The Hero’s Perspective: What Back to the Future II Can Teach You


In the films and stories that we love, we often end up sympathizing with the main character, no matter how little we might be able to relate to the character’s actual predicament or how villainous they may have become.

What’s a little more rare is to see things from another character’s perspective in film where they themselves are not the main character. Suddenly people’s attitudes are flipped around and they find themselves talking about what a great villain that character was. Does this make you wrong or strange? Nope. Because it’s all about perspective.

How so? Because changing perspectives is understanding different points of view, while understanding that can put you at the advantage in life of having a wider scope than simply your own way of thinking.

"But I'm old and don't want to accept any more thinking!"

“But I’m old and don’t want to accept any more thinking!”

Often times the only way to make someone see your reasoning is to put them in your shoes. It’s easy to call somebody out for doing something that you’ve never even wanted to do. We judge celebrities, neighbors, co-workers, and whoever else we want at our convenience for taking part in things that we either don’t care about to begin with or for things we’re guilty of too. If not the exact same things, then something similar.

Ever seen Back to the Future II? Of course you have. You’re an AMERICAN. Even if you’re FRENCH.

The events of the first movie are funny and exciting with Marty McFly trying to get his parents back together and get back to his own time. You know how it goes. But the second involves Marty having to travel back to the same night that the original movie’s climax takes place. So not only do Doc Brown and Marty have a mission to complete, they can’t be spotted by their other versions from the first movie. Plot holes aside, it’s still an awesome movie.

Not "Holes." My bad. "Paradoxes."

Not “Holes.” My bad. “Paradoxes.”

As a kid though, I thought it was weird that I didn’t care about guitar-playing Marty on stage like I did in the original because I was so focused on Marty crawling above the stage to take care of Biff’s goons. When you then go back and watch the first one again, Johnny B. Good Marty matters, but only in that movie.

Here’s a clip of Marty sneaking past himself from part 1 just to refresh your memory.

All in all, it’s funny- as much as the events of the first film matter when you’re watching it, once we’re dealing with the events of the sequel, it’s almost as though the Marty from the first film doesn’t matter. We already know his story and we’re dealing with “future” Marty and what he’s trying to accomplish.

We can draw parallels between Part I Marty and Part II Marty to “Them and Us.” The “Them” being everyone else and the “Us” being ourselves, and in some cases, those that matter to us.

Not only is it all too easy to write people off when we’re not the ones going through a particular situation, it’s always easy to tell somebody what to do or what not to do when you’re not in that situation, isn’t it?

“Look man, you’ve gotta get over her. It’s been a while. Stop thinking about it.”

We can say this until we’re going through the break up. Then, all of a sudden, nobody gets what you’re going through. Relative importance, I believe it’s called.

"Who cares about her? THIS will be my girlfriend now."

“Who cares about her? THIS will be my girlfriend now.”

Relative importance in this case just means that something only matters as much as it affects you. If it doesn’t directly affect what you’re doing, why care? That’s often how we live our lives. Anything else is pointless, right? Why help someone in their situation? Not only is it their problem, it doesn’t seem that difficult to begin with anyway.

Putting yourself in another’s shoes shouldn’t just some vague piece of advice given to keep people from making a simple, harsh judgement call about the way somebody dresses. It can be something used to keep from making you look like an idiot as well and way less often than we currently do. So often we glorify the lead characters or maybe even their villains (The Joker anyone?) just because that’s who we’re watching, with all others falling to the side.

"Why don't you GET IT, Steve? I'm just more important than you!"

“Why don’t you GET IT, Steve? I’m just more important than you!”

We like to pretend we’re the lead, doing the interesting stuff and making an impact; but in somebody else’s story, we’re the side character. They’ve got their own plot to follow and we’re just somebody else to them.

Wow, that’s a shock, isn’t it? “But…no! What I’M doing really IS more significant! I work harder than them! I have deeper thoughts than them! Everybody thinks they’re smarter by I really am!” said Everybody.

This can’t be true, can it? That other people don’t think about you nearly as much as you do?

What's onscreen? Your life of course! It's a Tragic Comedy.

What’s onscreen? Your life of course! It’s a Tragic Comedy.

So what we’re dealing with is a main character, his goal, and how he’s the one we’re focused on. Nothing else matters now in this story, not even Marty’s past self. The first Marty still has his own goals (again) but now that the narrative has switched to the second Marty, the first one’s goals seem almost trite. As long as Part I Marty is unaware of Part II Marty, Part II Marty can complete his mission.

So it’s pretty easy to see how the character we’re following feels more important and more consequential than any of the others, even in comparison to the first Marty- who definitely mattered when we were watching the first movie.

The point of it all is how little others problems matter when compared to our own. You stubbing your toe can ruin your day while hearing about another’s death can be laughed off because hey, you didn’t know them anyway. Nobody is a side character in their own story and there’s not really a time when we want to be; we all want to be the hero/lead in the movie that is our life.

"It's all up to me! AGAIN! ONLY ME!" - Everybody

“It’s all up to me! AGAIN! ONLY ME!” – Everybody

What am I trying to say? Yes, I’m saying put yourself in other’s shoes but not so you can make them feel special but because it’s the only way we’re going to stop being so selfish. We start doing that, we wouldn’t need to write the majority of the world off as idiots because we’re all just a culmination of the right choices and mistakes. Their’s and yours, not just their’s. It’s easy to defend your poor decisions and emphasize theirs, but then we wonder why anybody would do the same to us; we’re so great aren’t we?

If you’re saying that you don’t want to be the hero, it’s because you’re either A. Insecure and don’t think you could be, or B. Think that by “Hero” I mean a goody-two-shoes like Superman. No. I just mean the lead character, the one make the decisions in their life and making things happen. So make things happen, but without stepping on everyone’s necks to do so.

Also, less than a year before bad holograms and flying cars. We're almost there guys, don't worry!

Also, less than a year before bad holograms and flying cars. We’re almost there guys, don’t worry!


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