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George: Who are you?

Marty: [wearing radiation suit] My name is Darth Vader. I am an extraterrestrial from the planet Vulcan. [makes Vulcan salute]

After traveling back in time, it's accepted protocol that, instead of giving out your real name, you should use an alias that refers to a future aspect of popular culture. It's just how these things are done. If you really went back in time, this probably wouldn't be the brightest thing. After all, what happens if someone remembers that name or writes it down somewhere? In Movie Land, however, this is justified by the Rule of Funny.

When there's no Time Travel involved, and using such a name would be a lot more risky, it's Character Name Alias.

Examples of I'm Mr. Future Pop Culture Reference include:


  • This becomes an important plot point in the Vertigo comic Brave Old World. After the characters realize they're not the only people transported back to the year 1900, they round up the dozens of other refugees by announcing a talk to be given by Mr. John Lennon and Mr. Mick Jagger.


  • In Volkonir Meets the Power Rangers, Volkonir (from 2016) must team up with the 1993 Power Rangers, their 2017 film counterparts, and the Emo Rangers. The 2017 and Emo Rangers frequently make references to history, politics, and culture events that the 1993 Rangers would have little to no concept of.
    • However, '93 Kimberly is able to return the gesture when Stef is confused and appalled by 1993 office building technology.


  • Back to The Future provides two examples in addition to the one at the top of the page. In the first film, Lorraine infers that Marty's name is "Calvin Klein" due to the name being written all over his underwear. In the third film, where they go back to The Wild West, Marty says his name is "Clint Eastwood". Buford Tannen replies "What kind of stupid name is that?"
    • The line "Everybody everywhere will say, 'Clint Eastwood is the biggest yellow-belly in the west.'" is also hilarious.
    • They needed Eastwood's permission to use his name and they've got it, because Clint Eastwood is a big fan of the first film (just like Michael Jackson and Ronald Reagan).
    • The first movie also has Marty pretending to be Darth Vader, an extraterrestrial from the planet Vulcan, in order to scare his dad-to-be into dating Marty's mom-to-be.
      • And he uses a walkman with a heavy metal cassette to "melt his brain." You can also see a hair dryer tucked into his belt, from an extended version of the scene where Marty pretends it's a gun.
      • Plus when he returns to the future he finds that he inspired his future dad into publishing a sci-fi novel. Guess what the alien on the cover looks like.
    • In the Telltale game, Doc gets in on the act when he uses the pseudonym "Carl Sagan". Marty can elect to call himself one of three things, chosen by the player: Sonny Crockett, Harry Callahan, or Michael Corleone.
    • In the fifth episode, First Citizen Brown tells Edna that Marty's real name is Yakov Smirnoff, and when Edna is forced into the past, she assumes the alias Mary Pickford.
  • Inverted and subverted by Time After Time, where H.G. Wells comes to the present [1979] and assumes the name "Sherlock Holmes", mistakenly thinking that the fictional character would be forgotten in the future.
    • Plus, due to not many people knowing what "H.G." stands for, he's nicely able to fit in just by using his real name, Herbert Wells.
  • Inverted in the first Austin Powers film. Having missed out on thirty years of pop culture, Austin picks the aliases Richie Cunningham and Oprah for himself and Vanessa. Similarly, Dr. Evil, having gone through the same freezing process, calls his moon laser the Death Star and the task of assembling it The Alan Parsons Project. Having gone back to 1969, however, only Scott realizes the idiocy.
    • Dr. Evil also uses footage from the film Independence Day to frighten the president and others into thinking the White House is being attacked.
  • From Shanghai Noon, when Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson introduce themselves:

 Chon Wang: My name is Chon Wang.

Roy O'Bannon: John Wayne?

Chon Wang: Chon Wang.

Roy O'Bannon: That's a terrible cowboy name!

Chon Wang: Why?

Roy O'Bannon: No, come on. That's not gonna work. That's horrible; that's so bad!

