cdave: (Angry)
[personal profile] cdave
Complaining about bad physics in time travel movies is pointless (but good fun afterwards), but there's a character reaction that always breaks my suspension of disbelief.

There's a trope in time travel stories where the viewpoint character jumps back into to their own body, changes the past, and then returns to their body in present day. They only retain memories of the original timeline, but the world around around them has changed. I've seen it in X-Men: Days of Future Past, Hot Tub Time Machine, and Project Almanac. The thing that annoys me is how their friends respond to their return.


Example timeline (story protagonist's perspective):

α timeline year 2000 Bob α (age 20) Bob's best friend Alice gets killed
α timeline year 2001 Bob α (age 21) Bob becomes a scientist and start work on a time machine
α timeline year 2011 Bob α (age 31) Bob leaps back in time
ß timeline year 2000 Bob α (age 31) MIND in Bob ß (age 20) BODY Bob saves the world, and leaps home
ß timeline year 2011 Bob α (age 31) Bob finds that (with no memories of these changes) he's a millionaire now, married to Alice!

Alice finally gets to thank Bob for saving her life.
Thus the movie ends happily. But it never rings true for me. What if we think about what Alice has experianced? This should be simpler, as she never travels in time.


Example timeline (friend's perspective):

ß timeline year 2000 Alice β (age 20), Bob α (age 31) MIND in Bob β (age 20) BODY Alice β sees Bob save the world
ß timeline year 2001 Alice β (age 21), Bob β (age 21) Bob β has no memory of saving the world
ß timeline year 2002 Alice β (age 22), Bob β (age 22) Alice β falls in love with, and marries Bob β. They set up a company together.
ß timeline year 2009 Alice β (age 29), Bob β (age 29) Alice β and Bob β company is doing so well they become millionaires
ß timeline year 2010 Alice β (age 31), Bob α (age 31) Bob α returns to “his body” replacing Bob β.

The question is would Alice β be glad to see Bob α or devastated at the loss of her husband and business partner?

Date: 2015-05-29 05:19 pm (UTC)
alias_sqbr: She's getting existential again. It's ok I have a super soaker. (existentialism)
From: [personal profile] alias_sqbr
I've noticed this weird trend with science fiction including multiple selves where as long as ONE version survives then it's not considered a big deal if others die/vanish, and in fact it's at least subtextually preferable to merge/winnow them than end up with multiple versions hanging around long term. Wiping out alternate selves via time travel is a subtle example, but it comes up more explicitely with clones etc. The Prestige is one of the few stories I can think of where a character thinks this way but the narrative doesn't.

Date: 2015-05-29 06:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] coth.livejournal.com
I think Alice would be devastated. But the film and Bob probably wouldn't care because most sf films treat women (not only women, but women in particular) as things that only exist when men are looking at them.

You could try Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon for a treatment of multiple selves that actually considered the ethics.

Date: 2015-05-29 08:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] coth.livejournal.com
Ha! Got me!

I stand by my comment. It probably looks like weaseling to say that that is covered by "not only women"...oh well.

Date: 2015-05-30 08:17 am (UTC)
alias_sqbr: Zuko with a fish on his head (avatar)
From: [personal profile] alias_sqbr
Absolutely. I was originally going to comment saying much the same thing but got sidetracked.

Altered Carbon is one of those books where I read and moderately enjoyed it but for some reason the plot fell almost entirely out of my head afterwards. But yes I vaguely remember that.

Date: 2015-05-30 08:18 am (UTC)
alias_sqbr: (happy dragon)
From: [personal profile] alias_sqbr
I really must get around to watching that show.

Interesting Links for 02-06-2015

Date: 2015-06-02 11:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] livejournal.livejournal.com
User [livejournal.com profile] andrewducker referenced to your post from Interesting Links for 02-06-2015 (http://andrewducker.livejournal.com/3292999.html) saying: [...] ) Killing time (travelers) [...]

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