The Middleburg Upstanders

Middleburg Community Charter School (MCCS), from Middleburg, VA promotes Upstander behavior by engaging students in immersive classes...Read More

Back to the Future

A scene from the film: Back to the Future
Themes that are covered in this film clip: Coping with Bullies / Roles of Witnesses

Before you view this clip

Are you familiar with the plot of Back to the Future?  Here’s a bit of background for you:
“Marty McFly is a kid who is never on time for anything. Then, thanks to his scientist friend, Marty gets shot back in time to the days when his parents were in high school. In the local soda shop where the future mayor sweeps up, Marty meets the teenage version of his dad, who is about to have one of many run-ins with Biff, the local bully.”

This 1985 film from Universal Studios is directed by Robert Zemeckis, written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, and stars Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, and Thomas F. Wilson.

It will be best if this clip can be viewed with “Cheaper by Dozen” and “Hoot,”as victims of bullies in these clips react to bullies in different ways – to walk away, to be subdued, or to stand up. Viewing all three clips can offer a great spring board for discussing strategies to cope with bullies depending on different situations.

Some Questions for Discussion After Viewing the Film Clip

  • How can you define bullying?
  • What is the difference (if any!) between “bullying” and “being mean and cruel”?
  • How would you react to the bully if you were George who was being bullied in this clip?
  • What do you think can happen if George stands up to the bully in this case?
  • What do you think can happen if George ignores the bully and walk away in this case?
  • How can you support someone who is being bullied?
  • When is it better to walk away from a tense situation? When is it not?

Moving to Take Action

This film clip can be used to set in motion of an essential discussion about how we define a bully. Some so called bully experts believe that bullying has to include (i) the intent to be hurtful by someone or a group who (ii) has more power than another person or group and (iii) that the hurtful actions are (iii) repeated more than once.  In fact, it is sometimes impossible to know if the person or group is intending to be hurtful and who has more power.

  • What do you think are the pros and cons of this definition as opposed to focusing on all “mean, cruel and/or bullying behaviors”?
  • What do you think about people being mean and cruel in your school? Is this ever ok?
  • Given how we define “the problem” (bullying on the one hand or mean, cruel and/or bullying behaviors on the other hand) how do you suggest that your school community focus on these issues?

(For teachers or facilitators)
After showing the clip and discussions, have counselors, teachers, or experts in bully prevention provide lessons or presentation about coping strategies for bullying. Based on the information and knowledge learned, ask students in groups develop two scenarios and role play: one situation in which it is better to ignore and walk away, and the other in which it is better to confront with bullies. Have them act them out in large groups.