Inquiring minds want to know: Would you use time travel to have sex with yourself?
HBO’s new adaptation of The Time Traveler’s Wife hasn’t exactly been critically lauded—it’s currently sitting at 37 percent on Rotten Tomatoes—and I wasn’t initially planning on tuning in until I learned one important detail about the series. It turns out that there are some things even the Tomatometer can’t measure, like the fact that the show features a scene in which a guy travels through time and has sex with himself.
The series is based on Audrey Niffenegger’s 2003 novel of the same name, a bestseller that’s already been adapted once before into a 2009 movie starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana. This time around, the tale is being told through a TV series featuring Game of Thrones’ Rose Leslie as Clare, a woman who, as the title suggests, is married to a time traveler. Divergent star Theo James plays her husband Henry, who’s unfortunately stricken with a genetic disorder that causes him to time travel against his will.
The story has a very high built-in ick factor: Clare first meets Henry when she’s six and he’s a fully-grown man, when he appears, naked (he never gets to keep his clothes when he poofs into another era), near her home. But lest we get too hung up on the fact that she was groomed to be his future wife when she was just starting grade school, the show’s second episode features an even weirder time travel romance, one between teenage Henry and teenage Henry, which entertainment writer Jarett Wieselman drew online attention to with a now-viral tweet.
This particular encounter between Henry and himself takes place when he’s 16. Apparently, a slightly older version of Henry traveled back to his own bedroom and decided to break new ground in the history of self-gratification, until the two Henrys were interrupted by their father’s intrusion. It’s deeply weird out of context, but within the show, the story is somehow even more bizarre. The scene is a flashback inspired by grown-up Clare asking grown-up Henry how his dad learned he could time travel, which means that Henry’s poor father isn’t just a man who walked in on his teenage son having sex with an entirely separate version of himself. He’s a man who learned that his teenage son is a time traveler by catching him in the act. This show should have been called The Time Traveler’s Dad, and it just should have been about that poor man’s extensive therapy sessions.
Most pieces of time travel-centric media follows their own rules to some extent, but many avoid having their clock-hoppers embark on such erm, hands-on interactions with themselves, often explaining away such possibilities with Back to the Future logic: If you were to travel back in time and meet your younger self, it would necessarily change the timeline, potentially messing up the future or creating a paradox.
However, according to a couple of Australian physicists, it would actually be almost impossible to truly change the past. In an interview with the University of Queensland’s news service, a researcher gave the example of a time traveler who headed into the past to try to prevent the COVID pandemic. “In the coronavirus patient zero example, you might try and stop patient zero from becoming infected, but in doing so, you would catch the virus and become patient zero, or someone else would,” Dr. Fabio Costa said.
That’s bad news for anyone who’d try to use time travel to change human history for the better, but it’s great news for anyone who just wants to hop through time and space to get it on with themselves.