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Christine Barrera English 125: Sec: 033: Final 12, December 2006 Bullies: Then and Now In Back to the

Future, a film directed by Robert Zimeckis, filmed in 1985, Marty McFly goes back to the year 1955, and to the viewer it creates quite a sense of nostalgia through the cars, the teenagers walking around the high school and especially the scenes that take place in Lou’s Diner. Through all of these things and the social interactions, the social dynamics among the teenagers in 1955 becomes evident. Biff is popular; he always has a group of cronies crowded around him. Lorraine, who is infatuated with Marty and later turns out to be his mother, is the girl-next-door with her seemingly innocent and caring nature. George, Marty’s father, is extremely nerdy, and is below the social status of Biff and Lorraine. In looking at these characters, it is easy to see the hierarchy of these three while viewing the movie. These characters are not supposed to fit in to just any teenage social hierarchy though, only in the representation of the year 1955. On the surface, this 1985 movie is very similar to Rebel without a Cause, filmed in 1955; it also displays the teenage social hierarchy. In this movie, no historical research was necessary; the goal would have been to be as modern as possible; to capture teenagers as they are at that very moment. Rebel without a Cause also portrays social dynamics among teenagers in nearly the same way as Back to the Future. Buzz is like Biff, a bully with leadership qualities. Judy has some girl-next-door qualities, but she appears more rebellious. Then there is Jim Stark and John, or “Plato”. They are like George in the way that they do not fit in with the other kids, and do not have any friends. Back to the Future, however, is clearly not a movie from the 1950’s. Marty, the main character, is from the 1980’s, so even when the scenes take place in 1955, Marty

offsets what could be a more genuine 1950’s ambience. A scene in the movie Back to the Future, in the year 1955, takes place in Lou’s Diner. George McFly and Marty McFly are incidentally sitting next to each other at the counter when Biff, the bully, opens the door and walks in. “Hey McFly, what whadd’ya think you’re doin’? Hey McFly I’m talking to you, you Irish Bug.” George responds almost pleasantly, “Oh hey Biff, hey guys, how are you doing?” Biff asks George if he has finished doing his homework, and when George says he has not, Biff ridicules him with a clichéd yet harsh knock on the head and says, “Hello! Hello! Anyone in there, McFly?” His cronies begin to laugh at this with deep grunts, and George laughs too, like a naïve puppy who does not know his “playmate” is five times larger than he. Nevertheless, George knows that he is being picked on, and that it is undeserved. After Biff leaves, Goldie, the Black future mayor runs over to George. “Say! What do you let those boys push your around like that for!?” “Well they’re bigger than me.” George responds slightly disheartened but matter-of-factly. George usually eats his lunch without anybody’s company. Another scene in 1955 in the cafeteria shows Marty sitting with George. The other tables are filled with other high school friends sitting together and conversing. The soft roar of voices of all the happy kids sitting with their friends is continuously heard throughout the scene, even underneath George McFly’s explanation of his social insecurities. Instead of socializing, he has taken to writing sci-fi stories while he eats. Marty is completely surprised that his father does something creative, which shows how reserved and shy George McFly is, since his own son does not even know his passion. George says he does not show his

stories to anyone because he is not sure anyone will like them, “What if they didn’t like them? What if they told me I was no good?” George McFly is the typical nerd of the 1950’s. He is bullied, does other people’s homework, enjoys science fiction and has no friends. He lacks confidence, as he expresses in the cafeteria scene, as well as social skills to fit in anywhere else. As well as Crispin Glover, who acts as George in the film, portrays a classic example of a nerd in 1955, he did not actually attempt to act as one until 1985 when Back to the Future was made. Glover was not even alive in 1955 so how well could he and his young cohorts actually act with correct social dynamics of the 1950s? The movie Rebel without a Cause that was actually filmed in the year 1955 appears to portray a very similar example of the nerd versus bully scenario as in Back to the Future. Jim Stark is new at school, and tries to make friends with a girl named Judy, but he does not seem like a cool kid to Judy and her friends. In the scene after the school trip to the planetarium, Buzz, Judy’s boyfriend and gang leader is seen with the rest of their group of friends. “Hey what’s for kicks?” “Yeah, whadd’ya say, Buzz?” They are typical Greasers. Both of the boys who consult Buzz look very similar with dark hair, slicked back on the sides, curls in the front. They both wear suede, dark colored jackets and collared button-up shirts underneath. “Well, what do you want to do?” Buzz asks, and one of the boys responds by saying “Moo.” Unlike the normal response, which would be some sort of activity, perhaps going to the playground or drag racing? However, this boy answers it with a person’s name, for “Moo” is Jim’s new nickname. Buzz and his group of friends are bullies. With their tough demeanor, and for the pure purpose of something to do, they are going to pick on the new kid. They do not even know what they

want to do with him. Their objective for bullying Jim goes as far as to say, “Let’s bring him down.” “Wait, what are we going to do with him?” Another boy asks. He looks up at Buzz with big, curious eyes. This boy is blonde with his hair parted on the side. He is wearing what looks like a dark red, suede jacket with a black collared shirt and jeans. From the way he looks and what he says, it appears he might be nervous of how much they will hurt “Moo.” “Relax,” one of the dark haired kids grabs the blonde one’s arm, “he’ll figure it out.” Making the suspicions that the blonde-haired kid has sympathy for Jim turn into excitement and anticipation for what their interaction will be; how they will assault Jim. Jim Stark and George McFly share similarities in their character. Both do not quite fit in, lacking friends, but for different reasons. Jim just moved to a new town because he fought with a kid who called him a chicken. Jim hates to be called a chicken more than anything. The only reason Jim eventually gets into a mess with Buzz is because he too called him a chicken, so he fights for his honor. Jim is not shy, or quiet like George. He is handsome, quick talking and is trying to befriend Judy, and the rest of her friends. However, Jim’s attempted befriending of the gang is what leads to him being bullied by them. George is bullied because of his lack of interaction with other kids. George is weird and quiet, a typical nerd. If Jim were more timid, he could have let himself be put in the same position as George, but he decided to do the opposite of what George does. According to the article “Social Network Predictors of Bullying and Victimization,” in the journal Adolescence, George is categorized as a “victim” because of his low-self esteem, quiet-mannerisms, and lack of self-defense against bullies. Jim, however, is categorized as a “bully-victim” because he engages in aggressive behavior as well as being the victim of aggressive behavior. Despite these personal differences, their situation is the same because they are picked out by other individuals to be bullied.

