Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Extract from WIP.

The Car's the Star

If the cars of the Seventies are “all too human” the Eighties introduces a larger-than-life substitute, a “muscle” car, a car on steroids, cartoonishly outsize and a huge hit with the kids, spawner of a new set of marketing fads and products, “Monster Trucks”. The truck in question being Bigfoot.

From supporting roles in a host of B-Movies Bigfoot eventually becomes a star in his own right (rather like Arnold himself), the main attraction at a series of monster truck spectaculars, the centrepiece of which is invariably Bigfoot bouncing destructively over a set of “normal” cars, relics of the Fordist past.

This destruction is different from the egalitarian pile ups and car-quakes of the Seventies, or even from the menacing vision of Spielberg’s Duel, here technology is again domesticated, rendered not as severe or sublime but anthropomorphized as a character, “Bigfoot”, a mythological or fantastic creature, again we have both domestication and disneyfication, The grand pre-mediating potlatch of the 70s destructo-thons gives way to the celebration of power and gigantism in the revitalized, supersize Eighties. If the Seventies is a time without ideas, an era of drift and destruction from which no form of rebirth seems to be promised Bigfoot helps to symbolize that missing future, the loss of America’s supremacy as a a car manufacturer, the intimate link between the health of the car-economy and the country itself, “what’s good for General Motors is good for America”, is repositioned as pure spectacle. Bigfoot has no practical value as a product (though arguably it paves the way for more consumer-oriented gigantism and heft later with Hummer’s etc).

 The audience roars in delight as Bigfoot crushes dilapidated Fords and Chryslers. This is a perverse power, a power that can not create, an empty symbol whose only appeal is its power to destroy. In Bigfoot something of the militarization of the US economy is anticipated, or at least the unabashed militarization to come, after the humiliation of Vietnam and the quiescent Seventies, in which America can’t even get its act together to rescue the hostages in Iran.

The Japanese, the Germans may have hugely productive, modern and scientificlaly managed car industries that have driven ours into the ground, but see Bigfoot! A truck with supermassive wheels! A post-industrial Behemoth, putting on shows of strength and turning tricks in the family-friendly stadium of your dreams!

1 comment:

bobsy said...

Don't forget the King of the Mechs, that Avatar of Atavism: Robosaurus Rex (http://www.robosaurus.com/)! A too-literal embodiment of the extinction fears lurking behind America's love affair with the car and its supporting petrochemical side-products. RoboRex is still quite the fixture on the circuit, as far as I know.

I went to a Monster Truck rally in Connecticut in the early 90s. They had a motorbike with a jet engine welded to the back, which could break the sound barrier. The childlike simplicity of vision required to conceive and produce such an object (Motorbike + Massive Fucking Engine = Good Times) still strikes me as the best illustration of the difference between America and Elsewhere.

After it had returned to sub-sonic velocity, they switched the bike's engine to 'shoot fire' mode and torched a car, just, I think, for the fuck of it. Monster Truck rallies are an interesting lesson in I'm-not-sure-what, worth attending if only to hear a few bars of 'Rock & Roll Pt.2' on a massive PA.