Whilst there were no hoverboards, flying cars, or self-tying shoes in 2015, Back to the Future Part II predicted that a certain rich and powerful character would become an important point of discussion in the future. In this dystopian version of America, one can draw strange and scary comparisons to Trump’s America, and Trump himself.
Like many films of its genre, the Back to the Future trilogy focuses less on whether their predictions of the future were correct, but rather the use of these futuristic scenes as a commentary on 1980s society. In the second film, the joke about the Jaws franchise, for example, advertising the release of the nineteenth movie is a reflection on the pop culture of the time. However, the movie’s true focus in 2015 is that of the McFly family. Marty needs to prevent his kids from making mistakes that would ruin the family (in fact, all of the films seem to be centred around the preservation of this utopian idea of a perfect American family). Indeed, Marty travels, with the Doc, back and forth to the future to correct his mistakes – usually caused by his interference in timelines – to avoid the formation of dystopian futures. The McFly family is at the heart of all this, and the survival of their hometown, Hill Valley, portrayed as both utopia and dystopia, is dependent on them.
In Back to the Future Part II we are taken to the year 2015. We learn that Griff, the son of Biff, bullies Marty Jr. and that Marty gets fired from the job that he got when he gave up his dream of becoming a Rockstar after a car accident. 2015 is presented as some sort of technological utopia, yet we soon realise it has its faults. A turning point in the movie is when 2015 Biff uses the DeLorean to go back to 1955 and give his younger self a sports Almanac, giving him access to all the future victories in the sports world.
Returning to 1985, Marty realises that things are very different. Cars are overturned in the streets, Biff is a successful, disgustingly rich businessman, who owns a 27-story casino and uses his money to influence US politics. He uses his power to get everything he wants; he marries Marty’s mother, has his father George murdered and has the Doc committed to a mental institution.
The character of Biff in this Dystopian version of Hill Valley has strange and frightening parallels to businessman Donald Trump, for a long time causing fans to debate whether this character was actually based on the now-President (the co-writer of the trilogy, Bob Gale, confirmed in a 2015 interview that Trump was, in fact, the inspiration for this character). Despite clear similarities in appearance, the likeness of Trump and Biff goes much deeper in this version of a dystopian America. Indeed, in a short clip advertising ‘The Biff Tannen Museum’, he is referred to as ‘Hill Valley’s number one citizen’ and ‘America’s greatest living folk hero’. He proudly shows off his company BiffCo, which he used to invest in nuclear power plants, and legalises gambling, turning the Hill Valley courthouse into his casino. He is also shown with several women and marrying Marty’s, clearly unhappy, mother; the character and his abuse of power seem all too familiar. Biff uses the power and profits gained from his casino to influence American politics and, somehow, gains ownership of the Hill Valley Police Department.
In a poignant confrontation scene, Biff is holding Marty at gunpoint, Marty warns him that the police will know who killed him if he shoots, and Biff replies ‘kid, I own the police!’. Since the police never, supposedly, caught Biff for the murder of Marty’s father, one can assume that Biff is also above the law.
With Trump now in office, these parallels and predictions seem more frightening than ever, but it begs the question: has Zemeckis’ and Gale’s version of the bad future become our reality?