Two Comic-But-Racist Elements of "Back To The Future" Starring Mayor Goldie Wilson

Updated on July 14, 2016
Back to the Future (BTTF) is a classic movie with a couple of ridiculous comic scenes. Two parts of the film are particularly absurd for several reasons... never mind the time travel thing.
Back to the Future (BTTF) is a classic movie with a couple of ridiculous comic scenes. Two parts of the film are particularly absurd for several reasons... never mind the time travel thing.

Think, McFly! Think!

Sometimes you love a movie so much, you overlook the blemishes. In the case of "Back to the Future" there are a couple of scenes that come across, well just plain awful when you think about it. The rest of the movie is so good, it gets forgotten. But since it is a classic movie, I'm writing this as an official notice to posterity, yes we know how bad this is. Sorry if we (the general audience) didn't say anything about it until now.

So Many Great Lines and Scenes...

There are so many great quotes in the movie, too many to list but you may check them out here. My favorite line and scene are below:

"What are you looking at, Butthead!" The first time Biff says this in George's home after wrecking his car is such a well-acted moment of film. You feel you really KNOW Biff after the one scene alone. In 1955 (above) Marty knows how to deal with him!
"What are you looking at, Butthead!" The first time Biff says this in George's home after wrecking his car is such a well-acted moment of film. You feel you really KNOW Biff after the one scene alone. In 1955 (above) Marty knows how to deal with him!
Most of the movie is exciting and funny, and the best part is when George McFly tells Biff to get his "damn hands off her" and then punches him out cold.
Most of the movie is exciting and funny, and the best part is when George McFly tells Biff to get his "damn hands off her" and then punches him out cold.
The actor could have done the scene better, Maybe the director did one take, and everyone was thinking, "Is that it? You're wrapping that?"
The actor could have done the scene better, Maybe the director did one take, and everyone was thinking, "Is that it? You're wrapping that?"

Ok, What are the Two (Albeit Unintentionally) Racist Parts?

First, when Marty travels from 1985 back 30 years to 1955, he runs into the young Goldie Wilson, then a teenager sweeping floors at a diner. Marty knew his face well; in fact Goldie would be running for re-election to mayor of Hill Valley in 30 years. Upon recognizing him, still thinking he may be in a dream, he calls him by name, says he knows him, and "Hey, you're gonna be Mayor."

I imagine the small-town play director from "Waiting for Guffman" (Christopher Guest) reacting to the scene as he did to the auditions during "Waiting"
I imagine the small-town play director from "Waiting for Guffman" (Christopher Guest) reacting to the scene as he did to the auditions during "Waiting"

May-ah!, May-ah! Youlllllll see!

In a display of amateur acting and/or poor directing (or maybe they lost the actual take), Goldie exclaims how good of an idea it would be for him to be Mayor. The scene is so bad that even a small-town high-school play director would balk, throwing up his arms in disgust (even during an early rehearsal), putting a stop to it and re-tooling the whole scene. The discomfort you feel watching it could come from the fake Southern accent, or perhaps over-done hand motions, but there could be another reason. Why does it seem that young Mr. Wilson needed Marty to tell him he could be Mayor? Didn't he become Mayor of Hill Valley already on his own?

Fake older Goldie Wilson is not too convincing. Kinda looks like he's wearing a gray wig.
Fake older Goldie Wilson is not too convincing. Kinda looks like he's wearing a gray wig.

But Wait, It's 1955!

Segregation was widespread and civil rights had about 10 years to bloom, but Goldie certainly didn't need Marty to tell him that a black man could become Mayor of a town. He had a good line telling George to stand up for himself. Maybe that inspired Marty to stand up to Biff. It was well-written but poorly-executed. I still think the actual take got lost during editing. The rest of the movie is so well done.

OK, back to the racial aspect of it. It may be a comic scene, but watching it and not reading history instead, you wouldn't know this:

Pierre Caliste Landry didn't need Marty to tell him he could become the first black mayor of a U.S. town back in 1868. And he wasn't sweeping floors in a diner in his younger years, he was a slave! Without Marty's advice, he became an attorney and also went on to be a Representative and Senator!

But Hill Valley, like most Hollywood "idyllic" settings, is a mostly white town. That must be the reason Goldie needed a white person tell him he could be Mayor, right? Well, no because in 1888 the mostly white town of Wheatland California (like Hill Valley) elected a black mayor.

1888 is 3 years after Marty and Doc traipsed around the Old West, thankfully we didn't see them inspire the future Mayor of Wheatland, CA in BTTF 3.

