This Thursday, April 11, the MFAH will premiere the new documentary Room 237. The movie, which has gotten great reviews thus far, is about three of the conspiracy theories behind Stanley Kubrick's 1980 masterpiece The Shining. Apparently, there are some out there that don't think this movie was just about a struggling writer who goes crazy and tries to kill his wife and telepathic son while at a hotel sitting over an ancient Native American burial ground. I guess this plot isn't enough for people.
Through interviews with Kubrick super-fans, Room 237 explores the possibilities of hidden messages and meanings throughout the film. Three of the theories that stick out are that the movie is really about the destruction of the Native Americans, the Holocaust or perhaps really about the Apollo 11 landing being a fake. Not one of the people interviewed seems to think the film is about what it claims to be.
I love conspiracy theories and I use them in my everyday life (why did my car run out of gas today? Aliens, of course.) It got me thinking of other movies that may be more than what's on their shiny celluloid surface, and the one movie in particular that I can imagine having some serious hidden messages is none other than Back to the Future.
Theory 1. It is all about Reagan-era Conservatism
Is it possible -- and I know the answer will be hidden in the depths of the Presidents'secret book
-- that the Reagan administration tapped into the media, and Robert Zemeckis specifically, to create a propaganda piece to encourage his idealistic 1950s lifestyle? Bear with me here; the entire movie is about going back to the '50s and the simpler life of white picket fences and sock hops; this was Reagan's agenda for American society. To Reagan, family meant something, television wasn't filled with crap "reruns" and men should have been embarrassed about wearing purple underwear.
If BTTF was a representation of the broken 1980s family values that Reagan so desperately wanted reinstated, think about this: The DeLorean is a symbol of the present in which life is flashy, dirty, bums sleeping on park benches. This "time machine," if you will, must bring us to a better time, and it, too, becomes broken. It doesn't want to leave 1955 at all. That's when life was good.
The machine frantically tries to stay in 1955; it is impossible to fuel, it won't start, it tries to break through the wires that have been assembled to send it home. And just like the DeLorean wants to stop time, so does time itself. The clock literally breaks. Just like Reagan's.
Reagan's 1984 presidential campaign was called "Morning in America," and it was all about a new day for society. Guess what time Marty is sent to and comes back from in 1955; yup, the morning. And then he wakes up the next day and life is brand-new. His parents play tennis and have money. That's Reagan's America, all right.
The star of the movie, Michael J. Fox, also played Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties and he was a devout Republican who often quoted Reagan. Why choose him as an actor over Eric Stoltz, which the Internet has told us was a possibility?
The time machine is sent back to 1955, the same year Ronald Reagan made the film Tennessee's Partner, in which Coleen Gray plays the character of Goldie. Goldie Wilson is the name of the black guy sweeping up the soda shop in the past who eventually becomes mayor of Hill Valley in 1985. Coincidence? Theory 2: It's really all about Communism
In 1985, the Cold War was still going on, the Berlin Wall intact; perhaps BTTF is really a veil for "Iron Curtain"? Is it a coincidence that Marty's puffy vest is red? Perhaps it was used to symbolize puffing up the Communist Party. In 1985, when the movie was released, Gorbachev was gearing up to restructure the Soviet Union; BTTF then came out right around this time of uneasiness within the Union. Maybe Zemeckis was trying to make a statement.
There are lots of red things in this movie: Marty's T-shirt under his red vest is red; Marty rocks a red guitar in 1955; when Doc Brown comes back from the future, he is wearing a red shirt with white Chinese lettering (communists); the tie Marty wears to the Enchantment Under the Sea dance is red, as is the model car Doc uses to illustrate how Marty's going to get sent back.
Why are the owners of plutonium Libyans? Allegedly, the Libyan Communist party was derailed in November 1951, just four years before Marty goes back in time.
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And the Warsaw Pact was established in 1955.
One of the guys in Biff's gang is named Skinhead, which is technically more Nazi, but still.
Theory 3. It's about birth control
Have you ever really looked at the flux capacitor? It looks just like a drawing of a uterus.