‘The un-confidence of George McFly’ [Story Notes]

In Gupter Puncher/Oli Johns on April 2, 2010 at 1:08 pm


Themes – Racism, fighting black-white segregation/violence, ‘Back To The Future’ framework.

Aims – To see if it’s possible to bring about Civil Rights before its time.

               To show that a black movement needs a black leader.

               To show that most white Americans were like George McFly.

Notes –

Starts in 2010…or 1985?

Main character, me, watches a shit load of docs on racism in the Deep South, ‘Glory’, ‘Do the Right Thing’…goes on wiki and reads about the murders that happened there…watches ‘In the Heat of the Night’ and ‘Murder in Mississippi’…goes on youtube and watches the ending of the last one…the three civil rights workers shot and buried…the black guy the last to die, defiant…

Meaning? The whites can help, but ultimately the black people have to stand up for themselves?

I sleepwalk through the next few days and dream of saving all those who were murdered…those three civil rights workers…maybe I could get a rifle and go back and intervene…? Maybe I could blink and take myself back there?


How do I go back? Magic realism? Just blink and I’m back in 1955?

I watch ‘Back to the future’ and see the reaction Marty McFly gets when he’s on the skateboard…they love him…I want that kind of love…

Options: Blink and go back in time?

Meet a Doc character and take his time machine?

Use Chris Lloyd directly, follow the plot like a slave?

I am Jesus-like? I can just go back…I have superpowers…?

I blink and go back to 1955 and try to get black people to sit in a diner full of whites…it’s the Deep South, not Hill Valley, but everyone’s dressed like it’s the latter…and it’s the diner from the film, the one where Marty fights Biff…so it is Hill Valley? I don’t know, it’s all mixed up…

I try to get George McFly to help, but he won’t. I tell him it’ll get him Lorraine, but he’s too meek…he puts one of those comics over his face and talks to himself, says I’m not real, says I’m talking crazy…I follow him around Hill Valley, like in the film, but he’s resolute, and fucking anxious…punching Biff is possible, Civil Rights activism is not…

I try to get the black mayor/cleaner to rise up but he won’t…he’s confident, but he doesn’t wanna fight for his people, he wants to fight for himself. Would he do that? It’s dangerous to have a machiavellian black character…unless he’s firmly rooted in context…like he’s a banker or something and surrounded by worse white guys, and…what else?

Fuck it, leave him out of it…

I try to get the jazz band involved, but they won’t…they’re aggressive enough, but it’s all about the music for them…and they say, ‘things aren’t so bad.’ Perhaps it’s because they’re characters from liberal Hill Valley, and not the Deep South? I mean, it’s a struggle to be in 1955 and the Deep South and the plot of Back to the Future all at the same time…it’s not meshing.

Abandon ‘Back to the Future’ framework?

I go back further to the 1930s…where?


The town from ‘Mississippi Burning’? But that was the 60s…

The town from that episode of ‘Quantum Leap’, where Sam falls in love with the girl who nearly gets lynched?

The towns in ‘O brother where art thou’? That was the 30s…I think…

Fuck, all I’ve got is Hill Valley in my head…maybe just use that? Or don’t think of a whole town, but locations, like a diner or a church…

I go to a black church and watch the gospel choir from the back and when there’s a lull in the singing I step forward and try to persuade them to rise up, but they won’t, they’re too meek…like George fucking McFly!

They tell me the numbers [100 whites for every three blacks] and that they don’t want to make any trouble…i veer between the approaches of Malcolm X and Martin Luther the King…i make a speech…a rousing speech? No, more realistic…i stutter and lose my train of thought but I generally get my point across…but still no one is really convinced…hands stay at sides, voices remain low…’whoever sticks his head out, he get hung…and who’s gonna be there standing behind him anyway? Nobody, not when there’s hanging going on…’

No story if no one steps up…needs a black leader? A Denzel type…who? How?

Fuck it, think of a reason later…but, somehow, I get one black guy to come into the diner and try to reason with the whites in there…he’s tall, athletic…like Denzel in ‘Glory’…and he’s got a kind of casual intelligence despite no education…


Would he be smart? What was education like back then? Is it romanticising it to make him a scholar or erudite?

Fuck it, they still had books, he could’ve read through his youth…Matt Damon in ‘Good Will Hunting’…an education for a dollar-fifty…it’s possible…and if he’s not smart then what can he do, really? No, even if it’s false, I’ve gotta empower this dude…

So, in the diner, we walk in and sit down and try to order…but all the whites, they’re ingrained, and they beat the black guy and then me…who beats us first? The chef? I don’t know, but it doesn’t take much for one of them to start hitting…they’ve got the numbers to back them up…

Repeat the scene, like ‘Groundhog Day’…we go in again, and we get beaten again, and this time the Denzel guy doesn’t get back up…i go back to the church and tell them what happened, and get more violent and aggressive when they won’t do as I say…i become the white aggressor…is that too much? No, gotta show the frustration of trying to incite a crowd to activism…the difficulties of starting any kind of movement…it’s valid, I think…

So, my anger gets some of them angry? And I try going to the diner again with another black guy [or maybe Denzel…a more determined Denzel?] and we sit down and try to order and get beaten again…

Use the Denzel guy…? Maybe the last time he got beaten, he got back up and got out…makes sense to stick with one guy, more development of character that way…

Then I change tack and say we have to find a white girl for him to fuck…’make her your girlfriend, not rape’…but we search around and ask a few people in jazz clubs or whatever, but no white girl will do it…they know they’ll get hung or beaten up…so we get one from a mental asylum…would that work?