The real man, Donald Fulilove (yes, his real name) is much cooler looking 30 years later... no gray hair either! And still acting! And very good too!
The real man, Donald Fulilove (yes, his real name) is much cooler looking 30 years later... no gray hair either! And still acting! And very good too!
The fake old people thing only got worse, like just about everything else, in BTTF 2.
The fake old people thing only got worse, like just about everything else, in BTTF 2.
At least they pretty much nailed flat-screen wireless Skype, among other technologies. The hoverboard is a total miss though.
At least they pretty much nailed flat-screen wireless Skype, among other technologies. The hoverboard is a total miss though.
Jennifer Parker knew good rock when she heard it.
Jennifer Parker knew good rock when she heard it.

Go Marty Go!

I'd be remiss if I didn't also point out that later in the movie, it appears that Chuck Berry needed his cousin MARVIN, MARVIN BERRY to call him where he's sitting on his ass by a phone, waiting for it to ring so he can learn how to play guitar in a non-jazz, non-R&B, or doo-wop boring way. Thank goodness he picks up and hears "country boy" Marty playing Johnny B. Goode. Actually, Chuck did steal the opening riff of the song in 1955, but not from Marty, he played it note for note from the opening of Louis Jordan's "Ain't That Just Like a Woman" (1946), played by guitarist Carl Hogan, also black.

1946 Louis Jordan - listen to the intro - Ignore the Scary Bug Eyes

Good thing the Bug-Eye Thing Didn't Always Get Copied

Marty rocks it in 1955 to a stunned audience who never heard such things before!
Marty rocks it in 1955 to a stunned audience who never heard such things before!

It's good cinema and funny, but in reality black Americans were the ones coming up with stuff that got copied and covered later by white artists. They wrote the music, but other performers made a lot more money than them popularizing it because they at least looked like you could invite them for Sunday Supper. Packaging it up all neat and clean for the masses continues to this day but sometimes it's the other way around. Actually nice and reserved guys act gangsta or insanely metal to sell the act. Girls do it too because it works (Miley). The way the public spends their money is the real driving force.

Marvin Berry has the same stupid, wide-eyed, grinning demeanor about him as Goldie. I blame the director.
Marvin Berry has the same stupid, wide-eyed, grinning demeanor about him as Goldie. I blame the director.
Chuck Berry stole the tune for Johnny B. Goode, but not the part he heard on the phone from his cousin Marvin, MARVIN BERRY! He stole the intro from a (then) decade-old song!
Chuck Berry stole the tune for Johnny B. Goode, but not the part he heard on the phone from his cousin Marvin, MARVIN BERRY! He stole the intro from a (then) decade-old song!

Country Girl Sure Can Play

Jeep Mountain Dew Mountain Jeep Dew Jeep Mountain Dew Man

If Marty hit his head doing this, Goldie wouldn't be Mayor, or even May-ah! Chuck Berry wouldn't know how to entertain with a guitar, still sitting around by his phone waiting for Marvin, MARVIN BERRY to call.
If Marty hit his head doing this, Goldie wouldn't be Mayor, or even May-ah! Chuck Berry wouldn't know how to entertain with a guitar, still sitting around by his phone waiting for Marvin, MARVIN BERRY to call.

Either way, Mountain Dew and Jeep enjoy continued popularity thanks to the Mountain-Dew-Hat-Driving-the-Jeep guy. Doesn't every town have one of these guys?

Anyone else notice he has the memory of a goldfish? I swear, he sees Marty and you'd think he stops his jeep but he drives on. Then, once again, he turns his head and in a scowl of ghastly surprise and annoyance flashes his bright green hat just as before. Maybe he's still out there now in 2014 driving around, starting life over again every 3 seconds. Pepsi Co. and Fiat (owners of Jeep brand) keep tracking him down and fueling him up, he's an advertiser's dream for them!

What the Sierra Mist Is Going on Back There?

Ok punk, you got your thrill, now hop a link and get outta here!
Ok punk, you got your thrill, now hop a link and get outta here!

Comments

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    drate 

    4 years ago

    I think you failed to realize that Marty was the star of the movie, and the bulk of the movie takes place in a very racist era. Those scenes weren't "whitey" helping the black man, it was the friggin star helping random characters.

    Also that was a fun excuse to work in some Chick Barry and make a quick gag out of it.

    Is there not enough real racism to criticize you had to see it where it wasn't?

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