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Back to the Future and Donnie Darko

April 25, 2013


I’ve been trying to track the connections between Back to the Future in Donnie Darko. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  • Donnie jokes about Doc Brown’s DeLorean,
  • The number 8 (as in going 88 mph) is an obsession in Donnie Darko. See here for some nice homework on this.
  • George and Donnie are very intelligent but socially inept teenagers who make an attempt at creative writing (science fiction for George and mopey poetry for Donnie),
  • Science-obsessed Roberta’s hair-style bears more than a little resemblance to science-obsessed Doc Brown’s,
  • Both films poke a bit of fun at the fashions of their time (1955 = malt shops, poodle skirts, and aloha shirts, while 1988 = smurfs, motivational speakers, and Duran Duran),
  • Both films poke a bit of fun at presidents and presidential candidates from the 80s (Reagan in Back to the Future, Bush and Dukakis in Donnie Darko),
  • Both films comment on the racism of their time – e.g., African-Americans are shown in primarily subservient roles, Marvin Berry is called a “spook,” Cherita Chen is told to “Go back to China, and, of course, there are the Libyans,
  • Both films feature freak weather events over one of their central locations,
  • Both films involve time travel, (obvious, yes, but I had to mention it),
  • Both films have bald high-school principals,
  • Both films have their share of teenage drinking and sex (along with pious-minded condemnation of it),
  • Marty and Donnie both “accidentally” set fire to houses (though Donnie later does this on purpose too),
  • Marty goes to the “Enchantment under the Sea Dance” at his high school, while Donnie simply floods his,
  • The heroes of the two films use time travel to try to save the lives of those they care about (Doc Brown in Back to the Future and Gretchen in Donnie Darko),
  • Marty’s trip to the past allows George to overcome his fear of rejection (“If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything!”) and have a fulfilling marriage to the woman he loves. This sort of simple-minded fear vs. love dichotomy is what nauseates Donnie when Jim Cunningham preaches it at his school.

What have I missed?

Donnie 3

From → Misc

One Comment
  1. pythagoras permalink

    I guess I could have added that both films feature seemingly idilic suburbs which really hide bullying and bigotry.

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