
Considering how much the California tech industry is synergised with China and Doc is a scientist, yeah he would be flabbergasted, it was not even conceivable in 1990. 1955 era Doc was surprised about the fact that Japan could actually make good stuff. So its not like he had much prescience.


Quote:
You can "OK boomer" all you want, but there is simply no denying that rock and roll, the sexual revolution, the civil rights movement, the counter-culture, and the post Vietnam/Watergate cynicism about government were socially transformative like nothing ever since. This was the source of the movie's humor and would be impossible to replicate with a 2020-1990 trip.
Except for the Dot Com bubble mass government surveillance, Gay Rights, the effects of the War on Terror, the 2008 financial collapse, the rise of the Tea Party and right-wing populists, AI in every home, mobile 24/7 connectivity with access to basically unlimited information.

Ok Boomer.
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Old 01-16-2020, 10:20 AM
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Same with smartphones, if Marty had brought one back he couldn't have connected it to anything. Doc would have been fascinated with the pocket computer, but he wouldn't have been shocked by it.
A couple of years ago, a photo of a Radio Shack ad from a couple of decades ago was circulating on the internet with a caption pointing out that all of the separate devices (answering machine, calculator, camera, etc) could be replaced by a smartphone. So the 1990 character might be surprised to hear that.
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Old 01-16-2020, 10:26 AM
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I do think technologically the differences between 2020 and 1990 are vast and often underappreciated, but I personally don't find that there's as stark a contrast in the pop culture realm. Like I said, take a top ten pop hit from today and transport it back to 1990. I don't think it will strike anyone as too odd. All that framework had been laid down and explored. I think the hard rock, rap, dance, synth pop, etc. hits from 1990 simply have very little pop cultural framework and would be far more disconcerting than 1990s me (when I was a teenager) encountering 2020s music.
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Old 01-16-2020, 10:28 AM
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A couple of years ago, a photo of a Radio Shack ad from a couple of decades ago was circulating on the internet with a caption pointing out that all of the separate devices (answering machine, calculator, camera, etc) could be replaced by a smartphone. So the 1990 character might be surprised to hear that.
The internet and the ubiquity of computing I think is something I would be surprised by in 1990. I mean, I was familiar with BBSes and all that telecomputing jazz, and computers were certainly becoming commonplace in many homes, but I don't think I saw it becoming in every home with access to much of humanity's knowledge and then on every device nearly as fast as it did. That was crazy, and, hell, even 2000 me is surprised at how blazingly fast technology has trickled down to day-to-day life.

I guess I would probably agree that 2020 to 1990 the difference in how I live my day-to-day life is more different than it would be if 1985 me were transported to 1955.

Last edited by pulykamell; 01-16-2020 at 10:32 AM.
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Old 01-16-2020, 10:30 AM
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Honestly, the best thing would be not to remake Back to the Future.

But the trailer for the new Wonder Woman movie has it set in 1984 and I gather that some of the joke for the audience is about life in 1984 (the mall culture, for one thing).
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Old 01-16-2020, 11:16 AM
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I want to yell OK Boomer.
There are massive humongous changes between now and 1990, moreso than ‘85 to ‘55.

The internet, smartphones, Gay rights, rise of China, the fall of Communism and the resurgence of Russia,
The first three, yes. And it's impossible to overestimate the effect of the first two on our lives.

China was already big in 1990, and Tiannenmen Square was 1989, so the Western view of China was more or less the same then and now.

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the independence of the Warsaw Pact nations happened in 1989. The USSR hadn't yet disbanded, but the Cold War was effectively over. Later in 1990, the USSR would cooperate with the US on Desert Shield.

'The resurgence of Russia": going between 1990 and 2020, you skip over the years where Russia needed to resurge from. So less difference between 1990 and 2020 than there is between either of those years and, say, 2005.
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Old 01-16-2020, 11:30 AM
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In addition to the Web and smart phones, how we get our news and entertainment has changed immeasurably since 1990.

