Menu Close

Thinking pop culture

Time travel and bumping into ourselves

Looper - now showing.

It’s not spoiling anything to reveal that the crux of Looper is that Little Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Big Joe (Bruce Willis) meet: it’s a) the reason for Gordon-Levitt’s stupid facial prosthetics and b) it’s spotlighted in the poster and the trailer.

My understanding of time travel is sketchy and I’m not entirely sure whether a Looper-kind of meeting so unsettles me because I’m not sure it’s possible - in the “scientific” rather than conceivable sense - or whether I just find the idea psychologically stupefying. I’m focusing on the latter here.

I cry at lots of peculiar things. At the moment I have to walk away from the TV during the Purina Supercoat ad with the Labrador lifecourse snapshots. In fact, time-lapse photography in general makes me sad. And it’s this idea that underpins my reasoning for finding the idea of meeting a different aged version of myself so distressing: all those years have passed and we’re supposed to sit in a diner like the Joes, calm, composed, and shoot the breeze? Huh?

I lived in Small Town USA for 6 months last year. The afternoon that I nearly bought the grow-your-own-pumpkin kit made me think that my sanity was being compromised there. Another clue was my daily walks past the psychic’s house. She did palm readings for $10 and on those days when I’d seen everything at the cinema having my hands fondled by a stranger seemed vaguely tempting.

My cynicism aside, there were lots of reasons I never actually visited the psychic: the biggie was that I envisaged walking in, saying hello, and she – hearing my accent – saying, all mystic-like, “I see you’ve come from a faraway land.” The other reason was, let’s just say she did see something – or thought she saw something. And then she told me. Unacceptable! Things can’t be unsaid or unheard. Particularly for someone like me with an uncanny memory for dialogue.

Meeting a time-travelling version of myself couldn’t be helpful for my mental health. That said, if I had to – afterall, it’s not like Little Joe wanted to meet Big Joe - what would I do? Say? What words of wisdom could Big Lauren give Little Lauren?

This same question, interestingly enough, was asked on Can of Worms this week couched as advice we’d give our 10-year-old self.

Pre-Can of Worms, pre-Looper, I’d already been dwelling on this. I recently wrote a chapter for an anthology on female friendship. While it didn’t make it through my vicious edits, in an early draft I had a section about advice to a younger self about friendship. I could only think of four useful words; four words to get Lil’ Lauren through school, through uni, through life: this too shall pass. Four words that no younger version of myself would ever have listened to; four words that Big Lauren equally can’t take in.

So let’s just say the two Laurens had a meeting, ala Looper. Little Lauren/Big Lauren, diner showdown. What do we do? What do we want from this meeting? Do I hand Little Lauren a copy of the Sports Almanac? Deck out my apartment with copious quantities of leopard skin fabric?

Back to the Future 2 (1989)

Do I tell Little Lauren about whether it’s vampires, wizards or whippy-whippy millionaires that the book-buyers are procuring in the future so she knows what to channel her writing energies into?

What possible thing I could I say/hear that wouldn’t irrevocably change things to such an extent that everything Big Lauren has ever experienced would be rendered confused and disturbed?

Time travel films force me to obsess over unexplained details that disrupt my enjoyment – and I won’t pretend that Looper avoided raising them too - but it’s an entertaining film. There’s a spectacularly fabulous Village of the Damned-esque child (Pierce Gagnon), some smouldering Bold and the Beautiful looks from Bruce Willis, some pretty decent existential questions to gnaw on and the kind of abrupt ending that I’m a sucker for.

Looper Trailer.

Want to write?

Write an article and join a growing community of more than 183,800 academics and researchers from 4,959 institutions.

Register now