Sometimes, I like to think about how I would explain the future to someone from the turn of the 20th century. Do you try to explain iPods and the internet, or do you stick with the simple things like cell phones and that Alaska is a state now? Do you take them to a superstore like Target or Wal-mart, or will “Look, you can buy 20 batteries for $5!” be lost on them?
He’d also be confused about why he’s in a blue box.
Do you fill them in on the history of the past 100 years, or will it just bum them out? I’d probably just hand them my 10th grade US History textbook and say “Here, go for it,” because I don’t think I can be trusted to accurately explain what caused World War I or the Depression (“So everyone in Europe made a bunch of really stupid alliances, and then one dude went and shot that guy that band is named after. Then everyone was like, “Oooh. I see now why she described our alliances as being ‘really stupid.’ Time for killing.” They killed each other for a while, a bunch of really great writers were influenced by the horror of war, and the rest of Europe thought it would be funny to make Germany its bitch, not thinking that it might be a bad idea to piss off a region where people eat nothing but beer and sausage and breed men like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Oh, and Jimmy Stewart lost all our money and caused the Great Depression.”)
Yes, the challenge of explaining all the things we take for granted would be incredibly difficult. After all, pretty much everything the time traveler sees would be shocking and terrifying to him. However, I’d venture to guess that what would be most shocking and terrifying would be the way we dress now.
I know, it sounds like I’m just saying that because I write a fashion blog and am looking for a setup. But seriously, of the many things that change over the course of time, one of the most noticeable is fashion. I’m not alone in this belief – in Back to the Future, Marty McFly’s down vest was a running gag (unlike in the 1980s, in the 1950s people’s torsos and arms got equally cold when the weather warranted down outerwear).
The point being: one of the first things that Mr. Turn of the Century would notice is that I am wearing jeans. Once we stepped out onto the street, he would probably be scandalized by the way most women dress in Beverly Hills. He’d also be fascinated by the fact that their eyebrows don’t move and they have hypnotically large bosoms.
I’m getting sidetracked, aren’t I?
The point is: to someone from 100 years ago, we’d have a very strange way of life. At the very least, though, he’d be comforted to learn that one thing hasn’t changed: you can still buy a men’s bathing costume to preserve your modesty.
For his sanity, you probably shouldn’t tell him that these are actually for women and are meant to be worn in public.
For a great post comparing Back to the Future’s expectations of technology to reality, check out this (translated) post.