In 1990, we'd had cable TV for a while, but original programming was still pretty much confined to NBC, ABC, and CBS. Ditto TV news: CNN existed, but really only became a big deal with the Gulf War. And daily newspapers and weekly news magazines were still major news outlets. Fox News didn't exist yet. Rush Limbaugh was just becoming a major figure.

We found out about new music via radio or from friends. CDs had just about finished pushing phonograph records into obselescence.

The availability of movies on VHS was making a dent in the movie theater business, but the latter was still where most people watched most movies.

If you had friends that lived far away from you, you mostly stayed in touch by phone, but you'd call them at a time when you knew they'd probably be home, because that was the only place people had phones, unless they were rich or had a job where a car phone (yes, car phone) was a necessity.
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Old 01-16-2020, 11:34 AM
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Now, what would BTTF2 look like, with Marty jumping forward to 2050? Utopia, or dystopia? Would the coastal cities be underwater yet? How many millions of climate refugees would there be?
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Old 01-16-2020, 11:50 AM
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What's football star/movie actor/sports commentator/Hertz pitchman OJ Simpson up to these days?
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Old 01-16-2020, 11:55 AM
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What's football star/movie actor/sports commentator/Hertz pitchman OJ Simpson up to these days?
And The Cosby Show was still a hit on TV in 1990.
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Old 01-16-2020, 12:25 PM
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Cosby was mentioned earlier in the thread.

WHAT? SNL is still on the air?
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Old 01-16-2020, 12:36 PM
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Marty would probably gladly park with his mom if he's a millennial raised on the current trend of incest porn being so popular
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Old 01-16-2020, 01:01 PM
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The internet existed in 1990, albeit in primitive form. Marty couldn't show Doc modern internet because he wouldn't have an internet to use. He could tell him about it, but Doc's response would have been "Thanks for letting me know technology improves over time."

Same with smartphones, if Marty had brought one back he couldn't have connected it to anything. Doc would have been fascinated with the pocket computer, but he wouldn't have been shocked by it.
Honestly, you could probably say the same thing about 1985 technology in 1955. Television cameras already existed, of course. Magnetic tape had already been invented. The first machine that could record video to tape was invented in 1956, so that was still a year away but I would think that as a scientist Doc would at least be vaguely aware that it was something that engineers were working on. The transistor had been invented and scientists were actively working on the integrated circuit (again, as I scientist Doc probably knew at least I little something about this). So really, Doc shouldn't have been all that shocked by Marty's camcorder. All the basic pieces already existed and based on developments at the time he should have had an idea that they could be miniaturized in the future.
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Old 01-16-2020, 01:03 PM
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In the original movie, I don't think Doc Brown was particularly shocked by Marty's camcorder. (He was a little taken aback to see footage of his own death, though.)
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Old 01-16-2020, 01:04 PM
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The appeal of the original BTTF is how quaint life was compared to 1985. It really wasn't about tech at all. You didn't have Marty going "Hey doc, how do you use this rotary phone?" or anything like that. In "1985" they had the tech to build a time-travelling delorean that ran on plutonium, which obviously wasn't even real. So a reboot focusing on technical differences between '90 and now would be quite tedious I think. In some ways I think race-relations are WORSE now than they were in 1990, so... awkward! Yeah, there's plenty of room for gay jokes, Trump jokes, etc. but I think that would wear thin quickly. 1990 didn't have a bunch of people with their faces in a phone calling eachother all sorts of nasty names. An improvement, really. But it wasn't "quaint."

