The Deterioration of the Women of “Back to the Future Part II”

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Today is Oct. 21, 2015, also known as Back to the Future Day. So bust out your hover boards everyone, we’re in the future now.

Doc pointing to the DeLorean time machine's dashboard.

Doc pointing to the DeLorean time machine’s dashboard.

In “Back to the Future II” (1989), Doc Brown, Marty McFly, and his girlfriend, Jennifer Parker, travelled to this date to save the future McFly Jr.

In spirit of this cinematic holiday, I decided to rewatch “Back to the Future II.”

While other blogs will tell you what BTTF got right or wrong about 2015, here are reasons why BTTF II set back the women in the film franchise.

Elisabeth Shue as Jennifer Parker in Back to the Future II.

Elisabeth Shue as Jennifer Parker in Back to the Future II.

As soon as the trio arrive at the year 2015, Doc renders Jennifer unconscious with an electronic device, explaining “She was asking too many questions and no one should know too much about their future.” They then leave her in the DeLorean while Doc and Marty attempt to save Marty Jr. from going to jail.

Later, Jennifer is found and escorted by the police to her home in 2015. She is horrified by her future self’s life as it is not what she expected. She is especially mortified to find that she and Marty get married in the Chapel O’ Love, a tacky Las Vegas chapel.

Jennifer encounters her future (older) self before fainting.

Jennifer encounters her future (older) self before fainting.

The Jennifer in this film is a drastic change from the Jennifer we see in the first installment of BTTF (and not just because the actresses are different). Jennifer in the first BTTF is confident in her love for Marty and urges him not to give up on his music; she is the reason why everything works out. However, Jennifer in this film is reduced to a fading punch line.

When Marty returns to his present, 1985, he finds everything has changed dramatically in an alternate timeline. His father has died and his mother, Lorraine, has been forced into an abusive marriage with Biff Tannen. After an argument with Biff in which Lorraine decides to leave him, Biff threatens to cut off Lorraine and her children financially. Lorraine relents and makes the choice to stay in the relationship for the sake of her children.

Lea Thompson as Lorraine Baines-McFly in Back to the Future II.

Lea Thompson as Lorraine Baines-McFly in Back to the Future II.

“He was right and I was wrong, I had it coming. [Biff is] my husband and he takes care of all of us. And he deserves our respect.”

In the beginning of Back to the Future, Lorraine is depicted as an overweight alcoholic. After Marty alters the past, Lorraine and husband George McFly are seen as a fit and happy couple.Though Marty takes action to ensure that the dystopian future in which his father is dead and his mother is married to Biff doesn’t happen, we never get to see what happens to Lorraine or Jennifer before Doc and Marty are roped into another adventure.

The events of the second film undo everything the first film did for our two female characters. While Jennifer is the supporting, generous girlfriend in BTTF Part I, she becomes vain and is used for comic relief in Part II. Lorraine’s marriage after Part I is happy and pleasing, but she loses all of that in Part II and is forced into an abusive marriage. She never receives full closure before audiences are roped into Doc and Marty’s next adventure in Part III.

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