top of page

Whaat? MindF*ck: Time Travel

As part of the Whaaat? MindF*ck series, the Ghouls explore the possibilities of Time Travel. Kat explains intense and fun plot lines from Dragon Ball Z to Gabe, a DBZ virgin. Gabe discusses the social injustices brought to light when exploring time travel and race in media with About Time, Octavia Butler's Kindred, and See You Yesterday.


RED: Quotes, someone else's words.

Kat's Facts - Impossibility of Time Travel

Hi friends, today we are learning about Time Travel. The idea that we’re in a time now, and if we go to another time that is either a part of our own existence or before we are traveling there through a wormhole or through other science ways to change stuff cause we think we know everything and should totally do that. In case any of you forgot, this series has been kinda wonky for me cause I’m not a scientist. I will dub myself a historian but i’m 100% not a scientist, so I have to give you what I think, and use some science I found on the internet to maybe help.

So why would people want to go back in time? If you didn’t catch our time loops episode, well go watch it, but also what we saw with time loops is this inevitability that exists when there is no way to break out of the loop. The idea with time travel, in this episode is that there is a past, present and future and we can travel there. So why we want to do this? Being able to travel to the past would give us the opportunity to right past wrongs, fix things that we feel could have been avoided if we had more info, or a nice shove, or a way to have conversations with people we’ve lost, or attempt to prevent bad things that happened to the people we care about, There’s a long list, that all kind of ties back to the fact that many humans are plagued with guilt or regret or a overwhelming feeling of injustice with how the reality surrounding us exists. We want to change the things that we couldn’t. We want to win. We want to create a world where the people we love aren’t hurt, and aren’t taken from us. The question really is though, How would going back in time change our world today, and is one human allowed to make that kind of choice for everyone?

I got this definition from Wikipedia, The Butterfly effect is a theory we’ve touched on previously, but it’s the idea that is more commonly used in chaos theory. A small change can make much bigger changes happen; one small incident can have a big impact on the future. ... The term _butterfly effect_ comes from an analogy where a butterfly flaps its wings in Chicago and a tornado occurs in Tokyo. There are large implications of going into the past and changing things. Something that seems small, can largely impact the world, and those changes may never be able to be undone. One unfolding of time travel outside of my Terminator rants, is presented by my middle school cartoon crush, Future Trunks from Dragon Ball Z. I’ve heard a lot of debate about this because I think in its pre Dragon Ball Super it maye didn’t make as much sense, but I think honestly it’d be accurate in how all this would play out. So I argue that changing and event in time would not impact our timeline but would create an alternate timeline that just gets to exist when it shouldn’t, and we did that so now consequences. OR it’s the futurama ark where Fry was Earl the whole time, and you can’t have two of you existing at the same time so the universe kills the intruder to right the timeline so as to not rip a hole in the space time continuum. What I mean to say is, I don’t think we get to win, and I’m sorry.

So Dragon Ball Z/Super’s whole take, In their time travel they create alternate timelines that should not, or otherwise would not exist. Trunks originally goes back as a way to save his own timeline from the androids who upon waking, kill almost all of the z fighters, and destroy most of the planet and it’s a bad time. Goku, the show’s protagonist, is supposed to get a virus that kills him by attacking his heart, which is why he is not around to stop androids from killing almost everyone he loves.. Trunks goes back in time to give the Z fighters a cure to the virus, so that when Goku contracts it, he will not die, and will be able to fight the androids and save the world Trunks came from. What Trunks doesn’t realize until later is that going back does not change anything, but creates a whole new timeline that cuts through and disrupts the universe. When thinking about the butterfly effect, this event has large implications. If it facilitates events that otherwise would not be able to happen, i.e. Goku black, who in Dragon Ball Super is out here popping in and out of timelines to destroy people who he sees as like parasites. And i’m not gonna argue with him cause we kinda are, but that doesnt mean gods need to come down here smiting us, at least i’d like to hope. So that was my fiction rant about what time travel could be/ i've seen it represented. Now let’s get into the science.

We travel again to for some info. Can time travel happen? They say “Not all scientists believe that time travel is possible. Some even say that an attempt would be fatal to any human who chooses to undertake it.”

What is time? Is it a constant or is it relative? Einstein said it’s relative and that space is 3 dimensional and time is the 4th dimension His theory of special relativity says that time slows down or speeds up depending on how fast you move relative to something else. Approaching the speed of light, a person inside a spaceship would age much slower than their twin at home. Also gravity can bend time in this theory.

“Both the general and special relativity theories have been proven with GPS satellite technology that has very accurate timepieces on board. The effects of gravity, as well as the satellites' increased speed above the Earth relative to observers on the ground, make the unadjusted clocks gain 38 microseconds a day. (Engineers make calibrations to account for the difference.)”