Last edited by Ashtura; 01-16-2020 at 01:07 PM.
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Old 01-16-2020, 01:09 PM
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In the original movie, I don't think Doc Brown was particularly shocked by Marty's camcorder. (He was a little taken aback to see footage of his own death, though.)
he wasn't shocked by the concept of a camera, but he was shocked by how small and portable it was (no wonder your President has to be an actor: he's gotta look good on television!)
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Old 01-16-2020, 01:19 PM
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Now, what would BTTF2 look like, with Marty jumping forward to 2050? Utopia, or dystopia? Would the coastal cities be underwater yet? How many millions of climate refugees would there be?
BTTF2 was laughably "off" in many of it's predictions, so it really doesn't matter what they do. I don't think dystopia (horror dystopia, not Idiocracy) would play well with a sci-fi comedy. I would think they'd be smart enough to realize flying cars running on garbage probably aren't going to be a thing for regular folks anytime soon. I am cautiously optimistic we will have level 5 autonomous cars 30 years from now, but not flying ones.
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Old 01-16-2020, 01:21 PM
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Cosby was mentioned earlier in the thread.

WHAT? SNL is still on the air?
While SNL has been running longer, I think I'd be more surprised that The Simpsons was still running in 2020.
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Old 01-16-2020, 01:24 PM
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BTTF2 was laughably "off" in many of it's predictions, so it really doesn't matter what they do. I don't think dystopia (horror dystopia, not Idiocracy) would play well with a sci-fi comedy.
I was thinking more in terms of how much the movie would have to at least show some of the downsides, and how much it could get away with ignoring before all the critics called it out for a ridiculously Pollyana-ish view of the future.
  #46  
Old 01-16-2020, 01:24 PM
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Family watches TV around the dinner table
Marty: "I remember this episode. We binge watched it on-demand after a meme about the ending went viral."
His 'uncle' as a kid: "What's on-demand?"

Marty enters the coffee shop
Marty (to the man behind the counter) "I'll take a bottle of water, please."
The employee: "Look, I'll give you water if you don't want to pay for a drink, but it's going to come in a cup like all of our beverages."

Marty does the Floss dance; the entire auditorium stops and stares
Marty: "I know it's stupid, but your kids are going to love it."
  #47  
Old 01-16-2020, 01:40 PM
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It seems clear that unless you get a really clever screenwriter, a remake/reboot of the movie would be a mistake. Although Hot Tub Time Machine was sort of a remake of the movie.
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Old 01-16-2020, 01:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moriarty View Post
Marty enters the coffee shop
Marty (to the man behind the counter) "I'll take a bottle of water, please."
The employee: "Look, I'll give you water if you don't want to pay for a drink, but it's going to come in a cup like all of our beverages."
What am I missing? They had bottled water since way before 1990.
  #49  
Old 01-16-2020, 01:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ashtura View Post
What am I missing? They had bottled water since way before 1990.
What bottled water existed in 1990 was fancy imported stuff like Perrier and the like. I don't believe bottle water as a product that ordinary people routinely drank was really popularized until maybe the mid to late 1990s. If anything someone who insisted on bottled water and refused to drink tap water in 1990 probably would have been viewed as a bit of a snob.

ETA: Or to put it another way, while maybe bottled water existed, it's not likely something a coffee shop would have kept stocked in the cooler in 1990.

Last edited by WildaBeast; 01-16-2020 at 02:01 PM.
  #50  
Old 01-16-2020, 02:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WildaBeast View Post
What bottled water existed in 1990 was fancy imported stuff like Perrier and the like. I don't believe bottle water as a product that ordinary people routinely drank was really popularized until maybe the mid to late 1990s. If anything someone who insisted on bottled water and refused to drink tap water in 1990 probably would have been viewed as a bit of a snob.

ETA: Or to put it another way, while maybe bottled water existed, it's not likely something a coffee shop would have kept stocked in the cooler in 1990.
That was in Heathers:
Quote:
J.D. reaches in both his coat pockets and triumphantly raises out two bottles of Perrier water.

J.D.
Perrier water!

VERONICA
Oh come on. Lots of people drink
Perrier. It's come a long way.

J.D.
This is Ohio. If you don't have a
brewsky in your hand you might as
well be wearing a dress.
but even at the time we knew it was a satire.
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