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Back to the future, marriage, and divorce

Back to the future is a very enjoyable film which many of us will remember because of its exciting scientific contraptions and its adventures with time. While 2015 may have passed and we still don’t have our hover boards and flying cars like the film promised the story of Love portrayed in the film though has many things to tell us that are more profound than the crazy time traveling DeLorean might have us thinking at first.

In the film Marty McFly goes back in time and bumps into his parents. In fact he quite shockingly, accidently causes his mother to fall for him instead of his father. The consequence of this is that his parents never fall in love and as such he is not born. The climax of the film can be seen below in the following clip. This scene is at the student prom where Marty McFly is trying to get his parents to fall in love but everything seems to be going wrong. The clip begins with Marty McFly finding out the bands guitarist can’t play since his hand is injured and so his parents wont have their first dance and fall in love.

You seen in this clip that Marty McFly’s mum, Lorraine Baines and his dad George McFly, are dancing at the prom about to kiss but then suddenly a man runs in and steals Lorraine away from George. In this moment as Lorraine and George are separated away we see that since his mum and dad never fall in love together, Marty McFly now begins to disappear both in the picture also in real life. Then as George stands up for himself and goes and wins Lorraine back. Now George and Lorraine are able to have their first kiss and fall in love together. Hence Marty McFly reappears and in fact so do all of Marty’s siblings too.

Now this iconic scene which became one of the greatest hits from the 80s not only was a very entertaining film but also has inside it something of a Catholic message about love, marriage and children. You see throughout the film that Marty must find away not just to bring his parents together but to help them fall in love. He can’t just try and force this to happen either since he cannot coerce them to fall in love. You therefore see throughout the film a struggle between Marty and George as he tries to persuade his father to stand up for himself and to be brave. Helps his father to realise who he really is and to see that Lorraine is the Woman for him. Similarly he helps to show to his mother the great and positive attitudes of his father so that she can realise why he is the man for her. Here of course there is an important lesson about the value of love as something that grows organically between two people and yet at the same time is already present. We also see how this is something of a vocation for each individual. Marty cannot get George and Lorraine to fall in love if they both don’t cooperate with his help and already in some sense desire each other. When we get to the end of the film as everything finally slots into place we see how both George and Lorraine have been journeying and working towards each other as if it was inevitable. Although all the while they have been freely cooperating with the help of Marty. Marty some what through his ability to time travel places a analogous role to that of divine providence in the film.

The other important element of the film which has a strong although subtle Catholic element to it is the connection between the love of Marty’s parents and his existence. Throughout the film Marty McFly is trying not just to get his parents to conceive him but instead to fall in love. The film makes a clear and very strong connection between the love of Marty’s parents and his existence. He is seen quite literally as the fruit of their love. This is a very important perspective on marriage in the Catholic tradition. In marriage the children are seen as the fruit and visible sign of the love of the parents. They constantly remind the parents of their love for each other but also by virtue of the children being a product of the parents love they have a very intimate and personal connection to the parents. In loving their children there is a sense in which each of the parents also renew their marriage vows and show love for each other. Loving their children means seeing the love that the couple have for each other as having a privileged position in their life.

In the film we are shown that without the couple falling in love then Marty McFly would never be and that their union is made permanent in him and that if the union was broken then he would similarly disappear. This reality also helps us understand better the difficult teaching of the Catholic church on marriage and divorce. In divorce we so often see that the children are broken apart by it. They are challenged in an incredibly personal way and that they face a deeply personal identity crisis. Back to the future shows us how in the breaking apart of Marty’s parents love how catastrophically that affects him in the film but analogously there is a damage that is inflicted on the children of married couples. The union of marriage is something that doesn’t just begin at marriage but that pre-exists it and the church in recognizing that union therefore understands that it is something real and eternal. It is not just a contract but a vocation. The two people become so united that they become one flesh in the child that is produced from that love.

Back to the future came out in 1985 and many people even now still remember the DeLorean and the hover boards but let us also remember what helps make that film so remarkable. It is able to talk honestly and in a rather amusing and funny way about the reality of the human experience of Love. The fading photo image is still one of the most famous scenes if not the most famous from the whole film and it helps us to remember the beautiful creativity and fruitfulness of love. Let us never forget that and remember that it is Love who created us.

Deo Gratias!

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