    • Inverted at the end, when Roy reveals that he doesn't use his actual name because he thinks it's embarrassing: Wyatt Earp. Wang reacts pretty much the same way.
    • Also used in the sequel Shanghai Knights when Roy uses the alias Sherlock Holmes, inspiring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


  • More like I'm Mr Literary Reference: In Simon Hawke's The Timekeeper Conspiracy Lucas gives his names to The Three Musketeers as "Alexander Dumas". After the action is over, the Temporal Corps erase him from their memories, as it wouldn't be good to have the author of their story finding his name in their accounts of it.
  • Merges with Beethoven Was an Alien Spy in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel trilogy "Millennium". Near the end of the second book, Vash and alternate future versions of Nog and Picard go back in time to ancient Bajor to become the seers "Eilin", "Shabren", and "Naradim", who are famous in the future because of their predictions of recent events.
  • Terry Pratchett uses this in Johnny and the Bomb. Kids from The Nineties introduce one of their group to a World War Two-era shopkeeper as "Prince Sega. All the way from Nintendo."
    • Granted, Nintendo existed at the time... As a card company. And Standard Games (later SErvice GAmes) existed too. Not that they were well known, or did business in the UK at all.
  • In the Tim Powers novel The Anubis Gates, a character adopts the alias "Humphrey Bogart" in early-19th-century London. A variation in that the character is not himself a time traveller, but picked up the name from another character who is.
    • The time travelers also whistle Beatles tunes as a way to recognize each other.
  • Backfires horribly in the 1632 series, when a character tries using this kind of name for misinformation. Turns out the person he was trying to fool had managed to buy a copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica from the late 20th century and did not appreciate being told that his prisoner, Mr. James Bond, was engaged to a Marilyn Monroe, and they could expect a visit from a great gunmaker from the future, Elvis Presley. Whoops.
  • Played with in Dream Park, when Griffin is pressed to explain in-character why his LARP character is "the greatest thief in the world". His first two examples are generic fantasy-thief tropes, but his third boast is that he owns the only surviving black-market copy of Star Wars. Other Gamers point out the in-story anachronism, as the South Seas Treasure game they're playing is set in the 1950s.
  • In Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame series, 20th century Dungeons and Dragons players transported to the world of their game use obscure pop culture references as passwords amongst themselves:

  Two all-beef patties, lettuce, cheese...

  • In a variation that involves an alien world instead of time travel, the Superman novel "The Last Son of Krypton" by Elliott S! Maggin, has Lex Luthor use the alias "Abraham Lincoln", which Superman recognizes but which the aliens don't.
  • Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series has a scene where one time traveler uses the line "Does the name 'Ringo Starr?' mean anything to you?" as a shibboleth to recognize another.

Live Action TV

  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "1969", Jack O'Neill said he was "Captain James T. Kirk" before switching to "Luke Skywalker". This ignores the fact that Star Trek actually did exist in 1969, although the interrogating officer in the scene had apparently never heard of it. Which isn't too far-fetched.
    • This may have been intended as a subversion, with Jack switching once he realized it would exist back now.
    • SG-1 also does a variant where the characters give pop culture aliases to aliens. Once, Dr. Jackson told a pair of mercenaries his name was "Olo, Hans Olo" (with fun similarities to another thing); another time, he tried to pass himself off as the The Great and Powerful Oz to an enemy ship.
      • The latter probably didn't work because a "Great and Powerful" Goa'uld wouldn't be flying around in a transport ship.
    • SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis would often do a variation where a reference or Phlebotinum Analogy would hinge on some pop culture reference to inevitably be lost on alien team members Teal'c, Vala, Ronon and Teyla. But subverted toward the end of the series as the aliens -- especially Teal'c -- became more familiar with Earth culture.
      • Teal'c in particular became an avid Star Wars fan. Which later created a joke when Vala (another alien) mentions how she got pregnant without having sex, asking if anyone had ever heard of such a thing. Mitchell and Carter both seem to think of Jesus (actually Mitchell's thinking of King Arthur) but instead it's Teal'c who exclaims "Darth Vader", prompting a worried Vala to ask "How did that turn out?"
      • None of those examples turned out well, of course, including Vala's own child.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Empty Child", set in 1941, Rose jokingly refers to the Doctor as "Mr. Spock" when pressed for his name. Captain Jack, who's from the distant future, doesn't recognize the reference, and Hilarity Ensues.
    • In "The Fires of Pompeii," when pressed for a name, the Doctor sputters "I am... Spartacus." His companion Donna leaps in with "And so am I." In the same episode, he also explains her bizarre personality with "She's from Barcelona".
    • In an episode of Spin-Off series The Sarah Jane Adventures, Sarah Jane and Luke go back to 1951, and adopt the names of Victoria and David Beckham.
  • In Life On Mars, Sam goes undercover as "Tony Blair" at one point, with Annie as "Cherie." Later, when Gene tags along, he's given "Gordon Brown" as his alias.

