Kid Movies, Adult Thoughts: The Cars (and Planes too, I guess) franchise

I understand that there is a spectrum of reality when it comes to children’s animated films that runs the gambit with completely realistic on one end and completely fantastic on the other. The Cars franchise is definitely one of the later, what with the talking cars and what not. My son loves Mater (and, to a large but lesser extent, Lightning McQueen) and so I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve seen Cars.

But I don’t get it. I don’t get the cars themselves.

What aspect of the car makes the car the individual?

So, here’s the thing: we know cars have eyes. They have teeth and tongues. They use wheels as wheels and wheels as feet (like when Mater is sneaking up on the tractors in the first movie). Cars have control over their other anatomy (Mater’s hook, Finn’s gadgets). But yet that anatomy can get completely swapped out and changed. Tires are destroyed and Luigi sells new ones so tires, I’d argue, aren’t really part of the car that makes it the individual. Is it the body? It could be since cars register being hurt when their body is damaged and McQueen has to go in to “surgery” to have head lights installed in Cars 2 but then there’s Sir Miles Axelrod whose body (and one would assume the frame underneath) has been completely changed so that’s not it. And if engine parts can be swapped out (such as with Axelrod) that would imply that there’s some other part or aspect of the car that makes it the individual.

Or maybe it’s more like Toy Story. Maybe there’s a fleet of Lightning McQueens, rolling off of the manufacturing lines.

And how are cars “born”? Spare parts are made, so does that mean cars are assembled? What point do they turn on and become sentient? Who or what designed the first car? Would an Autozone be one of the most morbid places ever, full of body parts just hanging and lying around like an automobile butcher shop?

Or maybe it’s just a kids movie designed to sell merch and I shouldn’t put so much thought into it.

I tell you, it’s things like this that keep me up at night. That and video games.

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3 Responses to Kid Movies, Adult Thoughts: The Cars (and Planes too, I guess) franchise

  1. It’s the Ship of Theseus problem. More directly, the cells that make up “you” are not the cells that made up “you” ten years ago, yet most people (Buddhists notwithstanding) would undoubtedly argue that you are not the same person. It’s generally what leads people to believe in the existence of a soul.

  2. jfrieden says:

    You’re thought process is completely normal to me. I think the same things. You’re asking the questions that have plagued philosophers since Ancient Greece. To a certain extent, we humans swap out body parts and each becomes “the new me.” So, where does our identity lay?

    Is it like Nietzsche said? Are we the sum of our parts? Is there an “innermost” me directing this meat sack (like in Men in Black, the first one)?

    I think one of my first thoughts was “Who is the car maker?” All the characters are manufactured (because they are cars), but where did they come from? But that’s probably not where you were going with it.

    Just know that you are not alone in your musings. The trick is not to let them keep you up at night.

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