In Back to the Future Part II, Marty McFly buys the Gray’s Sports Almanac because he wants to get rich quickly. His love of money is a part of his selfish pride, but Doc Brown instantly rebukes him of his mistake. In this episode of the Finding Christ In Cinema podcast, we discuss these and many other Christian themes so that you can use this movie to talk about God.
For your convenience you will find each podcast segment at the time referenced below:
- 00:00:00 – Introduction
- 00:04:54 – Movie Discussion
- 01:15:20 – Listener Challenge and Feedback
- 01:22:35 – Upcoming
For the Love of Money…and Greek Tragedy
The story of Back to the Future Part II is similar to that of the archetypal Greek tragedy – specifically when comparing Marty McFly to the protagonist of those old stories known as the tragic hero. (And if you’re not as familiar with your Greek Tragedy terms as you should be, gather ’round).
The tragic hero begins as a man of fortune; Marty is a fortunate kid who had loving parents to bring him up in a safe and loving home. And in this safe and loving home, Marty had never been really confronted with anything perilous (the events of the previous film notwithstanding).
But the tragic hero makes the one mistake – often referred to as the “fatal flaw” – from which events unfold and cannot be taken back until they reach their own stopping point. Marty’s one mistake was buying the Gray’s Sports Almanac from the antique shop. From that one action, all hell breaks loose.
To put it more succinctly, all of Hill Valley breaks loose. The hometown in which Marty and Doc flourished has been turned into an urban slum with Biff’s casino hotel as the nucleus. Because Marty bought the book, he left it available for Old Biff, who then took it and the DeLorean back to 1955. Old Biff then gives Young Biff the almanac in the 50’s so that he will become the power-hungry tycoon in the 80’s, creating the film’s catastrophe.
The worst part about this world, though, is that Marty’s father George is dead, his mother Lorraine has become Biff’s battered wife, and Marty himself has become Biff’s estranged step-son. Marty’s lot in life has undergone a reversal, and in that reversal, Marty has acquired the recognition that it’s all his fault. And if the film had ended at this point, it would be a Greek tragedy.
Thankfully, the film doesn’t end there, and Marty and the Doc go on to stop Young Biff from ever using the Almanac to get rich. Biff shows us what happens when the love of money is left to its own devices and leads to catastrophe, and then Marty shows us what it’s like when the love of money is quenched by discipline.
And yes, Doc Brown convincing/convicting Marty that his love of money was a bad thing is a type of disciplinary action. The Doc tells Marty that it’s a bad idea, and then he demonstrates how to throw away (heh) such childish fantasies. Marty, as his disciple, is then able to follow in his footsteps.
Unfortunately, Marty still has some growing up to do – specifically concerning his selfish pride and ego. And it isn’t just the present Marty that we follow throughout the film; Future Marty (Senior) cannot stand being called “chicken.” Marty’s mother Lorraine tells us how prideful he can be when she reveals that it was that same pride that “flushed” his career as a guitar player and made him settle into an office job…from which he gets fired because somebody called him “chicken.”
This is the kind of selfish pride for which Marty is being divinely disciplined. If we were to plot out Marty McFly’s journey thus far into the Back to the Future saga and compare to the journey of a Christian (a Pilgrim’s Progress, if you will), Marty was “saved” in the first film by the bolt of lightning and is now being disciplined in this film only to be perfected in the third film.
But before he can move on to being perfected, he has to imitate Christ and rid himself of that selfish pride. Jesus was called the Jewish equivalencies of “chicken” and much worse when he was being led to Calvary, and he did not sin in his responses. Marty, on the other hand, is still being worked on from the inside out, and that selfish pride is one of the most important things he can lose.
1 Timothy 6:10 NLT
For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.
Hebrews 12:7 NLT
As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father?
Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.
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