In a sense, this effect, called time dilation, means astronauts are time travelers, as they return to Earth very, very slightly younger than their identical twins that remain on the planet.”

General relativity also provides scenarios that could allow travelers to go back in time, according to NASA. The equations, however, might be difficult to physically achieve.

One possibility could be to go faster than light, which travels at 186,282 miles per second (299,792 kilometers per second) in a vacuum. Einstein's equations, though, show that an object at the speed of light would have both infinite mass and a length of 0. This appears to be physically impossible, although some scientists have extended his equations and said it might be done.

A linked possibility, NASA stated, would be to create "wormholes" between points in space-time. While Einstein's equations provide for them, they would collapse very quickly and would only be suitable for very small particles. Also, scientists haven't actually observed these wormholes yet. Also, the technology needed to create a wormhole is far beyond anything we have today.

Black holes

Another possibility would be to move a ship rapidly around a black hole, or to artificially create that condition with a huge, rotating structure.

"Around and around they'd go, experiencing just half the time of everyone far away from the black hole. The ship and its crew would be traveling through time," physicist Stephen Hawking wrote in the Daily Mail in 2010.

"Imagine they circled the black hole for five of their years. Ten years would pass elsewhere. When they got home, everyone on Earth would have aged five years more than they had."

However, he added, the crew would need to travel around the speed of light for this to work. Physicist Amos Iron at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel pointed out another limitation if one used a machine: it might fall apart before being able to rotate that quickly.

While time travel does not appear possible — at least, possible in the sense that the humans would survive it — with the physics that we use today, the field is constantly changing. Advances in quantum theories could perhaps provide some understanding of how to overcome time travel paradoxes.

One possibility, although it would not necessarily lead to time travel, is solving the mystery of how certain particles can communicate instantaneously with each other faster than the speed of light.

In the meantime, however, interested time travelers can at least experience it vicariously through movies, television and books.



Gabe's Film Analysis - See You Yesterday, Race and Time Travel

About Time

I just want to start with one big glaring comparison between the two films we watched. In films like, About Time and Time Traveler’s Wife - we have a white, male protagonist who uses this amazing power to do mediocre white male things like say the right thing to a girl he likes or idk, groom a young child to love them???

Time Travel films span across many genres from romantic comedies, just comedies (hot tub time machine), thrillers (butterfly effect), Horror (dark series on netflix) and social drama (See You Yesterday). So I don’t want to generalize. But, I will say that similar to when we watched Bedeviled and found that the various teen’s fears were influenced by their worldviews and privilege. So too does Time Travel in many ways. When you have a film like About Time, a heartfelt and cute film about a bumbling british man finding love - that was his one goal in life and he got it. I enjoyed this film, don’t get me wrong. I love sappy little happy-go-lucky nothing-really-bad-happens romantic films because I like to escape reality every now and again. But his world is so...fine. He wants for nothing and so he has the privilege to use this phenomenal gift to go back in his own life and make minute changes that can make his life just slightly better. And eventually, he even comes to the conclusion to not use the ability at all and just live as if he had traveled and every day is on purpose. Which is a beautiful sentiment.

But there’s something mentioned in the beginning of See You Yesterday which struck me and it’s when Michael J Fox, Marty McFly himself, asks the protagonist, this young, intelligent black girl that he knows could change the world, he essentially says, “If you could have this power...what would you use it for? What would you do with it?” and that really encompasses my emotions with this whole thing. I get not traveling out of your timestream because butterfly effect right, so no killing baby Hitler or better yet, getting him into art school. None of that. But, it says so much that these two films explore the abilities and obligations that come with such a power.

The other thing I loved about this scene with Marty McFly is that he’s holding Octavia E. Butler’s book, Kindred. Which was my first Butler book and I was smitten and blown away by Ms. Octavia. I have two copies here because I got a new one for Christmas. And a whole bunch of her other ones too here. For those unfamiliar, Octavia Butler was an American Sci-Fi novelist and she pioneered the black sci-fi, afrofuturism movement I love! (We will definitely need to do an episode on her in the future!) She is phenomenal and I 100% recommend giving her a read which is why before I jump into See You Yesterday, I’m going to talk about Kindred.

