Tag Archives: 1950s

A Fun Thought Experiment Inspired By “Back To The Future”

24 Facts About 'Back To The Future' That Might Surprise You

There are some moments in movies that stick with you for all the right reasons. As much as I love and consume superhero movies, not all those moments have to do with comic book characters or action stars in the mold of John McClane. Sometimes, a scene is just so beautifully done that you can watch it a million times and still smile.

That’s how I feel about one particular scene in “Back To The Future.” Specifically, it’s that legendary moment where Marty McFly plays Johnny B. Good at the school dance after helping his parents fall in love. It doesn’t matter how you feel about the song, the movie, or the actors. This scene is just pure, unrivaled fun.

I first saw this movie over 25 years ago. This scene is still one of my favorite movie scenes of all time. When I think “Back To The Future,” I think this scene.

I could talk about this scene for hours on end. However, I’d like to set aside the cinematics for a moment and use it as the basis of fun little thought experiment. Lately, I feel like some of my previous thought experiments were a bit too serious. These experiments should be fun and I think this one has plenty to offer.

The premise is simple. You’re basically in Marty McFly’s shoes and you have a chance to share music from the future with people from the past. For the sake of broadening the experiment, I’ll even tweak a few details. In terms of specifics, here’s the situation.

You’re in 1955 America.

You’re on a stage facing a large audience of kids and their parents.

You have a chance to play one song before you go back to the future.

It could be any song from any era.

You have the ability to play, sing, and perform that song perfectly.

What would that song be?

After first seen that scene in “Back To The Future,” I often entertained thoughts about the song I would play if I were in Marty’s position. Over time, I find myself entertaining those thoughts even more. I’ve been on this planet long enough to see many changes and trends with popular music.

Some of it has been positive.

Some of it has been downright awful.

What we consider good or bad comes down to taste, but there’s no getting around it. What would be considered mainstream today would be considered obscene in 1955. Remember, this was an era where people thought Elvis moving his hips was too risqué. Can you imagine how they would feel if they heard Cardi B’s “WAP” or pretty much any song by Kid Rock?

It would be hard to imagine the full spectrum of peoples’ shock. That’s part of why I asked this same question on the popular subreddit, AskReddit. I did not get nearly as many responses as I’d hoped. That’s why I want to ask it again here.

You’re in that same position as Marty. You have a chance to leave an impression that will transcend time, space, and vastly different musical eras. What song do you play? Here’s my general list in no particular order.

“Thunderstruck” by AC/DC

“Enter Sandman” by Metallica

“Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift

“Break Stuff” by Limp Bizkit

“Gin And Juice” by Snoop Dogg

“American Badass” by Kid Rock

“Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars

“Superfreak” by Rick James

“X Gonna Give It To Ya” by DMX

“Kickstart My Heart” by Motley Crue

“American Idiot” by Green Day

“Welcome To The Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses

“Applause” by Lady Gaga

“The Fight Song” by Marilyn Manson

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana

If I had to pick one, I honestly would have a hard time deciding. As much as I love these songs, I have a feeling the words might completely fly over the heads of a 1955 audience. If they heard a song like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or “Gin And Juice,” they might not understand it. They might be more confused than shocked.

Other songs might get a much stronger reaction. Pretty much any song by Marilyn Manson and Eminem would surely offend, if only because of the profanity. Other songs, like many by Green Day or Lady Gaga, would contain messages that would definitely conflict with 1955 America. However, I still suspect the teenagers would love it.

For that same reason, I think the parents of 1955 would hate every song by Guns N’ Roses and Motley Crue, but the teenagers would love it. It’s loud, it’s energetic, and it has plenty of sexual overtones. That’s going to appeal to the youth of any era.

Other songs might have truly universal appeal. I feel like most songs by Bruce Springsteen could play in any era and still get audiences cheering, young and old alike. I feel the same about many Taylor Swift songs. I honestly think “Shake It Off” would play well to a 1955 audience. It might even play too well to some crowds.

That’s just my opinion. I still don’t know which song I would play out of that list. What about the rest of you? What song would you play in Marty’s position if you had the opportunity to time travel to 1955? I’d love to see your list, as well. Please share it in the comments.

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Filed under movies, music, Thought Experiment

A Quick Perspective On Controversy, Scandals, Politics, And Elvis’ Hips

Every controversy seems absurd when you look at it with enough hindsight. Think of all the big social and political controversies going on right now. From mansplaining and safe spaces to all-female movie remakes to sexy Super Bowl Halftime shows, there’s no shortage of outrage and moral panics. In general, I try to avoid contributing, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t affected to some extent.

Even if the issues feel genuinely serious, it’s worth taking a step back and maintaining a certain perspective. What seems serious now won’t always end up being that serious in the grand scheme of things. Things like the Cuban Missile Crisis were serious. The impact of playing Dungeons and Dragons don’t even come close. For the most part, these controversies become obscure footnotes in the history of pop culture.

In the interest of preserving a balanced perspective, I find it helpful to think back to Elvis’ hips. For anyone under the age of 50, I’m sure that sounds strange, but make no mistake. At one point in time, Elvis’ hips were the most controversial thing in the world.

It’s hard to imagine now, given the accessibility of sexy music videos and internet porn, but there was a time when Elvis Presley shaking his hips on live TV was the most scandalous thing in the free world. People at the time deemed his dancing too sexual and obscene. There was serious, genuine concern that this was just too shocking and lurid for innocent eyes to see.

Granted, this took place in 1956. The world was a very different place in 1956. However, that’s not exactly an ancient time period. There are plenty of people alive today who were alive in 1956. They lived through that controversy. They might have even watched that fateful episode of the Ed Sullivan show where Elvis dared to shake his hips in too sexy a way. Now, compared to a standard Beyoncé video, it almost seems quaint.

Even if it sounds absurd now, take a moment to appreciate the context of this controversy. There was a time when people genuinely thought Elvis shaking his hips was too obscene. These same people genuinely thought such overt sexuality would do serious damage to society.

Now, look at everything we deem too obscene, controversial, or damaging today. How much of it will seem just as absurd as the sexiness of Elvis’ hips several decades from now? We may think that our standards have been fully refined, but history has shown time and again that this rarely holds. What is obscene today may be mundane tomorrow and obscene again a decade from now.

Controversies are fleeting, petty, and often build on a foundation of absurdity.

People are often irrational, following emotions over logic while claiming every emotion is perfectly logical.

Trends are unpredictable and fleeting. In 1956 it was Elvis’ hips. In 2003 it was Janet Jackson’s nipple. Who knows what it’ll be this year or in the years that follows?

With time and perspective, it rarely ends up being as serious as we thought. Even if it was, people and society adapt. That’s what we have to do, as a species. We might make fools of ourselves along the way, getting worked up over something that ended up being so petty and contrived. The best we can do is laugh and learn from it.

Think about that the next time someone complains about a halftime show or a music video. Remember Elvis’ hips and the perspective they offer. It’s every bit as powerful as his music.

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Filed under censorship, human nature, media issues, outrage culture, political correctness, politics, psychology, sex in society, sexuality, Uncategorized