WOMEN: YOU HAVE TO TREAT ‘EM LIKE SHIT. ~ Donald Trump, New York magazine (November 9, 1992)
DONALD TRUMP, THE GRABBER-IN-CHIEF of this great nation, has shamed, slandered, and abused women, yet many voters just look away. Why? Does anyone defend Biff Tannen when he mocks Lorraine, sexually assaults her, or shoves her to the floor? No. Why should “Biff” Trump get a pass?
How are people who ignore the bad behavior of “Biff” Trump able to do the right thing in other situations? When presented evidence of a priest’s misconduct, they don’t say “Yes, he abused children but he gives a great homily, so let’s keep him on.” Apparently anything “Biff” Trump does is “just his personal business” or “water under the bridge.” And besides, “he’s good for the economy.”
Are our pocketbooks really more important than our morality? What does that say about us as a nation? Men, what does it say about us as men if we are able to silently overlook or excuse abusive behavior toward women?
It’s impossible to overlook Biff Tannen’s behavior. Throughout the Back to the Future trilogy, Biff doesn’t ask, he simply takes what he wants, from both men and women. His perverse masculinity confuses force with strength; he views women not as individuals, but as things to be taken, things that exist to serve his needs. It helps that both Biffs are over 6 feet tall. If either was a foot shorter, there’s no way they would get away with acting this way. At least not in public.
In BTTF1, young Biff Tannen personifies the worst fears of American parents who send their daughters off to school each morning. Oversized and oversexed, Biff is feared by classmates and cheered on by his sidekicks, all three of whom are yes-men, fixers, and hooligans.
Biff considers himself a “dreamboat,” but to a girl in his crosshairs, he’s a nightmare. In the scene set in the 1955 school cafeteria, Lorraine sits at a table with a friend and Biff pulls his chair directly behind hers, preventing her escape. Though he’s seated, he’s terrifying in action; he’s easily twice her size. He practically engulfs her; his arms snake around her as he pulls at her clothes. Back in the real world, female airline passengers have complained that “Biff” Trump’s hands were all over them, too.
But 17-year-old Lorraine sticks up for herself and tells Biff to leave her alone, even as his sidekicks encourage him from the next table. The word “no” isn’t in Biff’s vocabulary, though, and he declares with a sneer, “You want it, you know you want it, and you know you want me to give it to you.”
Later in the movie at the dance, things get even worse when Lorraine disagrees and slaps Biff. He grabs her arm and pins her in place with a look that’s as fierce as his grip—and releases her only when Marty McFly rushes over and yanks him off.
It’s an ugly scene, made even uglier by the fact that it takes place in full view of others. If you asked the older, successful version of Biff in BTTF2 to look back and recall his interaction with Lorraine the night he sexually assaulted her, perhaps you can imagine the casino owner describing it like this:
You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything … grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.
These, of course, are Donald “Biff” Trump’s words on the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape.
Thirty years later as either middle-manager Biff or car-detailer Biff, does he remember this misbehavior from his school days? If thirty years later the FBI went back and interviewed the other kids in that school cafeteria or at that dance, would they remember those events the way Lorraine does? For George, his memory of the parking lot incident would be as much about punching Biff as it was about Biff’s actions in the car.
But in the movie, the cameras were there and so were we. We saw it. We know what happened, just as Lorraine knows and will never forget, and we can rewind the movie and watch it again. If we don’t, our memory of it will fade because we were only spectators. Lorraine was the object of the abuse and her memory won’t fade—even if others doubt her.
Fast forward from 1955 to the alternate 1985 timeline in BTTF2, when Biff is a wealthy and powerful casino owner. According to Team Biff, he’s now a giant among men:
His power and influence made him the model of world leaders and heads of state. Marvel at Biff’s ongoing relationships with the rich and famous. We’ve all heard the legend. But who is the man?
That’s what we must ask ourselves today. Too bad it wasn’t Biff Tannen who had the following conversation on a radio show, because it would be far easier to excuse these words coming from the mouth of a fictional villain than from the future president of the United States.
Howard Stern: Will Dakota Fanning grow up hot?
Donald Trump: No. No.
Stern: She will not?
Trump: She will always be cute.
Stern: But she’ll never be hot.
Trump: She’ll never be hot.
Dakota Fanning was 11 years old at the time.
Trump sexualizing young girls is not a one-time incident—in a 1992 TV special, he speaks with a 14-year-old girl as she’s riding up an escalator, and he says, “I am going to be dating her in ten years. Can you believe it?”
