Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Car Culture

I wish I could find this video online, but this will have to do for now. I learned about Emily Jacir's "From Texas With Love" today in my Postmodern and Contemporary Art lecture and it sounds really great. There's something very teenage and very American about driving around in cars. If I could contribute my own soundtrack, the Beach Boys would most certainly have a prominent place. They represent the teenage version of the American Dream: riding around in a Thunderbird with surfboards sticking out, with the wind and sun in your floppy blond surfer hair, laughing with your surfin' babe.
Jacir's piece is about freedom. In high school, cars represent the freedom to go where you want to go with your music playing as loud as you want. You can stay out past your curfew, because you're driving yourself home. You can have sex in the backseat. You can hotbox without your mom finding out. It's this transitory space of freedom for people in a transitional stage of life. It's almost impossible for me to imagine high school without cars.
The freedom of the open road and the open sky in Texas to me represents the rugged individualist ideal and Manifest Destiny. The freedom to be able to drive is something that we take for granted because we believe we deserve it, as the fulfillers of Manifest Destiny believed it was their God-given right and duty to move westward. And this transportational mobility is connected to the great social mobility Americans enjoy. Once again, it's something that we just accept as a given. In America, "you can be whoever you want to be." We're always pushing forward, forward, forward here, forgetting the past. It's a mindset that I think has been in place since our nation was founded and still exists today.

Go west, young man.

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