 Sam: This is my friend Gordon Brown, and his wife... uh...

Gene: Suki.

    • It's funny because no one can ever remember Gordon Brown's wife's name. (It's Sarah.)
    • Also, when his mother asks his name he says "Detective Inspector Bolan", a mere few scenes after he's met T-Rex's lead singer.
    • And in the US remake, Sam introduces himself to his mother in 1973 as Luke Skywalker. In this case, he panicked when she asked for his name and that was the only thing he could think of.

 Gene: What do you think I'm doing here, Tyler?

Sam: Building a Death Star?

Gene: What?

Sam: Nothing.

  • In the Life On Mars spinoff Ashes to Ashes, Alex gets a request to meet from someone calling himself "Boris Johnson". Of course, it's to give her a clue that he's also a coma-time-traveller.
    • Later on she also applies to a dating agency under the name Kate Winslet.
  • Supernatural, "In the Beginning": Dean can't give his actual last name because he's just met his father in the past, so he introduces himself as "Dean van Halen".
    • Of course, the Winchesters use musical references as aliases in the present too. Only one person ever noticed, and he just thought it was a funny coincidence.
    • In "Frontierland", Dean introduces himself to the residents of 1861 Wyoming as Clint Eastwood, and then gives Sam's name as Walker and says he's a Texas Ranger.
  • Inverted in The Middleman: Guy Goddard has been in cryogenic suspension since 1969.

 Guy: Well, maybe Scotty can beam us down. ... It's an obscure reference to a cancelled television show. I'm sure you've never heard of it.

  • Boy Meets World: Corey gets sent back to the '50s. When the Mr. Feeny Expy asks his name, he says "Brad Pitt, sir." Mr Feeny says "On your way then, Mr. Pittser."
  • In the unbroadcast The Time Tunnel remake, time travelers at the 1944 Battle of the Bulge use the aliases Colonel Klink and Sergeant Schultz.
  • In an episode of The Outer Limits, a time traveler uses "Luke Skywalker" as an alias when in the year 1969. He even finished a phone call with "May the Force be with you."

Video Games

  • Back to the Future The Game: When he travels back to 1931, Marty answers with "The Mario Brothers" when he is asked for a charity he has helped with.
    • Also from BTTF:TG, Marty has three alias he can choose from when in 1931, all of which are names of famous frictional characters from around the 80s. These are: Sonny Crockett, Michael Corleone and Harry Callahan.
    • Also in the game, The 1931 science expo has many items that are "take that's" at modern technology, including but not limited to: Picture Radio, Electric Stun Gun and The House of the Future.
      • This one kind of acts as a double take trope seeing as how the in game character, Marty, is from the 80s yet the player themselves are (of course) from the 21st century.
    • The game also has characters using the aliases Carl Sagan, Yakov Smirnoff and Mary Pickford

Web Comics

  • Pibgorn: When Pib goes back in time, she gives her name as Lucy Ricardo, and says she lives with her aunt and uncle, the Mertzes.

Web Original

  • This Critical Miss article describes a group of role-players playing as time travelers gone to WWI Germany using the aliases Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels and Rudolf Hess. Which would have worked if not for other time travelers.
    • Those people did exist during that time, but they weren't famous yet. Which made them both sufficiently German-sounding (duh) and easy to remember.

Western Animation

  • Static Shock inverts this: Virgil travels to the future (specifically the Batman Beyond future) and sarcastically tells Terry he's Beyonce when he doesn't believe him to be Batman. Terry apparently doesn't get it, since he introduces him to Bruce that way seconds later.
  • Jake Long once time traveled and told his Past!Mom and Past!Grandpa that his name was Beyonce Timberlake.
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