I may not be as into time travel movies as my dear friend BJ
Nemeth, but there is a specific set of time travel pop culture I can’t get
enough of, and those are the small-scale time travelers. Not Terminators on a
mission to destruct, but more quaint time-travelling stories; the kind where
the hero returns aiming to correct one mistake rather than save the world or
throw the universe in parallel.
I didn’t realize how preoccupied I was with the small-scale time
travel movie initially, but looking back (as one is wont to do when dwelling on
time travel), I realize that I rank The Time Traveler’s Wife in my top five
books, movies I adore include The Lake House, About Time, and the
quintessential second chance movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.
As someone who constantly goes over and over decisions in my
head both before and after I make them, the lure of getting to go back and
change something is a fantasy I don’t want to pass up.
My butterfly effect fantasies and my nostalgia for days gone
by means that the VH1 scripted show Hindsight (now available on Hulu) is one of the better pop culture
products to happen to me in the past year. The show is based around a woman,
Becca, who magically passes out in elevator in present day the night before she
is to get married for the second time only to wake up on the day of her first
wedding back in 1995.
It isn’t much of a spoiler to say that, given the do-over,
Becca decides to bail on the wedding, thereby sending her life in a whole new
direction. Thing is, the more Becca thinks she has things figured out based on
her experience from the future, the more her attempt to auto-correct her life
choices has unexpected results. Some work out fine, others blow up in her
face, and some are yet to be determined.
While most time travel fantasy allows the viewer to believe
you can just go back and fix things, this show frequently reminds us that what
may seem like the easy spot to flip the switch and change things won’t
necessarily be an easy fix. I can pinpoint with eerie exactness the four
moments in my life I would go back and change. Oftentimes, I’ve relived these moments, dreaming they would work out
differently than they did, and I never think too much about the future
repercussions. I mostly just want the missed opportunities, regret, pain, or
anger that stemmed from these moments to dissipate. I think about what bothers
me the most and what I could change about the present, then I work backwards through my decision
making to a point that would have made a difference. It is a terrible hobby and I advise none of you take it up. Trust me, just watch Hindsight and let Becca do enough revisionist history for the lot of us.
When talking with my friend about what moments we would
change, he tried to guess my four, immediately assuming one would involve my
father. I felt a little horrible to admit he wasn’t on the list. It isn’t
because I don’t miss him or wish he was here, it is more that I don’t know what
I could’ve done as an eight year old to change his cancer. I will always regret
not giving him a proper goodbye, but beyond that, there was nothing I could
fix, as I was eight, not Doogie Howser. I suppose if I could wave a magic wand, I would wish him back to life, but
I would do so knowing how scary the results may be. If he had lived, I would
have left Kentucky at the age of 11, I probably would have never fallen in love
with movies, and I think I would be more of an entitled, spoiled competition
dance girl than I want to admit to. It is also entirely possible I never learned about sarcasm, if you can believe that. In other words, I would bear no resemblance
to the person I am today, which is a little frightening to consider because I
miss my dad more than I can describe, but I have also grown a little accustomed
to the me that grew up without him, and I think the me that had him would be
lacking a certain amount of mental fortitude and cynicism only losing a parent
at a young age can instill.
Therein lies the wonder of “Hindsight”. Sure, Jimmy Stewart
and the people of Bedford Falls showed how much one life can change things and
Ashton Kutcher made that Butterfly Effect thing, but this show explores the
tiny shifts one decision can make, and how some things can’t be escaped no
matter what you change. In the show, Becca learns that this can be both a blessing
and a curse. So, the show is more than just a fantasy. Unlike other time
travelers, Becca has no mission, in fact, she is not sure why she ended up back
in the past at all. She gets a chance to try again, but there is no roadmap to
success, no end goal to achieve, just a long list of regrets and what ifs.
The other wonderful aspect of this show that revolves around
one character’s future is its nostalgia for the past, namely the 90s. The crux of the show is Becca’s attempt to fix her past mistakes and the 90s setting has its moments and jokes in the spotlight. (”Patrick Dempsey got hot. Trust me, no one was more surprised than me.”) Some of the limited technology of the 90s plays a huge and sharp role in the plot, namely in Becca’s career. Rather than pull a Biff and buy an almanac, she uses her advanced knowledge in a much more creative way. Plus, the various romantic storylines are complicated by the uncomplicated technology around dating 20 years ago. Imagine
dating without texting or the internet. I actually might add a fifth moment to the
list where I go back in time and somehow sabotage texting technology so dating
could be a little simpler and maybe wouldn’t involve the word “swipe” so much.
It is a fun romp through an era that hasn’t been quite as commodified as the
80s. The 90s was an era I’ll always sentimentalize because at a time in my life
where I was skeptical about everything and skepticism was embraced as the norm.
There was no guarantee the future would be big and bright, so we looked through
the past, trying to cultivate the unexplored and awesome things that had
already transpired rather than blaze trails in the future. I wore hippie clothes from Gadzooks, listened to grunge
covers of School House Rock, then went home and watched Nick at Nite. I wasn’t
interested in the present, let alone the future, so of course now, twenty years
later, I am completely invested in a show about shaping your future entirely
set in the past.
You don’t need to be a dweller in the past or an old soul to appreciate this show. It is for anybody who wished for a do-over every once in a while. And people who get Melrose Place jokes. Both crowds can find things to like about this show, but if you fall in both categories I will go out on a limb and say this is a gem of a show you are truly going to love.