hello yes stay tuned for my thesis paper titled, “Anthropomorphism in Cartoons and the Fetishization of Vehicles Through The Ages” in which I examine the evolution of anthropomorphic cars from Herbie to Pixar’s Cars and from Transformers to Dinotrux, and how human characteristics and sex appeal is shown through these very clearly non-human entities and what that means to us as a species
Birthday painting for @thesunsetempire depicting them as an otter, based on a photo I took during our July 4th trip to the Nevada State Railroad Museum. The knife-edge nose, brass porthole windows, and art-noveau vector art of this McKeen Motor Car provided a regal experience for passengers, though the finicky and unreliable mechanical setup doomed the McKeens to an early scrapping, their duties passed pack to more conventional passenger trains hauled by steam locomotives within a few years.
If you would like to order a painting in this style, I am currently
open for commissions of portraiture, landscapes, critters, and
Unless you’ve been marooned in a different dimension all this
week, you’ll have heard about the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor.
The ripples of outrage among certain groups; the cries of triumph among others.
It sparked a discussion on Twitter, which escalated gradually into a heated
debate about male and female role models, during which a group of (mostly) men
asked me repeatedly why girls couldn’t be satisfied with Wonder Woman, Cagney
& Lacey, Minnie Mouse and Miss Marple, rather than trying to muscle in on
the Dr Who clubhouse.
Well, it’s a fair question. Why do we need specifically female role models? My daughter spent
her childhood playing at Harry Potter, wearing my old academic gown, liberally
splashed with fake blood. I myself spent much of my own childhood pretending to
be Kwai Chang Caine, or the Doctor (mine was Jon Pertwee), or Marine Boy, or
the Six Million Dollar Man. It never occurred to either of us to feel that we were
missing out on heroes of our own gender. But here’s the thing. Over the centuries,
girls have become used to the fact that most of their favourite heroes are male.
As a child, I wanted to be a boy, because boys seemed to get all the best parts
in the stories I liked to read. My daughter was the same; after all, who wouldn’t
rather be Harry than Ginny or Hermione?
Boys have no such problem. Even now, children of both sexes tend
to assume that the lead role in any story will be taken by a boy. Boys have
twelve Doctors of their own gender, but still manage to feel threatened when
girls claim just one for themselves. Boys have hundreds of superheroes;
detectives, action heroes, spies, wizards, knights and cool villains. And yes,
girls do have those things too, but in far smaller numbers, and with the
unspoken assumption that female heroes are somehow less interesting to boys than
they would be to girls. Girls are happy to dress up as characters of both genders, from
Captain America to James Bond, but how many little boys would dare to dress up
as Wonder Woman?
Let’s face it: most little boys (with the help of the toy and
game industry) find it easier to identify with a cartoon dog, or a robot, or an
anthropomorphic car, or a two-headed alien, or a villain who wants to blow up
the world than a female human being. Why? Because they’ve been taught from the
earliest age that behaving like a girl
is the most shameful thing a boy can do. If a boy cries, he’s being a girl. If he shows vulnerability,
he’s being a girl. If he’s afraid, he’s being a girl. No boy wants to run like a girl, it means not being able
to run properly. Same with fighting like
a girl: it means not knowing how to fight. And by dint of being told that being like a girl means being silly, and
weak, and afraid, those boys will grow up into men who look down on women, and who
find it impossible to believe that a woman could be their equal in any way.
And yet, you could argue that this is precisely why little
boys need female role models. Boys need female role models to teach them how to
identify with women, rather than just
see them in terms of attractiveness or unattractiveness. And there’s no reason that
a boy shouldn’t be able to identify
with a female character as easily as a male one – as long as that character displays
qualities to aspire to.
Which brings us to the crux of the thing. What qualities
make a hero?
Opinions differ, but most agree that courage is essential. And
courage comes in many forms, none of which are restricted to a single gender.
One man on Twitter, sneering at the thought that women could ever show real heroism, implied that giving birth
was the closest a woman could get. Well, childbirth is certainly painful and
hard, especially in those parts of the world in which women are more likely to
die in childbirth than from any other cause; where women are forced into
marriages at the age of twelve or thirteen, and forced to give birth time and time
again. Yes, that takes courage. And so does enduring rape, or FGM, or war, or
displacement, or the kind of oppression forced upon women in countries all
around the world. But courage and heroism aren’t the same thing. The courage of
the oppressed and downtrodden, though real, is not a courage young boys are
encouraged to aspire to. It’s a passive kind of courage, a courage based on
endurance, rather than action. And to dwell upon the courage of oppressed women
is to feed into a narrative that says: women
are weak, women are helpless, women need the protection of men. In short,
it’s a narrative that casts the men as heroes, and the women as those in need
of rescuing. Casting women as heroes challenges that narrative. It suggests
that, in some cases, at least, women can be their own saviours – or even save men from oppression, instead
of it being the other way round.
But the idea that courage, like Lego, comes in two colours –
the passive, “feminine” courage of childbirth and bringing up kids on a
shoestring, and the active, “masculine” heroism of going to war, driving
fighter planes or risking your life working with power cables – is ultimately toxic,
feeding the idea that men and women’s bodies and minds are radically different.
