Today in Why Everything You’ve Ever Loved is Terrible I will be tackling cars. I suppose I should preface this by explaining my point of view on cars before delving into why they’re terrible. I am a child of suburbia. I was born in the suburbs, I currently still live in the suburbs. Cars are important to us. There is some public transportation, and I do take the train to get to school. But for just getting around town? A car is the way to go. And for most suburban teenagers a car means freedom. You’re not restricted by where your parents or friends’ parents are willing to take you anymore. So yes – I love my car. I don’t deny it. I’m not a car enthusiast; other cars don’t really interest me. But I love my car (not in a creepy, My Strange Addiction way though). So please just keep all this in mind while I go on and tell you why cars are terrible.
We all know why cars are terrible from an environmental perspective, so that’s not what I’ll be talking about. Let’s start with this: if it weren’t for cars, Americans might not be so fat. First there’s the obvious reason of if people didn’t have cars they would probably walk or ride a bike more places, and use more energy in their transportation. But there’s also this scenario – if it weren’t for cars, fast food might not even exist. The fast food industry was born out of drive-in restaurants which were a direct response to cars and the highways built to accommodate them. If it weren’t for cars the McDonald brothers may never have come up with their “Speedee Service System” which became the model of fast food service. Yes, Americans love shortcuts, so even without cars I’m sure there’d still be terrible food around to eat, but maybe it wouldn’t be quite as accessible.
Another reason cars are terrible is that they enable our (and by our I mean Americans’, sorry) inability to build communities. They encourage our already anti-social behavior. I know some people are going to disagree with this, but hear me out. Yes, obviously communities exist. But people don’t set down roots like they used to. Cars allow people to travel great distances for work, and move a lot faster and easier than back in the pioneer days. Most people don’t pass down the family homestead through the generations like they used to. It’s more unusual to find someone who hasn’t moved at least once or twice in their life. Cars also contribute to our antisocial behavior because unlike public transportation, when driving you are generally alone. Yes people carpool, take road trips, drive friends and family around, but for most everyday driving, you’re in that car by yourself. And even now on public transportation most people are plugged into their own little world, and may as well be alone. For some reason Americans see travel as a solitary act. There’s also the already mentioned independence that cars represent for teenagers (or anyone really). The car leads to some of the first real breaking away of a child from his or her parents/family.
Yet another reason cars are terrible is because they can be symbols of sexual repression. There’s the common cliché that men with fancy sports cars are overcompensating for something. Cars and their long, vaguely (or in some cases not so vaguely) phallic shape come to stand in for what they may be lacking.

Only a slight exaggeration...

Only a slight exaggeration…

Some men see the qualities of their car as the qualities for themselves. But men aren’t the only ones in this. Lest we forget the phenomenon of dagmar bumpers. Dagmar bumpers became popular in the 1950s (a time not exactly known for its sexual liberation) and their function was to guard the bumper. They were originally intended to look like artillery shells, but soon gained the moniker “dagmars” after the television star Dagmar, and her chest.
These are dagmars...

These are dagmars…

...they are named after this woman's chest.

…they are named after this woman’s chest.

There’s also the issue of “chick cars” and the sexism that goes along with that idea. As soon as a car becomes labeled a “chick car” it is scoffed at and avoided by men. But I’ll leave the feminist rant for another day.
So there are many reasons cars are terrible. And perhaps we shouldn’t love them as much as we do. But I think as long as they represent this idea of independence that they do for so many people, it’ll be a tough relationship to break up.

If you’re interested in this topic, I recommend the following to read:
“American Mobility” by Michael Aaron Rockland
“The Evolution of the ‘Chick Car’ Or: What Came First, the Chick or the Car?” by Chris Lezotte