Positives: She’d do it. She’d be interesting. Shows Insane Vs Normal theme…insane can make changes, normal is a prison.

Negatives: She’d have to be pretty – unrealistic. Perversion of mental illness. Liberal reading of text might be, ‘the only white woman a black guy should have is a nut.’

Fuck it, it works in context. And it’s what the main character would have to do to continue his quest, therefore it’s logical.

And the nut can look like Lorraine McFly? Maybe…

So, the nut and Denzel walk down the street and kiss and then get circled by whites…a mob scene? Or just a few strangers?


Maybe quite a few…and the ringleader is Biff Tannen…he’s holding a piece of wood and saying racist things…I guess he wasn’t racist in ‘Back to the Future’, just a thug…but maybe he was racist…his gang try to start a fight with one of the black jazz guys…Biff wasn’t there, but that’s a consequence of his influence on them, maybe? And the cleaner/mayor guy…how did Biff treat him? Can’t remember…go back and watch the diner fight scene…? See what Biff does when he walks in, see how he looks at the cleaner, if he mouths anything to him…could be in there…

So, Biff has a piece of wood and the Denzel guy and the nut get the shit kicked out of them and are told by Biff and the whites that if they had some rope they’d lynch him…then I appear from behind a tree and clap and say ‘wow, Biff, this is the future of the US, is it?’…and then I get beaten too…?

It’s impossible for them to listen to me, so no big speech. Maybe I just walk out and say ‘wait’ or ‘stop’…

Am I too central in this? Yes, it needs to be the Denzel guy leading the change…maybe I should be more cowardly? Hide behind the tree and watch him get beaten, instead of sharing it? Maybe I should be George McFly? I come back from 1955 to the 1930s, but I don’t have the confidence to do anything? This would mean the Denzel guy would have to be more proactive…is that believable?

I’ll work it out later…

Next, we go back to the church and I tell them…or Denzel tells them…that it hasn’t failed, we just need more mixed couples to make it more familiar…so I get more white girls [more nuts?] and they walk down the street with the black guys under my direction…

This whole scene plays out like a mix between ‘West Side Story’, a freedom march, and one of those mass weddings by that Korean nut…Keith Moon?

…and as they’re all walking, I give a pep talk to Denzel and try to make him more of a leader type…telling him to speak louder, to speak more…but I have to be forceful with him cos he’s so resistant…so it’s me that’s really the leader and I’m using him…i feel superior, and I get off on it? It always comes back to this…

Should I delegate Denzel as leader and get him to take over? Or is it better to show myself as a flawed guy still trying to take the credit for leading revolution? The ego of saying, it was me, I helped them change…is it too condescending?

I should make myself pathetic in the story…a good heart, but pathetic? Or just confused? George McFly would be the perfect guy for this, but one problem…he wouldn’t do anything…he wouldn’t even go back in time in the first place…so it can’t be him, it has to be me…I don’t know…


Options: Put Denzel up front as the leader. I play the behind the scenes saint/hero.

…Or I interfere and put myself as leader, while making token attempts to elevate Denzel to that role.

I can see the criticisms…when the character is so starkly drawn and his methods so pathetic, people react badly…they assume the author is making the point that the character is making…that black people needed white people to help them…and not the real point…what is the real point? White people think black people needed their help to save them? White people are scared of black empowerment? I don’t know which…maybe both…


Anyway, all the mixed couples walk down the street, and a riot starts, and the blacks get the shit kicked out of them because I told them not to react…but then I shout at them to fight back when I see how badly they’re being beaten, but it’s too late…a mix of Malcolm X and Luther King…

I’m like a director, trying to control everything…

I go into the diner and see a newspaper guy writing his story as he’s watching the beatings and I try to get him to write the truth, and show him the scene as it unfolds, but he’s from the Deep South and he sees it his way and writes that the blacks started it…

Surreal tone developing…the newspaper guy watching the story, writing the story at the same time…is it too much?

…I give up on the newspaper guy…a while later, don’t know how long [a couple of weeks?] I find out that one of the white girls is pregnant and I make the Denzel guy, who is badly disfigured from getting so many beatings, take her and the kid as a family and I make them go to the parks and the schools and try to integrate but every time they are denied…

These will be quick scenes…intercut with me in the town square, making grand speeches… or awkward speeches…I tell the white people that this is a chance for them to make a new America, to say, look, we’re not killers, we’re decent people…we’re all decent people…and I tell them of the bible and old black cultures that started the world and the whites say, ‘son, that there’s a whole ‘nutha nigger.’They say the idea of a mixed race is like a serpent that tried to paint itself white but its wickedness made it half a job done.