They’re not: and courage, like human beings, is a complex and personal thing, spanning
a whole spectrum of colours. Here are just a few of them, challenging the
narratives of what makes a woman and what makes a man, but all of them showing
The all-women Kurdish groups of soldiers fighting ISIS
The Nigerian girls, risking their lives to go to school in
defiance of Boko Haram
Those who challenge the stigma of mental illness
Those who come out as gay or trans
Those who find the courage to leave their abusive partners
Those who stand up for their beliefs in the face of their
Those who fight for justice against brutal or oppressive
Those who fight to overcome fear, anxiety or depression
The aid workers and peacemakers who risk their lives in war zones
But action isn’t the only way to show courage. It is also:
That time you thought you couldn’t go on, but did
That time you stood up for yourself when you didn’t know you
That time you intervened when someone was bullying somebody
That time you faced your deepest fear
That time you dared to be yourself
That time you were brave enough to apologize, or admit you
All the times you kept going in the face of failure
All those times, whatever your gender, you were a hero. Remember that. You were a fucking hero.
Let’s see, I was 11 when Cars first came out. I didn’t get to watch it before it came out on DVD, but when I did, hoooo boy did I watch it every. single. day. I loved it from the beginning. And at that age, you know kids are super impressionable. I felt so connected to the characters, and the more I learned about the American car culture, the more I appreciated the little details in the movie that perfectly paralleled real world automotive culture. I would spend hours watching the Barrett-Jackson auctions on TV, practically drooling over all the pristine classics. I grew to love the muscle cars of the late 60s and early 70s more and more (especially the Mopars). I knew I had to get closer to the culture instead of just viewing it through a screen. I started asking to go to car shows, which my parents agreed to, as they’ve always been car people. The Carl Casper Custom Auto Show was always the closest to where I lived, so I went to several of those and met a lot of really great, friendly people that were just as passionate about automotive culture as I was and still am. I had to be a part of this.
Fast forward 3 or 4 years. I think I was 14 (15 maybe?). I had the opportunity to invest in a car. Some dude wanted to sell his 1986 Pontiac Fiero for $300. I’d previously taken apart an old motorcycle and sold the parts on eBay, so I had the money. The car didn’t run when I got it, and it had water damage. Pretty rough. After a month or so of working on it in the dead of a Midwestern winter, my dad and I got it running. And it was fast. It had the 6 cylinder engine, which was hella impressive for a two-seater fiberglass-bodied car. Too fast for little ol me, according to dad. So I sold it and made a profit. I began looking for something else.
A year later, I was able to buy a reliable Ford Escort for $300. Nothing fancy, but I was able to complete my driver’s ed training in it. A fun little car, but again, nothing special. And I needed something that was gonna set me apart and exclaim to the world that I was a car enthusiast and belonged with the culture.
In the beginning of the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school, my prayers had been answered. It wasn’t a muscle car, it wasn’t even a Mopar. It was an old rusted 1983 Chevy pickup truck. The fenders were pretty far gone, but mechanically, it was in pretty good shape. I spent 3 months in my garage with my dad’s assistance replacing rusted panels, installing a new carburetor (the old one had the butterflies being held open by a paperclip – not the best of solutions), adjusting the timing, and doing more body work.
I was having bouts of depression along this same time, so it helped a lot to get out of bed and have something to do, and keep my mind occupied as I fought against it. I would talk to this truck, sing it songs, just anything to feel like someone cared and knew what I was going through. It became more than a project, my Scotty became a friend (he’s a Scottsdale, get it?). A place I could go to and get away from the things I needed to run from.
Here’s what it looked like at the beginning of all this (I can’t find the picture before I stripped the grill and trim off) -
Three months. Midwestern summertime (90+ degrees and humidity you can practically swim in). I was a 16 year old girl who wanted nothing more than to have something of her own to be proud of. I was still watching Cars nearly every night (trying to hide it from my parents because I didn’t want them to know I was/am so obsessed with it) and still noticing new details I’d never noticed before. Every day I’d go work on this truck. For 3 months.
Piece by piece it came together. Every day he looked a little better. And every day I would feel better. There would be relapses occasionally, where I just couldn’t bring myself to go outside, but every time I was able to pull through. Because he was there, and he was my purpose.
And, boy let me tell you, was all that work worth it. This was the finished product, and I have never been more proud of anything.
Yep, that’s the same truck. No professional help whatsoever. You should have seen the look on the boys’ faces when I pulled up to school in this! I finally had my classic truck. It might not be a 60s or 70s classic, but it was mine and mine alone.
I didn’t beat the depression for another 3 years or so, but Scotty was right there with me the whole time. And maybe it’s weird to find solace in an inanimate object, I don’t know. Occasionally he’d bust a line or something, and I’d have to fix that piece of him, and occasionally I’d have a break down and choose to go for a drive to try and feel better. He never let me down when I needed him most. And he looked good doing it.
Throughout all of this, I learned a lot.
- First, automotive work like this is not easy and it takes a long time without the proper tools (especially if you have no idea what you’re doing to begin with). Still, it is incredibly rewarding.
- Second, if you want something bad enough, you will work harder than you thought possible to attain it. And it might take a long time and have its ups and downs, but don’t lose sight of your goal.
- Third, a single event, no matter how small it may seem to others, can change your life (for the better!). Pixar decided to release a movie in 2006 about anthropomorphic cars. One kid saw it, and was able to save a vehicle like this from rusting away. One kid saw this movie, and loved it so much they adopted a life time love for something they previously held no interest in. One kid saw it, and used its inspiration to defeat a mental illness.
Now it’s 2017. Cars 3 just came out and was the sequel I’d been hoping for since 2007. And you can bet I drug my adult self to the theaters to see it all by myself. It’s 2017, and I still have my Scotty sitting at home, well taken care of, with just a few more miles on him than when I bought him and fixed him.
All because I saw a movie when I was 11 years old.
If you think Fighters Megamix doesn’t get any weirder than having you fight an anthropomorphic car, I’d like to point out that it also makes you fight a palm tree (AM2 Palm Tree) and a chunk of ham (Mr. Meat).