Debunking the "George McFly Knew" Fan Theory
There is a fan theory that has been bouncing around for years that postulates in Back to the Future Marty's father George knew that Marty (Michael J. Fox) would go back in time and meet him in high school.
If the argument was that George McFly suspected then I think there might be a case to be made. The theory though is that George McFly knew it was so. As any defense lawyer would tell you for around $80 the difference between someone suspecting and someone knowing is a huge leap. For another $40 the defense lawyer will tell you proving what awareness is in someone else's head can be difficult.
Below is the best example I could find on YouTube of someone going over the "George McFly Knew" fan theory. The video is by Jeffrey Dean.
I think what makes people most want to believe this fan theory is that George McFly was shown to be interested in writing science fiction and that Marty McFly keeps making slips of the lip. That really doesn't mean anything though.
I've successfully passed as human for years and every time I drop a hint in this blog you all think I am joking. Look at how many times Mork from Mork & Mindy has dropped hints and clues and hardly anybody suspects he's not from Earth.
Being interested in science fiction might make George McFly suspect maybe his son might time travel back to 1955 one day. That might be a thought he could entertain while he's alone in his car or on a rainy day. Even as someone interested in science fiction social conditioning wouldn't allow George to take the though seriously. It's mere science fiction! Just like @psyceratopsb did when I recently commented on his "Bananas as energy source" post.
What about when Marty calls George "dad" several times? The word "Daddy-O" was common '50s slang. According to fiftiesweb.com,
which I've always found to be a useful resource when going back in time to that decade, "Big Daddy" was also a slang term. Psychologically George would be looking for any similarities to himself when evaluating someone he's first meeting. George McFly was a rather awkward high school student at that point. As far as George could tell Marty might just be a new kid trying to be impressive by using slang when he's not familiar with it. That's far more logical than believing he met his son before he was born.
But what about all those accurate predictions? There are three things against that point.
First, making several accurate predictions isn't proof. Saying someone will become the mayor in their presence might give them that idea and be a self-fulfilling prophecy. That's not the same thing as a predestination paradox.
Second, there is a real life case study of someone claiming to be from the future and offering predictions as proof. All the John Titor believers accept his "correct" predictions and try to explain away "incorrect" predictions such as a future civil war.
In the end I was quite well paid by the U.S. government for making those posts. Astrologers and psychics bank on that kind of confirmation bias.
The most impressive "predictions" were Reagan's presidency and the date and time lightning would strike the clock tower. Those were only given to Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and the fan theory is about George McFly.
At the end of Back to the Future Marty's family had changed. Chances are in that "new" timeline Marty never accidentally started a fire when he was eight years old so that "prediction" never happened.
Third, the fan theory video above lists all the anachronistic "clues and hints" and the years those items appeared. Each of those are separated by a period of time mostly at least a few years apart. That's plenty of time to talk yourself out of believing it's proof of time travel before another one shows up.
O.K. Holovision. But Marty's parents saw Marty when they were teenagers. They know what he looks like!
That relies on the "folk psychology" that the brain accurately stores important memories. If we give the defense lawyer introduced at the beginning of this post another $50 he would tell us witness identification is notoriously unreliable. People tend to believe their imperfect brain is better than it really is because the imperfect brain isn't good at calibrating itself accurately. An example of this is "change blindness".
Believing Lorraine (Lea Thompson) would more accurately remember what Marty looks like because Biff (Thomas F. Wilson) almost raped her, as the fan theory video above argues, gives more credit to the accuracy of a "flashbulb memory" than actual scientific research can back up. The YouTube channel NerdSync did an entire video about why the science of psychology would cast doubt on Bruce Wayne being able to accurately remember the night his parents were killed.
If you are a flat Earth believer who thinks that all this is "scientism" then just remember Back to the Future II changed the Jennifer character's actress from Claudia Wells to Elisabeth Shue. If you're going to argue that George McFly knew then you should also be consistent and argue that Marty knew his girlfriend in the second movie wasn't the same as his "other" girlfriend. Arguing Marty McFly altered his girlfriend through his time travel and didn't care makes him a psychopath and ruins the rather good relationship between Marty and Jennifer that continued on into the animated series.
Replacing Crispin Glover for Jeffrey Weissman as George McFly and hanging him upside down might have fooled the 2015 McFly family but you can't fool all the people all the time. Crispin Glover won that lawsuit. I'll give you "George McFly Knew" theorists that one.
Sigh! Let's end with what what the "George McFly Knew" fan theory video by Jeffrey Dean states about the first draft. Normally I don't give much weight to prior draft evidence in fan theories. In my own personal experience I've written bad first drafts that were terrible and I wouldn't stand behind them. That's why they are first drafts and not final drafts.
Anybody can review for themselves the first draft of Back to the Future on-line at scifiscripts.com. I don't know if this "evidence" in the video was sloppy reading or outright deceit but I'll give the benefit of doubt and assume it was sloppy reading.
Clearly, in the first draft Back to the Future ends with George McFly seeing photographic evidence but he shakes his head and says, "Nah. Couldn’t be." The next line, "But it is....", is an intertitle. It's not part of the scene and the words aren't attributed to George McFly or any other character. It's like the end of the Quantum Leap series.
Beth never remarries. She and Al have four daughters and will celebrate their 39th wedding anniversary in June. Dr. Sam Becket never returned home.
I did not misspell Beckett above. Others have already noticed that official misspelling.
They ended Quantum Leap that way. Arguably Back to the Future IV was a Telltale video game that Bob Gale states isn't canon. They canceled Timeless. NBCUniversal is just the worst when it comes to proper care of time travel media. Now they are considering reprising Quantum Leap for their new streaming service.
May God, or Time, or Fate or Whoever save us.