Back in Time Yet of His Time

Marty McFly as a 1980s Teenage Boy Role Model

in Boyhood Studies
Daniel Smith-Rowsey Sacramento State University

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In a world of overprotected, overscheduled children, parents look to the past, and even to Hollywood, for insight about how children were raised before minimal risk equated to serious hazard. The most recent corpus of films to feature minors who grew up without our current preoccupation with child safety was the somewhat well-established canon of 1980s teen films, but this canon tends to exclude the original Back to the Future film. While Back to the Future is hardly a neglected text, extant studies have elided its exploration and indeed exploitation of adolescent themes as well as its affinity with contemporary films about teenagerhood. I contend that when we look back for recent cues on coping through boyhood without so-called helicopter parents, and we consider the likes of Jeff Spicoli, Lloyd Dobler, and Ferris Bueller, we can find further valuable lessons by including Marty McFly.

Contributor Notes

Daniel Smith-Rowsey is a lecturer at Sacramento State University. In 2017, Palgrave Macmillan will publish his book Blockbuster Performances. In 2016, Bloomsbury will publish a collection he co-edited with Kevin McDonald which is the first academic book about Netflix, The Netflix Effect: Technology and Entertainment in the 21st Century. Smith-Rowsey has had articles published in a wide variety of venues; he holds a Ph.D. in Film and American Studies from the University of Nottingham. Email:

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