Our present cars in UK are animist in their design and anamorphic in so far as their designers attempt to appeal to buyers by trying for a sense of momentum living within in the very shapes of their cars.
Almost all newly designed car models are designed pretty much after this fashion. The standard approach of a car designer of today appears to be his/her attempt to sell the car model by way of simple and almost infantile tricks, tricks founded on a reductive psychology concerning buyers. The sad thing is that this reductive psychology works; and lots of people buy the cars they buy because the looks of their cars fulfil some pretty reductive and infantile passions in their lives.
I sound pretty scathing – more than I want to be I think – though any other way of putting what I mean would involve me using euphemistic language and perhaps varnishing over the truth of the matter more than should be done.
There are eight various models of car illustrated above here – all currently to be seen on British roads; a bunch of eight pretty typical of the prevalent style, and of the prevalent psychic perceptions of themselves which their drivers of them picture as their own self-images.
There was a guy – who is now in prison – used to draw on a board shapes for kids which gradually turned into drawings of animals – and his catch-phrase was “Can you see what it is yet?” We’re pretty well here with current car designs aren’t we?
As animist forms our cars look like reptiles. The slitted elongated eye-like front and back lights, the low and almost creeping profile, with most often the front of the car lower than the back along the ground, thus an animal stooping, crouching, ready to spring and catch its dinner? And definitely a carnivore
The slitted lights are usually LED points like perforations of light – they light up all day and never go off since it seems the fashion to want to be sure to be seen on the road even in perfect daylight. (I have often considered the pollutative aspect of permanently lit car lights day and night. The energy to keep them glowing of course comes at root from the petrol diesel or electricity – their fuels. This fuel has to come from fossil fuels – mostly for electric cars still also – and of course no-one seems to count it as extravagant wastage, conspicuous consumption.)
These perforations of light are brilliant because LED and even in daylight; they are like ‘Here I am’ statements – not in regard to Health and Safety rather in regard to the bullish and assertive/aggressive designed car which the driver has been seduced into opting for in design. These cars then crouch and poise themselves like animals, reptiles, waiting for that moment to pounce and make a kill. The lights, slits, are also emblems of high-concentration in that animal, the intense reptile ready in a demi-second to catch that prey. And this scenario appeals – just as a sweetshop filled with transparent glass jars of sweets thrills that scruffy boy or that pouting little girl whose noses press hard at the window looking in.
So what one imagines with some puzzlement goes on in the heads of these guys and dolls driving round in animistic reptilian ready to strike shaped cars? Their light are on 24/7 but perhaps more than three-quarters of them refuse to use their indicator lights when making turns – and this is evidence to me – either of their careless thinking allowing this contradiction or else that the lights are on 24/7 on the road for some other reason than mere safety – or both these things. It’s about printing a presence, a persona on the road for others around you to pick up and to recognise – either with respect, comradeship or, aghast with puzzled wonder. This signalling they are happy, even avid to use and to make; because this signalling imprints whom you are (or rather whom consider yourself to be) in the world. Having the good manners to give another person some clear indication which way you intend to turn – well – that’s just not on – is it?
My wife for years has driven what show themselves to many people to be ‘pedestrian’ vehicles as regards their design; cars which are small, low cost to buy and to run on the road, the sort of car which when one is at a junction anyone with any self-respect (for self respect read ‘enslavement to a supposed public image of themselves’) will draw up beside you and without qualm happily block your view of oncoming traffic so that they are able draw out before you; and so are able to and thus put such ‘pedestrian’ drivers as my wife in their (presumed) place.
This might sound petty and sour – it’s not mean to be so – it’s meant to illustrate how the designs one chooses for oneself, in cars and elsewhere, not only appeal to your sense of who you are but to your sense of whom you want to be also, and so they feed the flame of fantasy and drive one further and further towards and into that commercial dreamworld posited by, and products built around this dreamworld by, the corporate manufacturers and sellers of cars and nearly all goods and services. I have little doubt not a shred that the designers and corporations put millions of currency into research which results in these shapes and designs, and that this happens similarly for goods and services across the spectrum of mass branded consumerism and its satellite hangers-on. I am sure these guys know exactly what they are doing, what they are offering subliminally to their valued customers, whom they pick apart as being sets of desires, dreams and motivations, so as to sell their stuff by using the resultant Lowest Common Denominators.
