Friday, July 21, 2017

"Cars 3 - A (Seemingly Unhelpful) Lesson Learned (But What Do I know?)"

I don’t know if I ever saw (what turned out to be) Cars 1; it was a couple of Cars ago and the experience, if there was one, is now lost to my memory.  But I saw Cars 3, along with step-grandchildren Milo and Jack and their parents, who generously invited me to join them. 

And when I did, the usual two things happened in my head.

First, because I’m me, I restructured the first and second acts of the movie, particularly the first act which, for me, was a mess, leaving the third act virtually untouched because now that it was set it up properly, it worked more organically as a payoff.  I don’t know if other retired people second-guess their successors.

RETIRED AIRLINE PILOT:  “I’d have flown lower.”

RETIRED CHEF:  “What?  No oregano?”

RETIRED STREET WALKER:  “Why is she walking that street?”

I rewrite movies in my head, thinking, “If they’d only consulted me.”  Oh, well.  They’ll just have to gross three hundred million “domestic” without me.

The second thing that crosses me mind when I attend kids movies is,

“Why are they teaching kids these lessons?  And by “these” I mean lessons that, when they grow up, will be marginally, if at all, applicable to their everyday lives.”

Do other cultures do that in their chidren’s storytelling? 


“Alfie and Millicent learned that day that no good comes to anyone who drinks tea.”


“Viggo and Freja learned that being blond has nothing to do with being Swedish.”


“Though he had successfully made Boris student council president, Vladimir learned it was wrong to meddle in duly authorized elections.”

I do not believe they do things like that anywhere else – children’s stories teaching morals inconsistent with their future experience.  Can you imagine

Useless:  An Anthology of Children’s Fairy Tales Teaching the Exact Opposite Lessons To What They Will Experience Later In Life”?

I do not see that as a “Best Seller” in children’s literature anywhere in the world.

The Inuit children’s classic:

“Would You Want To Pull That Sled?”

Cars 3 – “Spoiler Alert!” – resolves when the lead character puts someone else’s hopes and dreams ahead of their own.  In other words, “Sacrifice.”

Do you see a lot of sacrificing in the American free market economic system? 

I don’t. 

I do not recall much sacrificing in my personal career trajectory at all. 

Or any even.

How about the other lessons regularly taught in children’s animated features?

“Be Yourself”

(Even if it turns out being yourself means nobody likes you and imminent failure in every possible personal endeavor.)

“Dare To Dream”

(Dismissing all strategies for supporting yourself while pursuing that dream, winding up living in your parents’ basement, next to the furnace.)


(Only to find out your “teammates” decided to goof off instead of their doing assigned parts and your completed project is due in the morning and they are going to blame you that it isn’t.)

To name only three. 

The capitalist motto appears to be:  “Go For Yourself!”  (Because, as they rationalize in the musical Li’l Abner:  “What’s good for General MotorsRead:  Me – is good for the USA.”   Read:  Everyone else. 

Why not make children’s animated features more consistent with how things actually are? 

“Logan succeeds spectacularly, grinding his adversaries into the dust, ruthless self-interest triumphantly carrying the day.”

(With appropriate “Action Figure” tie-ins at McDonalds.)

That sounds about right, doesn’t it? 

Why not make a movie about that?

At least kids won’t grow up and go, “What!?!

I don’t know, maybe parents want to protect their children from the harsher realities of life.  Maybe they’d like to believe that the next generation, fed uplifting storylines, will be different.  (Though that has yet to work so far.)

Or maybe fantasy just sells better than reality.  And promoting these inaccurate messages is just the smart, box office-maximizing maneuver.

It just seems odd to me, showing kids a world that exists only in movies.

Does it seem odd to you?

Or am I just a cynical idiot?

I honestly can’t tell.

I guess I’m too close.

1 comment:

JED said...

I saw the movie from a different perspective. To me, Lightning McQueen didn't so much give up his dream as face the reality that new competitors were using new training methods that meant he had to change in order to compete. He couldn't adapt. He could either continue on and possibly lose or he could mentor someone else who had a chance at competing with the newcomers. I find this refreshing. As older folks, we can continue to hold onto our place by going to extrordinary lengths to keep what we have or we can give of ourselves and help younger people learn from what we've done.

I find too many older people acting like younger people are just their servants. Older people sometimes feel that if they help someone else, they are giving up the one advantage they have - their experience. But by teaching, mentoring or even just encouraging the younger generation, we can be part of something greater than ourselves.

Yes, this isn't the way the world seems to work. It's every man (and woman) for themselves. I see this every day. I like to go to a movie to forget the real world for a while and dream about the way it could be. I liked this movie and I liked the first one. The second one wasn't nearly as good.