Life is a Highway
The Disney movie Cars directed by John Lasseter and Joe Ranft was and is an overall hit with families all around. The storyline follows a famous racecar named Lightning McQueen and his struggles as he tries to win the big race and the “Piston Cup.” However, after the first round of racing, McQueen finds himself lost and alone in the tiny town of Radiator Springs. Throughout his journey of trying to get back to the race McQueen ends up finding out a lot more about himself, friends, and the meaning of life. According to Giannetti’s political outline this film is seen as a more right-wing or traditional film. This is because the focus is more on family, friends, and traditional ideologies than anything else. Overall, this film is trying to communicate how important family and friends are. Even though there are a few problematic things throughout the film this theme comes across extremely clearly.
One positive takeaway from the film was the lesson of how people cannot do life alone. As the film begins, McQueen is taking off for a huge race. As the race goes along McQueen ends up being rude to his pit crew and loses his entire team completely. This is because he did not take their advice and brushed them off saying he was a “one man show.” As the film continues and McQueen ends up all alone in Radiator Springs he realizes just how much he is missing people in his life that genuinely care about him. A specific scene depicting this is when he is on his was to California for the final race and his agent Havre calls him. Havre talks about how they are best friends but did not even watch the race. Additionally, as the conversation continues McQueen realizes that he really does not have any close friends or family that he can share his life with. This really establishes throughout the movie when McQueen finds this love and close connection through the people he meets in Radiator Springs. The people there care about him and help him through the final race. Overall, as children watch this film they see that McQueen’s life is better when he is kind and has friends that love him and care about him.
A second positive take away from this film is the idea that sometimes you need to stop and slow down to enjoy life. This idea is extremely prominent in the scene where McQueen and Sally take a drive around Radiator Springs together just enjoying the day. The scene can be viewed here. As Sally and McQueen go along this drive it gives the audience a sense of calm and peace. When this scene is shown children get the moral lesson take away that life is better when you slow down and enjoy it. This is mostly because of the calm music playing in the background as well as the calm driving and emotions that the cars in the scene are displaying.
Pathos is used all throughout this movie and is extremely prevalent when trying to bring across the positive moral take away in this film. Through the use of emotions the audience really understand the messages the directors want to be brought across. With the message of slowing down the use of the slow peaceful music makes the audience really feel that feeling as well and want to be in that moment as well. This helps the audience to understand that the slow down peaceful life is a good thing. Additionally, when the message of doing life alone is harder than with help this method is also used. The way this is done is by having the audience feel emotion for McQueen. When he is all alone the audience feels sad for him, but when he has support it is a happier undertone to the whole movie. Overall, these scenes and use of pathos helps the positive messages be understood to young children.
Cars fortunately has many positive takeaways and very few negative things in it. However, there are still a few that stand out to parents. Although they are extremely small details they still exist and bother parents. One of these things is during a scene where McQueen is first visiting his sponsors Rusteze in the beginning of the movie. He is discussing how he does not need headlights because the track is always lit and so therefore he has only stickers. One of the cars replies with the statement: “yeah well so is my brother, but he still needs headlights.” The thing that car is discussing is his brother being high. This reference to the drug marijuana is easily missed by a child as a funny joke, but to parents this is concerning. For this reason parents were hesitant to have their kids watch this film even though this small scene could easily go right over a child’s head.
Another easily missed part in the film is the negative connotation of the tattoo on the Porsche named Sally. McQueen is the character that really points it out to the audience by explicitly talking about it. Usually tattoos in that area are considered “tramp stamps,” and are seen as extremely not classy. Most parents would not want their kids to think that having a tattoo in that area is okay. This negative connotation is displayed throughout the entire movie with specific scenes of the tattoo being displayed as well as the characters specifically discussing it. Even though this is a negative aspect it is extremely small and not very noticeable by the large audience.
Overall, with the negative side of the movie the directors really try to appeal to the audience through pathos. This is done for the negatives with humor. The humor makes it so the child just finds the scene funny without really understanding exactly what it means. Parents, however, know exactly what it means and most of the time will not even notice it is there. With the humor element it makes the parents and kids both think it is an innocent joke when in reality it was not. This appeal of pathos helps the directors to get away with these negative elements in the film.
Overall, I believe this film possessed more positive aspects than negative. This is because the negative things were extremely small and almost non noticeable. With the great messages being brought to light throughout this film that seems to be what is most focused on. Even after watching this film as an adult I really did not even notice the negative aspects. Only after going back and really researching and digging through the film was I able to find them. I would give this movie a rating of 4 chips because it was overall extremely positive and brought across great life messages to children. Cars really did an amazing job of winning over audiences of all ages.