Thursday, June 23, 2011
Cars: An Examination of a Dystopian Society
Cars is the most disturbing movie Pixar has ever made, maybe one of the most disturbing movies ever made, especially for one aimed at kids. It is a society based on the degradation, humiliation, and abuse of others for the benefit of an elite few, with the only hope to escape your position is to accept exile into an equally stratified and abusive society. This may be the most dystopian movie ever made.
Cars exists in a strict caste society where the position you are born into determines your entire life and eventual death. The only choice you have is to live your life as an exile, a pariah, living on the edges of society, by rejecting your caste. But that is still no protection, as those who were of higher caste before accepting exile are now afforded leadership and power in the pariah power structure.
The society of Cars revolves around racing. Race cars are both gladiators and kings. They sacrifice their bodies for the crowd and reap the rewards; money, female companionship (there are no female identified race cars), and fame.
Those who are not race cars, but want to be part of the spectacle are servants. In many cases they must sacrifice their own pride and safety in the service of the race cars. They allow themselves to be physically violated (Mack and the various other transports) for the comfort of race cars, and act with irrational fear when they fail in their duty to their masters, fear that can only be explained from frequent physical and emotional abuse. Knowing that their regular duties include allowing themselves to be violated in the most grotesque ways, it is disturbing to imagine the kinds of abuses that would be leveled upon them to cause this kind of reaction to failure. The fact that they are not numb to any sensation is a testament to the skill with which they are abused and the escalating levels of horror that they must live through.
Their treatment of the mentally inferior shows an even more degrading society. All vehicles are shown to be intelligent and sentient. The Tractors; who either through mental retardation, defect, or a lack of educational opportunities or abuse, are left to fend for themselves in open fields and are treated like livestock, despite the fact that there is no need for them to be consumed for sustenance. This is done so that society can forget about them. Lightning McQueen’s (of the race car caste) reaction to them is one of having no experience with this part of his society. The tractors are of such low social caste that the pariah community of Radiator Springs abuses them for entertainment.
As pointed out, a stratified social structure exists in the pariah community as well. Radiator Springs is ruled by Doc Hudson, a former race car who due to accident can no longer perform. The second highest ranked citizen is Sally Carrera, a sports car lawyer who rejected her, what would be middle, position in regular society for leadership among the pariahs. Their rule is enforced by an antique police car. Mater (tow truck) and Guido (forklift) are forced into servant positions within the pariah society, much like they would see in regular society.
The society of Cars is depressing, degrading, and abusive. The only hope any of these people have would be for a military uprising, but that would simply be replacing the race car ruled hegemony for a military dictatorship that the people would then hope was benign. But history has shown that military dictatorships are rarely kind to the people they rule over.
(Disney/Pixar own the copyrights and all that. Image linked from www.allpicturesmedia)