Where to begin. I saw this TikTok, where a woman was talking about how long America has been around. And explained the over 400 years of oppression varying from 244+years of slavery, to the jim crow era to the now New Jim Crow era or our Mass Incarceration System (Michelle Alexander and Ava Duverney’s Thirteenth). It was a statement in that, White Americans have had 400 years to build their lives and establish systems in place to guarantee and secure their freedoms and privilege while Black Americans are still fighting against the systems that have taken many forms over these 400 years to keep them from those freedoms and the ability to grow and prosper in the ways that White Americans have been able to do with their surplus of time. Which is my long way around to say that Black Americans are, duh, still suffering and for the entire history of our country have suffered. Which leaves zero options when given the choice to time travel. Kat and I were talking about this and she said, “It's very rude to ask someone who's black when they would travel back in time if they had the power because...when? When is it safe? Answer - Never.” And it's true. In Kindred, we have a woman in the 20th century, who is actively an activist. She is a strong, black woman who is proud of her heritage and wants her people to truly be free. She is then thrust into a hellscape past where she has to ensure that the plantation owner, slave master’s son is alive long enough to father her ancestor. -nightmare- Now, we have a film like See You Yesterday, where our protagonist need only go back a week, to experience trauma and pain brought about by our flawed system.

So now let’s visit See You Yesterday, boy is this a great film but also terribly heartbreaking. I still feel it. But it’s good. It’s good to feel this because it's what so many of our American’s feel every single day. The trailer for this film shows that our amazing protagonist, CJ Walker (named after activist Madame CJ Walker), creates a device with her friend and fellow frickin genius, Sebastian, that allows them to time travel. (About Time and Time Travelers wife these men are privileged enough to be born with the gift) It also shows that her older brother, Calvin, is shot and killed by police which influences her decisions and gives her a reason to time travel. Because you know that happens - Bristol does this amazing thing in the beginning. We have CJ fight an ex boyfriend, and who shows up to save the day in heroic, disney older sibling deff gonna die fashion? Calvin! What happens pretty much immediately after that while these lovable siblings are arguing? Cops confront them. It’s tense. It’s uncomfortable. And as an audience member that knows how Calvin is going to die you are immediately put on edge. You think, Now? So soon? We just got here. And it’s terrifying. It’s scary. Truly. He doesn’t die then. But in that moment. As a viewer who knows Calvin’s fate, you are put into the shoes of black americans everywhere who know this reality all too well. It’s their reality. The viewer is shown that this is a possibility, for no reason, Calvin can die at the hand of these men.

There’s a line later. When CJ wants to go back in time even though so many awful things happened. She is in a different future where Calvin is alive and he finds out he was supposed to be dead. He tells her she can’t do this. He’s being big brother. And she says she has to go back because, “He didn’t deserve this.” -its kinda her fault someone dies at this point- and Calvin says, “None of us do.” So if I could leave you with anything from this episode, it’s those words. I’m sure you’ve heard in the news recently about Ahmaud Aubrey. The black man who went for a morning job and was shot down by a father and son for no reason. They aren’t even police. Just took it upon themselves to chase down a random man and shoot him dead in the street. And those men weren’t even arrested until the whole country got upset and began calling and tweeting and marching for it. Now, imagine all the men and women and all folx of color who don’t get national attention. I first read Kindred right around the time that Trayvon Martin was murdered. I come from a small town and from privilege and it really opened my mind and heart to this world. I marched with fellow classmates and I got involved. That was years ago. Here we are. See You Yesterday is from 2019. And it couldn’t be any more relevant. It’s still happening.

What does it mean that a black protagonist with the amazing gift of time travel that she invented cannot go back in time, not even a week. That’s the reality I want to drive home here. Film can be used to bring us together and to tell the stories we don’t fully understand. We can be thrust into the reality of black americans. And we can feel that pain. Stefon Bristol, in an interview discussed the ending of See You Yesterday. It’s pretty open with CJ traveling back and running with all her might towards the camera. Just running. And he said, she’s running to the viewer and she’s running to you to ask that you get up and you do something. We need to make a change, America. We’ve been needed to make a change.

Let’s make a future we’d want to travel too.


Media from this week's episode:

About Time (2013) Director: Richard Curtis (Coherence was also 2013!)

At the age of 21, Tim discovers he can travel in time and change what happens and has happened in his own life. His decision to make his world a better place by getting a girlfriend turns out not to be as easy as you might think.

  • Someone please write a time travel movie with a female protagonist and cast Rachel McAdams. Please.

See You Yesterday (2019) Director: Stefon Bristol Produced by Spike Lee

Two Brooklyn teenage prodigies, C.J. Walker and Sebastian Thomas, build makeshift time machines to save C.J.'s brother, Calvin, from being wrongfully killed by a police officer.

Kindred (1979) Writer: Octavia Butler

The first science fiction written by a black woman, Dana, a black woman, finds herself repeatedly transported to the antebellum South, where she must make sure that Rufus, the plantation owner's son, survives to father Dana's ancestor.


bottom of page