Time Travel in Popular Culture

The following is a paper I wrote for an independent study from junior year. If you want to read the whole thing, download the PDF file linked to below the excerpt.

Time Travel in Popular Culture


Justin King

How many of us have wished we could go back in time to correct a mistake? Or visit the future to see our world 100 centuries from now? I bet we all have, and this is why time travel has become so pervasive in popular culture. If time travel were possible, we could travel to the past and visit the dinosaurs or witness the sermon on the mount; you could go back to last week and give yourself the correct answers for an exam; you could even travel into the future to a time where ears cars no longer run on gasoline, when we all have personal assistance robots, and when space travel is as common as driving to the market. It is this last possibility that is the most intriguing aspect of time travel, and is the focus of most time travel literature and film.

As we examine time travel in popular culture we will begin with early examples of machineless time travel, but our focus will be on time travel via time machine. Appropriately then, our first example of machine facilitated time travel will be H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, published in 1895. Since then stories about time machines have been bountiful, but we will look at the Back to the Future trilogy and Planet of the Apes. I have chosen these because the former is probably the most well-known time travel story, and the latter because it is one of the most scientifically accurate time travel stories.

Time Travel in Popular Culture

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