Use ‘nigger’ or not? It’s a flame word, but what else would the white guys be saying at that time? And they’re still using it in New Orleans now, in 2010…nah, it’s gotta stay in…just write it down and take the flak…

So, Denzel’s kid can’t go to school and gets bullied in the streets and when he fights back, he gets beaten harder…i try to get the kid to do good acts but it doesn’t matter, he still gets beaten and Denzel wants to move North, but I say no, we have to change things, make a stand…

Where the hell am I in all this? Living with them? Or do I leave it unclear?

I guess it doesn’t matter…it’s not like I can go back in time either, so a little ellipses won’t kill it…

So the family stays and in the next scene the white girl gets killed, and I still say to Denzel, ‘no, stay’…then Denzel goes into town to get some milk or something and on the way back he gets beaten and hung [by Biff?]…and I take the kid and tell him not to worry, things will change…


Maybe we stay in the town and still go to the parks?

But then I get knocked out in the park one day and they lynch the kid right next to me, and I wake up and find him hanging…and I try to push him upwards by the feet and I stay there for a few days, unable to move, telling people to look at what they’ve done…

and that’s the end…? Does it hold together?

A bit loopy at the end, but the premise is loopy, so…

Only problem: What happened to ‘Back to the Future’? Should I stick to 1955…turn Hill Valley into Birmingham, Alabama, and Biff into Grand Wizard Tannen?

Would that work?

  1. dark dark dark… and good

  2. Three ‘darks’. Just short of the magic four.

    And one ‘good’. Which is better than ‘shit’.

  3. I think you’d have to go back and stop the importation of slaves in the first place. Then again, probably the best thing you could do is go back and sink all three of Columbus’s ships. That would save a whole continent of indigenous peoples as well.

  4. Well, for this George McFly character, he needs slavery to happen so he can live out the heroic act of saving it…but also needs to struggle with the awareness of wanting to save a race of people he doesn’t belong to.

    Btw, I saw Matt Damon referencing Zimm’s history book in ‘Good Will Hunting’ That’s a pretty smart film, isn’t it? Though that scene with Robin Williams telling Damon ‘it wasn’t your fault’ over and over and then hugging him…that was a load of shit.

  5. Yeah, I understand. But that’s where you would have to go in order to have a chance of preventing slavery in the US. Then again, until the Industrial Age, every civilization was built on slave labor. So maybe you need to go way back in time and prevent civilization from ever occurring.

    My favorite scene in Good Will Hunting is where Matt Damon tells the brass exactly how things are done in this world. He blows them out of the water in about 30 seconds.

  6. The scene where he’s applying for the job with the NSA? That’s quite a big monologue…

    Best scene is where Affleck tells Damon he’ll fucking kill him if he’s still working construction in 20 years.

    Yeah, slavery’s always been around. Kinda obvious, I guess, but it’s not like I can say it hasn’t always been around. Not sure if anything could’ve prevented it. Communism right from the beginning of time, before humans became “civilised”? Or are we working towards a better tomorrow here a la Star Trek, and then we can give communism another crack?

    Actually, I don’t know much about Star Trek sociology…did they have money? National Governments? Did they even have countries anymore?

  7. Without slavery, we would probably never have had civilization. That says a lot about civilization.

    In the original Star trek mythology, the Federation represented free market capitalism, Klingons were the Soviets, and the Romulans (sp?) were the communist Chinese. The mythology was an Ayn Rand wet dream.

    I don’t think anything like Star Trek will ever become a reality. There’ isn’t enough energy on this planet to launch even a close range space society.

    No, I expect tech civ to peter out after it exhausts its fossil fuels bank. In fact, that’s already happening. Next stop, back to preindustrial civ.

  8. But did Roddenberry intend all those representations or was it just interpreted that way by a load of bored Zizeks?

    I mean, Checkov was Russian, Sulu was Chinese, Uhura was black, Bones was…i don’t know what the fuck he was, except a whingebag. Wasn’t Rodders saying we should all be united? Or was he referring to the US at that time and all the Sulus and Checkovs and Uhuras of the US population? Wasn’t he looking beyond the Cold War and current events?

    We’ve got enough power to make it to the moon and Mars. And if we don’t then we’ll probably get slaves to push us there. Either way, we could do a tri-planet system until someone brilliant invents warp drive or whatever gets us further along…

  9. I’m afraid we’ll never do it (space civilization). That is, not unless we perfect cold fusion or zero-point energy. We’re already on the downward trail of energy depletion. Once energy production per capita begins to decline, that’s it.

    Check out my nonfiction books eating Fossil Fuels & The End of the Oil Age. Or do a google search and read up on my colleague Richard C. Duncan’s Olduvai Theory. It’s highly esteemed by energy engineers.

  10. I’m not a science guy, but I do know Val Kilmer…wasn’t cold fusion the plot device from ‘The Saint’? I’m gonna have to wiki it.

    Maybe we can build very slow moving solar powered UFOs?? Or lure some aliens in and then hit them over the head and take whatever they have? Or maybe there’s some funky kind of energy on Neptune or Jupiter that we don’t know about?

    I don’t know, i’m just grabbing here really. The idea of a non-space civillisation future depresses me.

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