Rebel without a Cause, the actual 1955 film, and Back to the Future, the 1985 film that mimics 1955, are very similar. Back to the Future director, Robert Zimeckis, copies the 1950s very well but one key difference between the two movies are the bullies themselves. In both movies, their dress is relatively similar. Biff wears a jacket that is similar to the style in 1955, or a button-up shirt, his hair is short and greased, but he simply looks messier, and so does the rest of his gang. The two bullies names are similar also. Biff and Buzz could be the names of a set of identical twins. However, in Back to the Future, Biff just does not fit into the 1955 bully role that he plays. He is much bigger than any of the bullies in Rebel. Buzz and his pals look like typical boys. Their dress is slightly frightening because of their leather jackets and motorcycle boots, but they are the same size as any other boy. Biff looks like a bully, but a bully from the 1980’s. Through observing Buzz, it can be seen that in the 1950’s, bullies used their anger and lack of empathy to make them who they were. They talk more calmly and quietly, despite how violent their words are. Rebel without a Cause uses music to signal the violence that is to come, but through their playful yet taunting and hurtful words, the bullying is more low-key. Biff yells at George; he raises his voice, and uses his size as more of a tool than solely his actions. For example, in the cafeteria scene previously mentioned, Biff begins to act violently towards Lorraine so Marty runs over and tells Biff to ‘get his meat-hooks off of her.’ Marty grabs Biff by the collar, but then he sees how much bigger he is, smoothes down his collar, and tries to back away, at which point Biff calls Marty a butthead and pushes him. Biff might considered to be the definitive bully because of his cruel and frightening demeanor and extremely aggressive behavior. In 1955, the term “bully” did officially exist. It was not until about 1970 when Dan Olweus, a Swedish psychologist began doing what is thought of as the first study on bully/victim problems. Thus, Biff’s character was probably thought up as a bully. In fact, it would be hard to make a character like his without defining him as a bully, at least

after Olweus’ study. So around 1955, when Rebel without a Cause was written, Buzz would not have been drawn to fit into the same mold as Biff was later. Buzz would have been drawn up more as a ‘hood’ or a juvenile delinquent. Between the year 1955 and 1985, an entirely new section of psychology had been developed and was common knowledge within school systems across the US. Biff’s character cannot help but to be different from Buzz’. Biff represents modernity in the film Back to the Future, and the modernizing of American culture as a whole. For if Biff did share more similar characteristics with Buzz, the 1985 film audience would still label Biff as a bully rather than a juvenile delinquent. Back to the Future shares similarities with Rebel without a Cause only in ways in which the modern audience would recognize as being from 1955. The only 1950’s slang within the movie are clichéd words and phrases that are easily recognizable as terminology used in the day, such as Marty and Lorraine “parking” before the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. Marty scolds her for drinking liquor and she tells Marty not to “be such a square,” words that had their heyday long before 1985. Mainly, the movie segments from 1955 do not include as much slang as kids actually used during the 1950’s because it might have been it incomprehensible to the modern 1985 audience. There are many small phrases and terms used in Rebel without a Cause that can be discarded for the modern viewer. For example, in the scene in which Buzz and his gang are talking about beating up Jim, one boy says, “he’d make a good pidgin.” This statement is easily overlooked for a modern viewer watching the scene in Rebel. It is a single word that may not be a common, up-to-date term, but it does not affect the viewers’ comprehension of the movie. The simplicity and plain out-datedness of the statement also makes it completely irrelevant to include in a movie like Back to the Future when it is not a stereotypical word that stands out from the 1950s.

There are noticeable similarities between the films Back to the Future and Rebel without a Cause but this is exactly the case, it is only the easily recognizable similarities that they share. Characters in each film give balance to the social hierarchy among teenagers in 1955, with Jim Stark and George McFly maintaining the bottom level, though their personalities are not similar. More aggressive males, Buzz and Biff, dominate them. These bullies take advantage of the less aggressive men for no obvious reason. Though these men share some similarities, beginning with their twinworthy names, they are the key difference between the two movies. Buzz and Biff’s different bullying attitude are what shows the difference between the years 1955 and 1985, when each movie was made. Back to the Future was striving to be as realistic to 1955 as possible, and in many ways it achieves the realism. What it simply comes down to is the fact that the modern idea of a bully hardly existed in America in 1955, and by 1985 this idea was almost inescapable. Bibliography Mouttapa, Michael. “Social Network Predictors of Bullying and Victimization.” 39: 154 (2004): Summer 2001. Weschler, Raymond. Rebel without a Cause. 1999. 11-December 2006. < HYPERLINK "http://www.eslnotes.com/movies/html/rebel-without-a-cause.html" http://www.eslnotes.com/movies/html/rebel-without-a-cause.html>. Olweus Bully Prevention Program. Brief Information about Dan Olweus. September 2003. 11 December 2006 < http://www.clemson.edu/olweus/history.htm>. Adolesence

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