‘Hey! Hey! I've seen this one, I've seen this one. It's a classic’: Nostalgia, repeat viewing and cult performance in Back to the Future

Emma Pett

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This article examines the enduring popularity of Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985) and its status as an emergent cult blockbuster for a new generation of fans. It draws on the findings of a small-scale audience survey conducted at a one-off screening of the film at Aberystwyth Arts Centre in early February 2012, where it was part of the University’s cult film club programme. The responses to the survey are contextualised by examples of fan practices found online; these indicate some of the additional ways in which a continued affection for Back to the Future is expressed by its followers. From these sources, two audience-led approaches are developed as a means to investigate on-going fandom of Back to the Future. The first of these is an exploration of the nature and value of fan nostalgia expressed towards Back to the Future and other “classic” popular culture texts of the eighties.2 This includes an examination of the kinds of nostalgia that are articulated by fans towards films that were released before they were born, and takes Barbara Klinger’s work on the practice of re-watching films as a starting point (2006). The second approach considers the popular acting partnership of Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, and draws on the emergent academic study of cult stardom and performance (Mathijs and Sexton 2011; Egan and Thomas 2013). Through an exploration of these two audience-led approaches, I consider whether it is possible to observe an on-going process of cultification in relation to the Back to the Future franchise in a number of significant ways.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-197
Number of pages21
JournalParticipations: Journal of Audience and Reception Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2013

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