“Biff” Trump’s sexual thoughts roll around like a loose cannon on deck. A very loose cannon. When his own daughter Tiffany was an infant—just a year old—he commented and gestured on camera about what her breasts might one day look like.
Many adults feel the need to give back to their communities through their PTA, Little League, or Girl Scouts. Not “Biff” Trump; the owner of the Miss Universe beauty pageant was too busy prowling around the dressing rooms of teenage contestants.
“You know, they’re standing there with no clothes,” said Trump, according to Rolling Stone. “And you see these incredible-looking women. And so I sort of get away with things like that.” These young women later recalled feeling like “cattle” being graded by the rancher who owned them.
Now let’s compare the two men’s current marriages. Both Biff and “Biff” show a repeated and willful lack of concern about their wives, as if they were chattel, or even just cattle.
Lorraine Tannen is Biff’s abused, unloved third wife. Their relationship is usurious. If we look back at the video clip of the day they got married, we hear Biff saying “Number three’s a charm” as he pushes his tongue into Lorraine’s mouth, ignoring her discomfort and disgust. This, on their wedding day.
“Biff” Trump’s third wife, Melania, has recently displayed frostiness toward him in public, including incidents when she wouldn’t hold his hand. Numerous times she’s decided not to appear in public with her husband, or even travel in the same vehicle with him. It must be difficult for her today to hear explicit details of his times with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal—from a time when Barron was just an infant.
In BTTF3, Biff Tannen lounges in a jacuzzi with two women while his wife is in the building; Lorraine could have walked in on them just as easily as her son Marty does. “Biff” Trump gave Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal a tour of his New York apartment shortly after Melania had given birth to their son, Barron. Assured that Melania wasn’t in the building, Ms. McDougal asked about the staff. “Biff” told her “they won’t say anything”—as if they knew the drill, they knew the score.
Multiple wives and women, accusations of multiple offenses and denials from Trump, but sexual perpetrators almost always deny their guilt.
“You could have just walked away.”
These are Seamus McFly’s words of wisdom to his great-grandson Marty in BTTF3 after Biff goads Marty. This was meant to teach Marty that masculinity doesn’t require responding to violence with violence, to reassure him that no one would think less of him if he’d simply walked away.
But what about people who sometimes can’t walk away? Like your daughter, your mother or sister.
“Biff” Trump is in a position of dominance when he meets his prey; he’s the boss, a rich man, TV star, beauty pageant owner, or even president. Walking away simply isn’t a choice for many women. And what about the countless others who did walk away, those who did have a choice? How many are out there and have yet to speak up?
Ask “Biff” about his attitude toward women and he’ll tell you he was one of the first to promote women to high positions in a male-dominated field. This is somewhat true—but remember, when he promoted them, he was in charge, he was in control.
But when he’s confronted with a woman who’s his equal, not an underling, Trump displays ape-like dominance and an imagined superiority. When meeting with Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany and one of the most powerful women in
the world, “Biff” Trump refused to shake her hand. On another occasion, he flung candy on a table in front of her, saying “don’t say I never give you anything.” Trump referred to the Prime Minister of the U.K. by her first name, Theresa, instead of her title; he didn’t bow to Queen Elizabeth and later walked in front of her because he couldn’t be bothered to learn protocol.
And his stalky, leering performance during the second presidential debate33 with Hillary Clinton raised the hackles of many women watching.
Whether interacting with women in power or with more vulnerable women, “Biff” Trump reveals his utter lack of respect. He objectifies women; they’re merely things for him to use. More than a dozen accusations of sexual assault have been lodged against him.
Biff Tannen and “Biff” Trump are the same man. No introspection, no regret about their infidelities, no compassion, no sympathy for their partners. Serve the self, do it right now, and move on.
There is no chance the original Biff will ever address these issues, but in the real world, “Biff” Trump should. Brett Kavanaugh’s anger before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2018 and Trump’s demeaning responses to the accusations leveled at him over the years show how hard it is to effect societal change on this topic. Nearly 20 percent of American women have experienced rape or attempted rape during their lifetimes, often committed by someone they know, but false accusations are very rare. A man has no clue how the possibility of sexual assault can shape a woman’s behavior at a social gathering or when considering the safety of transportation options or public restrooms—or even walking down the street.
For the good of all American people, Trump (and Kavanaugh) must exhume and prioritize these issues, not deny and bury them.
Women exist only to serve men’s primal needs, after all. Biff and “Biff” both are devoid of morals and unbound by cultural norms. When it comes to interacting with women, they either don’t know or don’t give a damn what kind of behavior is acceptable—or even legal.
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