Oscar Zambuto shows that in the realm of Cars, terror is a highway, and eldritch abominations ride it all night long.
At the time of writing, we are nearly halfway through an already frantic semester two, and I must say, I am losing sleep. Over what, you may ask? Never-ending political unrest and scandal? Living through one of the deadliest and most devastating economic crises of all time? The thought of having to turn up to yet another Zoom tutorial at 9am? The answer is, perhaps surprisingly, none of these. Instead, my insomnia which no number of Headspace Sleepcasts can cure, is caused by the nonsensical nature of the universe created by the 2006 Disney-Pixar smash hit, Cars. In a world where uncertainty is rife, Lightning McQueen and his stupid friends do little to assist. The franchise, which includes the much-maligned sequels of 2011 and 2017, throws up more questions than answers about biology, law, history, automotive intercourse, and the place of humans in the universe. Behold, a series of questions and observations which keep me up at night:
- In the Cars universe, it is shown multiple times that buses and taxis exist. However, the question must be asked – why? Whom are they transporting? Other cars, who can transport themselves? It is an undisputed point that humans do not exist in the Cars universe, so this renders sentient public transport completely redundant and utterly absurd. However, I propose that the public transport seen in the films are in fact relics from a time where humans once existed in the Cars universe, and what we are seeing on screen is in fact a post-apocalyptic world where cars have somehow acquired human sentience. Perhaps a 4th year engineering student got a bit too lonely on a Friday night and thought his Mum’s Mazda Demio was looking mighty fine.
- In Cars 2, the viewer is confronted with a religious conundrum. In one scene, we see the Car Pope in a procession, surrounded by adoring fans. Of course, any reasonable child watching at this point would think, “hang on a minute, surely the existence of a Car Pope implies Car Catholicism, and therefore Car Jesus?” Is there a suggestion of the two-tonne Car Jesus still being crucified on a wooden cross? Theologians, answer this question: did Honda Civic Jesus die for our sins, or our treads? Indeed, one may then ask, “what car would Jesus have been over 2000 years ago when the first combustion-powered car was built in 1876? Would he have been a horse-drawn carriage?” And, indeed, why does the Pope need to be transported in the Popemobile if the Pope himself is a car?
- In a similar vein, in the first film we are introduced to World War II veteran, Sarge. Now, if there was a World War II in the Cars universe, of course, any right-thinking person would infer the existence of Car Hitler and Car Stalin. Does the existence of Planes allow for the Japanese Empire’s kamikaze pilots in-universe? Did Car Hitler commit the same atrocities and crimes against car-manity? Also, what does a war fought by cars even look like? A demolition derby?
- Biologically, the Cars universe makes no sense. How does reproduction work? Obviously, I have already hypothesised about the origin of automotive sentience, but how does a car come to be without a human agent? Why do they have teeth if they don’t eat? If they have tongues and eyes, this implies the presence of all other organs in the cars’ interiors. This begs the question, when Lightning McQueen gets a new paint job at the end of the first film, is this akin to getting a tattoo, or getting a new skin? Which appendage determines the biological sex of each car? Is getting a tyre change the equivalent of a limb transplant, or potentially even a temporary amputation? I think, if I’m honest, I’ve overthought this one. Perhaps tyres are just shoes, and a car’s paint job is just its outfit… but, if this is the case, when Lightning McQueen has to finish the race at the start of the first film with only three tyres, wouldn’t this be extraordinarily painful since he’s scraping the equivalent of his bare foot against asphalt at 250km/h?
- Next, I would like to consider the sports industry and legal frameworks of the Cars universe. In the first film, Lightning McQueen is brought to trial in a Car Court. Of course, the existence of an automotive judiciary implies the presence of an automotive legislature – a carliament of sorts. While we know nothing of car law outside of the Radiator Springs jurisdiction, this question remains unanswered. In terms of sports, Lightning McQueen is a professional race-car driver, right? WRONG. He is actually an endurance runner, as racing must be considered as the automotive equivalent of athletics. In line with this assessment, and returning to my first point about the assumption of human sentience, I also propose that Lightning McQueen’s signature lightning bolt decal suggests that McQueen has acquired the life force of 20-time Olympic gold-medallist Usain Bolt. Ka-chow.
In conclusion, there remains a multitude of unanswered questions surrounding the absurdities of the Cars universe, but sometimes questions are better left unanswered. Does Lightning McQueen have a car insurance policy, or a life insurance policy? Does it even matter? Overall, it has been a carthartic experience expelling all of these thoughts, and hopefully I will be able to sleep at night without wondering if Lightning McQueen has a penis.