Back to the Future and possibly The Secret of my Success are two of my favorite movies. I say that with pride and sort of as an eff you to my elitist friends that urge Godfather, Citizen Kane and the like. Don’t get me wrong, I have studied those movies, written papers about them, and appreciate them, but the Michael J. Fox movies resonate with me. I was a kid in the eighties. Larger than life images of Ronald Reagan, cocaine and the defeat of communism loomed large. Michael J. Fox landed squarely in the middle of an era, and, to me, he became a spokesman for the American (“Yuppy”) dream where the ordinary man can become extraordinary.
I guess that’s what pained me last week to see Michael on a Today Show Family Ties reunion. Crouched in his chair with a sideways glance, Fox interjected memories of his days on the set of Family Ties, and his former cast had the care and gravity not to step on his words. They spoke with the distance like they talked to the boy Michael, not the man. In that chair, was a character unbounded by the constraints of time, or even more unbelievably the corporate ladder. However, that day the humanity of this character, was common–like me.
Superman can break his neck and die. Alex Keaton can have Parkinson’s disease. At the same moment, a man can be powerful and insignificant. Seung-Hui Cho can overpower the lives of others and die the same day. I am at the brink of success and failure all of the time, and there is nothing that I can do about it.
The moral of all of this? Drink more beer.