The Legacy of Marty Mcfly, the Digital Era, and Nostalgic Millenials

And now for something completely different…

I’m sure you’ve all seen them, the awesome Back to the Future movies. If you haven’t then I suggest you cancel whatever plans you had tonight, get some popcorn, and turn your Netflix on (yes, of course it’s on Netflix!) because you are missing out!

Not only are these movies totally awesome but they have also left their legacy in society, ranging from technology to pop culture and science.

When I first watched this movie I must have been 8 years old. I absolutely loved it, watched it over and over. I remember back then everything was dubbed in Spanish so my brother and I could literally quote the whole movie. We knew it by heart.

The 30th anniversary of Back to the Future has yet again instigated popular interest in the franchise. The documentary Back in Time is coming out today. This documentary offers the ultimate fan glimpse into the massive cultural impact of the Back to the Future trilogy.

It’s funny to think that right now, every scene of the Back to the Future trilogy has taken place in the past. Back to the Future’s future, which lies at the end of the chronological end of the movies, takes place in 2015. I couldn’t help to muse on how time keeps moving, but films stay the same. I wonder whether Back to the Future will still have the same cultural appeal in ten years from now.

I personally think that comparing 2015 to the movie is plain boring (yes, you’d be surprised at how many people do this). This includes checking off lists of gadgets that we have and that the movie doesn’t, and the other way around. It seems to me like some people are trying to keep score. So what if Bob Zemeckis thought we would still be using fax machines religiously? (Ok, maybe in Japan).

If you have seen this trilogy as often as I have you begin to understand it differently. See, the movies are not about the future. The movies are constantly prioritising the state of the art technology of back then, while taking it to the next level.

These movies are incredibly transparent when it comes to projecting the decade’s concerns and technology.

Marty Mcfly carries a JVC camcorder and an AIWA Walkman (remember those? They were awesome!). He also wears Nike sneakers and Calvin Klein underwear, garments that were super hot in the 80s. He drinks Tab, and rides a skateboard. So every moment of the movie you are reminded that it is the 1980s, both in terms of fashion and technology.

Fast forward to 2015. Let’s take a look around. The reason why I love watching Back to the Future once in a while is because it reminds me of the 1980s (I’m an 80s fan). If you think about it, back then the technology was not only state of the art, there was an overflow of physical goods. I mean the state of the art technology of the Back to the Future’s future includes self-tying Nike’s (being released this year, I heard) and hoverboards (which exist, but not really). I’m still waiting for Mr. Fusion to come out.

In a society where everything is becoming digital at an extremely fast pace, we find ourselves missing physical tangible goods. Let us not forget that the first Back to the Future movie was released in 1985. This year marked an important moment in the analog and digital epochs.

This got me thinking. As the digital era becomes more ubiquitous, it seems that we are increasingly obsessing with the physical and the tangible. Consumer behaviour is starting to mull over this shift. Now more than ever we are embracing things like old-time typewriters, wristwatches, physical books (remember those?), record players (own two myself), but more importantly face-to-face time (no, not facetime!) with friends and loved ones- all things that are increasingly being rendered fossilised in the digital generation. The more time we spend in the digital world, the more we (should) value the time we don’t spend in front of a screen.

In JWT’s survey “Embracing Analog: Why Physical is Hot“, Frank Rose and Paul Woolmington found that more than two-thirds of American adults sometimes feel nostalgic for things from the past, like vinyl records and physical photo albums. They also found that more than six in ten Americans have greater appreciation for things that aren’t used as much as they used to be, like film cameras and cassettes. Surprisingly enough this is felt by the more younger generations, with 67 percent of millennials (my category 18-35 years old) and 65 percent of Gen Xers (36-48 years old) in agreement.

Even though we’ve always had a thing for goods that vocalise older ways of leaving, objects that remind us of different times strike a brawny chord today, predominantly among digital dwellers. ” Embracing Analog” is essentially a response to the decomposition of so many physical things into ethereal formats. For the consumer of the digital era, this response lies at the heart of a diehard tech-centric lifestyle.

This could perhaps explain why the millennial generation is picking up the practice of handwriting notes to send through the mail (you should try it!). It is a plea to de-tech.

As an ambassador of the millennial generation I appeal to our search for “authenticity”. The “imperfections” on physical objects such as scratches or scuffs are becoming more and more authentic, it gives these goods more “personality”, according to 59 percent of the survey’s respondents, with the millennials leading the way (67 percent) and Gen Xers (60 percent).

In an age where authenticity is pretty much at odds with the digital environment, we seem to be hopeful about face-to-face interactions outdoing face-to-screen interaction.

We are all emotional creatures trying to survive in an environment driven by hyper-connectedness. Our worlds are being tipped towards the rational IQ sides of our brains, leaving an increasing gap in the emotional EQ side. This, in turn, leads us to crave and seek out analog objects and more physical experiences.

So what does it all mean?

It is important to revive older, meaningful traditions that are fading amidst this digital era. People are becoming increasingly nostalgic about the disappearance of physical goods in our rush to technological progress. We are still trying to find ways to fit tangible into this new way of digital living. Brands are increasingly finding ways to position themselves in the driver’s seat when it comes to the proliferation of physical goods, without necessarily being anti-technology.

Our millennial generation is the most nostalgic for our analog past, yet we still have an ingrained hacker ethos. We’ve grown up in a world where established systems turned upside down. The so called “remix culture” has given a different twist to feelings of ownership over goods and content.

Furthermore, the swift shift from physical to digital goods has rapidly outdated many objects. It has come to a point where hacking or reusing outdated items is giving way to the creation of something not only personal and truly unique, but also eco-friendly. Brands can certainly embrace this spirit by facilitating the recycling of old goods into something totally new.

Back to Marty Mcfly. Back to the Future is the movie of a generation. Marty, the skateboarding slacker, shows unexpected moral insight while simultaneously disobeying authority. It’s a movie for the “cassette generation” as I like to call it. The kids who were disassembling tape recorders even before they saw a computer. A generation that was raised to see the past as a boundless archive available for reinvention, and taught that the only way to remake the future is to scour and recombine the past.

We have reached an important resolution point in our old/new digital era. The speed of change is only going to keep accelerating, yet we still haven’t fully grasped the anxiety that results. We’ve gone from a digitally connected (old) world to a hyper-connected (new) world in a very short span of time so we haven’t had the time to fully adapt. We’ve simply been too busy learning and embracing the new, almost neglecting the repercussions.

What’s important now is to understand that emotional connections are more important than ever before. We need to find ways to emotionally connect in more meaningful and riveting way across the digital-analog dichotomy. Now more than ever we are looking for more meaningful emotional experiences and connections. It’s all about rebalancing our IQ and EQ disarray.

Sources: Rose F, Woolmington, P (2013) Embracing Analog: Why Physical is Hot. J. Walter Thompson Company.

One thought on “The Legacy of Marty Mcfly, the Digital Era, and Nostalgic Millenials

  1. dinky22 says:

    I agree! I think mostly it has to do with a sense of balance of old style of the old and the functionality of the new. Getting a sense of pleasure through nostalgia and easy usage. And the back to the future “future” was waay better indeed than this one, I want jaws 14 in holographic 3D 🙂 An reading this article makes me want to put on my walkman again!

    Liked by 1 person

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