I have three kids. Boys, aged 12,11 and 8. They like a whole bunch of stuff. I’m not sure they have thought of their futures beyond what might be for dinner this evening and it would be nice if they had something resembling a plan or a dream. The middle boy is the wildest boy. He can draw. Maybe he’ll take that ability and combine it with his satirical sense of humor and push-the-boundaries personality and become a graphic designer. Or a car designer.
Running this idea by him brought a flat response. Nah. Someone has already designed cars. What about the supercars? I push him. There’s only so fast they can go and no-one wants a design that doesn’t end up making it faster. It’s just so limited.
Arguing with an 11 year old boy is fruitless. I save my energy for the battles that count, like reasons he can’t keep a lizard he caught in the yard in his bedroom, or 10 reasons why we wash underwear between wears, or yes, we do actually monitor what you look at on your phone, and yes we are going to be discussing this now.
But what if I got him to design a movie car? A movie car is not a real car. It is not limited by reality or legality or physics or the rules of space and time. A movie car can be the hero, the villain, the savior of the world. It moves through alternative realities. Nothing restricts it, nothing defines it, nothing is too much or too little, too fancy or too rough.
For a movie car to be all it can be, it has to be impossible.
There is no real car that has oil dispensers (if oil is coming out your car it is broken - fix it), wheel slasher hubs, tear gas dispensers and ejection seats, but we all spent out childhoods believing that when the Bat Mobile came everything was going to be alright.
If a DeLorean DMC-12 drove down the street (unlikely, I know, its all rare and I get that) I’m not sure my kids would turn their heads. But my husband would drop his jaw. Because of its modern sleek design, its cutting edge aerodynamics or to marvel at the boxy squareness of the headlights? Of course not. Purely because that car makes him believe that maybe just maybe time travel might just happen and he is thrown back to his childhood self when that car defied everything he knew about what could or could not be.
Owners of the VW Beetles name their cars. These are sane humans. They really do know that their cars can’t talk in the real world. And yet…
Perhaps the movies that most encapsulate my point are Bond films which feature the sleekest, fastest, most elegant cars. Always. The cars themselves should be worthy of comment. The cars themselves are the ones we aspire to owning. One day. But the movies take them beyond being cars. The movies make them dangerous, the movies make them impossible. Without poison darts, and the ability to turn into a plane, and hubcap lasers, and built in air missiles, and invisibility powers, the cars would simply be a snapshot of a fancy parking lot. A really, really fancy parking lot, but all the same one full of just cars.
So what makes a great movie car? One that defies everything.
And I think I might be able to convince my kid that is cool enough to warrant his attention.