Saturday

Cars is the worst

There's been a listicle ranking the Pixar films from worst to best doing the rounds recently, and I was amazed to see that 'cars' was not at the absolute bottom. I hate Cars, I find it a repugnant, small-minded film, because

1: Jeremy Clarkson.
Jeremy Clarkson is in this kids' movie. A racist contrarian, wilfully ignorant to the point of inanity. This film gives him money. 
He has a small part as the main character (a serious wassname)'s bad conscience, the part of the main character that it is easy to blame for his selfishness, and easy to jettison at the end. He's not playing a nasty person though, as much as a motivated and successful agent - exactly what the racing world needs to keep it going.

It's the way that in Cars, he plays a character that's meant to be the embodiment of everything that's wrong in the world, but relative to the cars world, he's not - he's just a normal consequence of their values. So it's not really believable that he's a relatively bad character. However, from my point of view, he does represent everything that's wrong with the world, because being normal in the cars world is awful, as detailed below.

2: focused nostalgia
The worst thing about this film is it's adherence to a very particular sort of nostalgia. This is a racing film that decries the motorway, because of the way it demolished communities that existed on older roads, and what's all this obsession with speed anyway?

Clearly the second point is facetious, the film is entirely based on an obsession with speed and winning and MEN. There's a reason why I love the film Saturday night fever, and it's because it's really an anti-disco film; all of that stuff people love about it, John travolta's dancing, clothes, and dancing, is gone by the end of the story, as the lead character had undergone an arc that has taken him away from his obsession. It has shown disco to be a shallow and lonely place. Not so in Cars, which wants to show us how shallow racing stardom is, but without giving up the excitement of being a racing star! (Ironixclamation)

The bigger point is the nostalgia, specifically for a particular decade when our grandparents were young and drinking malt shakes at the store. It's hard for me to express this because I think it is so painfully ignorant, but I'll try: that was new once, too. There was a time before those roadside towns were built. They were not the apex of human society.

Before cars, we all road horses, but this film doesn't care about that. Before cars, localities were much more important and people walked and bumped into other people and made connections and started conversations, but this film doesn't care about that. It only cares about the specific time period after the construction of Route 66 but before the construction of the road that superseded it. It doesn't mind the fact that Route 66 probably destroyed loads of communities too, or that social change is constant and inevitable, or that of people weren't so hung up on the past they could actually be liberated by transport, rather than being caught up in a role that you think the world owes you. It's such a wierdly fetishised affection for a specific time that its target market will only have seen in Hairspray Days and American Grease.

I say all this, as a particularly anti-car person. I'm no fan of big roads, but I do quite like logically consistent emotions and arguments. That's what's wierd about the film, it's the paradox of the Amish; it's fine with progress up to a point, like jonathon swift declaring that science had gone far enough. It's conservative, not for a raw state, but for a certain level of progress. My point is, you either like progress or you don't. You can't decide after the fact which bits you want to cherry pick and which bits you want to complain about. 

And in a way, all of this is what's wrong with Jeremy Clarkson too; the inconsistency. The reactionary character that only goes as far as it suits this one man. The solipsistic 'what I grew up with is the way things should be' attitude. And as such, Jeremy Clarkson doesn't just have a 2 minute cameo in Cars, but embodies it's entire shitty small-minded unphilosophy. 

3: sausage fest/cars are boring
Yeah. We get that boys like cars, when they're socialised to. We get that women are only ever peripheral characters in Pixar films (until it got complicated with brave). So this all fies together quite well. But like space jam, which as a non-sports fan I found moribund, this just seems to assume you think cars are in themselves fascinating. Point over.

4: If the sheriff hadn't have turned out to be a famous racer too, would McQueen be in the right to dismiss him and be rude?

According to cars, growing as a person is only useful as long as it helps you win the next race. Again, compare this to Saturday night fever; the character goes through his shallow obsession and out the other side. 

In any decent monomyth, when taken out if their comfort zone (1st act),a period of struggle allows a character to grow (2nd act), and thereby defeat whatever challenges them (3rd act). However, Cars demonstrates the weakest possible implementation of the monomyth, as McQueen doesn't overcome the empty heart of his career, he just goes further into it. 

It's meant to be a zen thing, right?  'Sometimes you have to steer away from something to learn control' or something. So a period in a small town, learning folksy ways and having simple fun with idiots, is meant to ground our hero, make him develop empathy, and round him off. It just so happens that none if this actually changes his life. The zen trick is only good for achieving the goals he had before, like yoga and mindfulness being used to make you a better insurance salesman.

5: it led us to cars 2
Cars 2 isn't a bad story, over all, with a decent enough conspiracy, Eddie Izard, and Michael Caine being a James Bond type. However, the opening has the most offhand sexist treatment of a female character I've seen in a cartoon. The intro runs thus:

McQueen comes back of the old folksy own which is now doing a roaring trade, because he has somehow manipulated the economic system to make that make sense. He spends the day with Mater, doing things like cow tipping (honestly), then goes for a date with his long distance girlfriend. Mater can't take this however, and despite having to be told explicitly not to interupt the date, he comes along as a waiter. McQueen gets to spend 5 minutes with his lady before mater ruins the whole night by calling a talk show in support of McQueen; who is then challenged there and then to a race. He accepts, and has to leave for the foreseeable future, immediately. The girlfriend's reaction? 'Oh well, I've go things to do.' Treated like a doormat, clearly given the signal that his male friends and his hobby are more important than her, and her reaction is 'I'll be waiting right here'. 

She is then replaced in the plot by another lady-car that looks completely the same.

Utter, utter garbage. I had heard this was a bad day for Pixar, but I hadn't realised it was this kind of bad.
[insert pinkie pie "oh, they're THAT kind of off" gif here]
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