Fatherhood Lessons from “Back to the Future”

Hey guys, Jeff and Jeremy here, Five Minute Father podcast and we have a special episode for you guys. So if you know anything about Jeff, you know he’s obsessed with Back to the Future.

That’s right!

I got to do a whole episode on lessons I learned about fatherhood from The Godfather and I could have gone on and on, and we could have probably done a whole 10 episodes just on that. And so it got me thinking like is there actually any lessons about fatherhood from Back to the Future, or does Jeff just like this because it’s entertaining? So is there any redeeming fatherhood value from this movie franchise? Jeff, if it is, give it to us. What is it?

Which by the way, it is seriously the best movie ever. I tried to get Alyssa to see if we could name our sons Marty and Doc, but she wasn’t having it.

Thank God for our wives!

I know, right? They’re actually smart and wise and don’t let everything, they have filters that block some things for the good of all of us. I think, no, completely though, I think it’s actually a brilliant film on a few different regards. One, it completely shows, it’s one of the best microcosms and perfect examples across generations of how kind of the stereotypical bad dad, right? All the way from 1955 to 1985 to 2015, those are the three areas they go to. They also go to an alternate 1985, if you really know what you’re doing, you know, with Biff when he’s an evil man. But anyways, except actually in one scene. But yeah, and so what I think is really interesting is not just that, but there’s two lessons that I see there. And the one is, notice how the movie completely frames the entire narrative and the hero’s journey and the premise and the plot, not around Marty and his father, but around Marty and Doc. Right? It’s almost as if Doc, like it’s very clear the age gap there that is very much like a father son relationship. Right?

But what is it actually based around? What it’s based around to me is shared mission, vision and shared activity. Like Doc and Marty are on a mission, right? To go back to 1955 to do some things, 2015 to save his son, et cetera. And why do I think that’s interesting? One, because I feel like that should be his dad. Here’s another way to put it. If you are not on mission with your kids, someone else will be on mission with them. And it might not be a mission you want. Someone will give them meaning, someone will give them value, someone will give them direction if you’re not. They need to live in a bigger, better story.

And you’re kind of the first person that gets to do that. But a lot of dads abdicate that responsibility. And so I don’t think Doc’s like the prototype of a best father, but they have a great relationship because of the shared activity. And I think it’s what a lot of dads don’t realize. We sometimes give our kids love. We sometimes give them the right morals, we give them Christian teaching, but a lot of us don’t just hang out with our kids, like do shared activity and mission. And I think it’s pretty clear from those movies that that is actually what gives a lot of depth and meaning. So do you have shared activities, shared mission and shared vision with your kids?

If you don’t want some crazed scientists to bond with your vulnerable teenage children then we recommend you go on mission with them before he does!

Exactly. Exactly. I mean, I do always laugh actually at that part of the movie too. I’m like, is anyone actually questioning that? Like a teenager’s just hanging out with a random grandpa guy who’s like a weird scientist. Like that’s weird. Okay. You know, and no, it’s just like fine. And then the second lesson I would say is, notice too how most of the problems the movie’s trying to fix with time travel, whether going back to 1955. Or take 2015 for example, in Back to the Future II, Marty goes into the future to save his son who’s in some kind of criminal activity, some legal trouble. And it’s clear that Marty is not a good dad in 2015, he’s very passive. And so what’s interesting is notice how the DeLorean time travel is almost trying to do what fatherhood should, right?

Like the DeLorean’s trying to go around and fix a bunch of fatherhood problems, right? Like if the father was actually active, was actually intentional, was actually thoughtful and actually shepherded his child, and shepherded his family with direction and vision, then a lot of times the time travel wouldn’t even be needed. So I think there’s actually a ton of elements. But yeah, anything stand out to you on it if you remember anything I said?

It was funny too, I really do like the 2015 though. You can tell that the reason why Marty is such a terrible father is because he has no identity. He’s still trying to build his identity. He’s still basically a teenager trying to, like he’s failing in his work. He’s failing in his marriage. He’s failing in his fatherhood and he’s scared to death. So I was going to call him a chicken and you know he’s so vulnerable at the identity level, that his kids have no one to really give them any kind of stability or there’s no rock in their life that they can really attach to. Because Marty’s still trying to find it. And that’s really is a pretty typical story, I think culturally where we come from. So many of us as dads are really trying to figure out who we are. And it’s important to understand that those identity issues that you’re still wrestling with, if they become sort of the overarching story of your life in your thirties and your forties, that’s going to be really hard on your ability to be a dad. It’s important that you try to sort of resolve some of those identity issues. One of the ways to do that is to fully embrace the identity of being a father.

Like that’s one of the ways you can say this is who I am and I’m going to really pursue this and I’m going to, and God’s giving that to you as a gift. Like, “Hey, be a dad. Like I’m going to give this to you. You didn’t have to do anything crazy hard to earn this. Here it is. It’s going to be a tough job to actually fulfill, but that’ll help root you.” There’s other ways of course you can root in the story, the gospel, that’s critical that you understand who you are in Christ, who you are as a son of your heavenly father. You can root in your relationship with Jesus, who you are as someone who’s been redeemed. In that store, you can root it in your multi generational past. There’s some good stories there that been passed on to you. It’s important to like receive some of that, but yeah, that I see is like playing out big time in that 2015 scene.

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