by Wendy Copley on April 25, 2007

Lightning McQueenAs the parent of a two-year-old, I inevitably end up watching some DVD’s over and over again. Sometimes, this is torture — when Wyatt is on a Dora the Explorer kick, for example. Other times it’s tolerable – Bear in the Big Blue House, Thomas and Friends. And then there are times when I look forward to watching the movies he wants to see. Some of the shows that fall into the latter category are: Curious George (the movie and the TV show), Pocoyo, My Neighbor Totoro, and any of the age-appropriate Pixar movies. Lately, he’s been obsessed with Cars (or as he calls it — Ka-chow!) This isn’t Pixar’s best movie and I’ve heard a lot of disparaging comments about it over the last year, but it’s really grown on me after watching it more than a half dozen times in the last couple of weeks. The fact is, even Pixar’s weakest movie is better than about 98% of the other kid’s media out there.

That being said, repeated viewing of Cars has started me thinking about some stuff. This is a movie where the basic premise absolutely requires that you engage in temporary suspension of disbelief. Anthropomorphizing automobiles is very troubling when you start to think about it too much. Here are some of the questions that have been raised by my over-analysis:

Lightning and SallyOK, first off — how are baby cars made? When you look at the interactions between Lightning and Sally, there’s romance there and more than a little bit of sexual tension under the hood (Did you see what I just did there? Huh? Huh?) Thoughts of car-sexuality inevitably lead to questions about car-reproduction. Are cars born? If so, do they start out small and grow like a human baby? Or are they born full-sized but immature — like where they would just sit there at first and slowly learn to drive and run their windshield wipers? Are they some freakish combination of two cars in love? Exactly how do new models fit in?

If cars are not born, how are they manufactured? How is anything manufactured if “hands” and “arms” are actually a car’s wheels? Do they actually expect us to believe that a whole society could be created and maintained when the only hand-like tool is a tire? They aren’t exactly in the same category as opposable thumbs. And what exactly is Sally able to accomplish when she sits at her desk doing paperwork? She certainly can’t write anything down. She couldn’t hold a pen if her life depended on it and there isn’t a computer with voice activation software on her desk for her to dictate to. My mind — it boggles.

If all living things are vehicles, that creates a high demand for oil and gas — much higher than our current astronomical demands as Americans. Where is all this gas coming from? Are there oil wars between the United Vehicles of America and Oilraq occurring in the Middle East? This would explain what Sarge the Jeep did before his retirement though.

MaterThere are some serious class issues raised by this movie. “People” are born into their station in life. If you’re born (or manufactured) as a race car, you’re probably going to race for a living and live the high life. If you’re born a semi-truck, you’re going to haul freight. Sure, a race care could do road work (as seen in the movie), so there’s room for downward mobility, but a bulldozer or a minivan or a tow truck is not going to be able to even aspire to be a racing star. In a sense, you are born into the best occupation you can hope to achieve in life and there’s no where to go but down. That’s a very un-American ideal and for a movie that is so pro-American, glorifying the golden age of the automobile, I find this idea to be quite disturbing.

And finally, how is a vehicle determined to be an animal rather than a person? In the movie tractors equate to cows, a combine equates to a bull and VW bugs are insects. So what makes a vehicle a person? You could argue that cars get to be people, but that doesn’t work when you consider the VW bugs. You could also argue that heavy, working machines are animals (see point about class above) but then Mac, Lightning’s driver is a person. Further complicating the issue is Bessie, the road fixing machine who has no personality and appears to just be a piece of machinery. Huh? How does that work?

I just…I just can’t wrap my mind around some of these things. I’m aware that I’m over-analyzing it all, but when you see a movie 100 times your mind just starts to wander after a while. On the plus side, you also get jokes that passed you by on the first 99 views.

“He did what in his cup??”

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