The arm’s doing a lot better, so I think it’ s time to graduate to something more complicated and retire this “pop culture vehicle” series. It feels appropriate to bring the series full circle back to cars. Interestingly, it seems that our infatuation with cars somehow came to a close with the 1980s. What happened?
Personally, I think the cultural shift might be traced to the lack of individualism in modern cars. Starting in the 1990s the design paradigm shifted towards sleek, rounded sameness. No sharp edges, no distinguishing characteristics of any kind. Is it a Nissan Sentra? A Toyota Corolla? Honda Accord? A Camry? Sonata? Without a logo most people would be hard pressed to pick any of them out of a lineup. And the high end cars dispensed with descriptive names altogether, and just went with a random assortment of letters and numbers. “A8L”? “XF”? “Q40”? “528i”? “S600”? These hardly match the evocative names of yesterday’s “Challengers” and “Stingrays”.
On the big screen it’s a tough sell symbolizing stoic individualism, when the hero arrives in a car so unmemorably interchangeable that they have to pull it right up to the camera so the audience can see the logo up close.
Maybe we’ve moved on from the symbolism. A character no longer needs a horse or a car or a helicopter as a stand-in for his innate prowess. The Jason Bourne’s of the world can excel driving anything, even a clunker mini. The Fast and Furious can just build their own cars to spec, then crash them without concern, because they can just go build another. Maybe we’ve just externalized what cars represented and grafted it onto the characters directly.
Or maybe modern cars are just really boring.