Car designs here now are what might be called ‘chunky’; designs doing all that they can with art and perspective so as to makeover cars to look like they are substantial in build and solid in construction. Every stop is pulled out to make a fairly thin sheet metal panelling enclosing the driver and passengers looking like it is much more strong, resistant to collisions, tough, stocky, in short a car far more than a thin metal cover on a chassis. It’s the art of trompe l’oile, the idea being to deceive reason and common sense – it goes along with high gloss shininesses finishes for cars so that the curves glisten and the panels gleam – all that glitters is not gold.
How often is this the case generally in consumer society, and for many, many products? You’ve hankered and saved even – though everyone savvy buys on credit these days (joke) –and that item you’ve seen pushed on the ads for years is yours now and you take it home and the flimsiness or the skimping on, and the corners cut and the inflated spec and the lack of extras and so on hits you like sordid disappointment.
Unless you are truly savvy and also pretty rich and so buy an expensive top of the range item, even then it can be gutting sometimes, otherwise again and again you’re hit by this level of cynical overstatement and craftiness bordering on a crime, and certainly perhaps a moral one, when you buy a desired object.
Cars are no different. People give names to their cars, some love their cars, and can be seen at the car wash – sometimes rarely with a shammy and bucket – out there lovingly attending to it. Some are jealous of them and proud and see then as direct extensions of their own selves their own proud egos. For many, men especially but let’s give women their rights too, their car is a status symbol and pronounces to the world your status and your depth of pocket. Thus you see parked in shabby house drives or at their kerbs, with front gardens filled with old fridges and a year’s worth of recyclable rubbish, rotting fast foods in their wrappers, you see a Jaguar or a Mercedes, a big one, often quite new, sad, sad, sad.
Our car designs affect how we drive. A car is able to fulfil a person’s image of themselves, how they would like to be and this psychology eggs on the driver whose car punches above his own weight and so on – s/he might fulfil a dream at the cost of an accident or injury – God forbid – but it happens. Another consequence is that so many people both in and out of cars won’t wait anymore; and also won’t walk anymore. Now, now, now, is the constant niggle in the mind, the lights are preventing you going, and you fume, sometimes rev, sometimes get restless – and then you’ve got a bug in your brain driving you mad so that you’ve just got to get by on the inside lane or at the next roundabout; and so ‘take him – or her’ and then onto the next guy or girl ahead, jumping like a chequers game step by step to what? to the next set of lights or the next jam at the big junction ahead.
Guys and girls young and able bodied sit in the midst of the road and parp their horns rather than drive up the road and park and walk back and knock on their friends or their caller’s door – sat obliviously happy to add to the noise of sirens blaring on the half hour when police and fire and ambulances are rushing through streets against the clock against the dreadful inertia of crawling town traffic flows.
Again how much pollution and unnecessary burning of fuels is used in traffic delays – every day delays of a tall magnitude are the signature of life in British cities. Few turn of their engines. Daily a journey as the crow flies ten minutes drags out to an hour; too many cars, not enough pedestrians, sets of road works that seem to have been planned in Byzantium, all in a day’s work.
The terrible thing, like the designs of cars, which are direct sales pitches at the suppressed fantasies engendered by having watched too many superhero movies, the chronic and acute problems of civic life; from litter pollution and insufficient recycling of wastes, and from air pollution and traffic problems, noise and unwillingness to walk; all are considered only as personal niggles by we people here in the UK, as they affect just each of us as private individuals. There’s no civic popular drive or community of agreement on action against any of these things. As far as each of us goes we all have the fly-tipper mentality about these problems when it comes to concerted public actions to alleviate them.
I can’t help think it’s not just the atomisation of our society to blame here (besides we each and together are wholly to blame) it is as much or more that ennui, that dreadful listless apathy about ‘things in general’ which are the fruits of our half-century or more love affair with ‘living without rules and regulations’. We aborted all rules for modulation and shaping for collective social action or our personal particular proclivities and predilections. We’ve seen so many snappy movie heroes buck the trends of society and come out smelling of roses; so many James Bonds and Jason Stathams causing mayhem in order to win Congressional Medals of Honour; we now believe we each have a right and an inborn claim to do as we please and devil take the hindmost. This is because there’s no good reason to conserve things, to look after our own wastes and the planet, all that holy stuff went flushed away decades back now.
We’ve had the binge, the party is getting messy and maybe coming to a close but were all still too drunken and knackered to get up off our arses and put the house back in order. And we expect someone else, the guy next to us, to do it, who thinks you ought to do it.
A great binge and it’s ruined us physically, mentally. Now we just choose a car on the basis of how dandy we’ll look riding round in it. Never mind if it hasn’t got an engine, it looks great – and anyway I don’t expect to be going anywhere but downhill from here on!!