Daily Podcast: America Eats Its Young

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

A Brown University business professor once told me that one of America's greatest strengths is its ability to assimilate anything. While Bill O'Reilly rants on and on about our capitalistic society's moral degradation– like one of those nose hair-infested codgers who starts every sentence with "Back in MY day"– our profit-driven culture is actually extremely healthy. It takes the worst possible elements, sanitizes them and sells them into the mainstream. White suburban teens listen to gangsta rap while studying for their SATs. The gangstas end-up on Cribs, showing the world what's in their closet-sized Sub-Zero. SUVs are following a similar pattern. These planet-killas are gradually being domesticated into CUVs. The new Honda Pilot's obvious visual reference to its "no gallon of gas left unguzzled" SUV ancestors is just window dressing. I'm sure it's suitably frugal and considerably cleaner than Bill O'Reilly's phone calls. Of course, that opens a hole in the market for something "real;" a car that appeals to the street cred set. SUVs are done. Muscle cars are Avenged. What's next? Combat-styled EVs? Whatever it is, TTAC will be here to share the love. Whatever love is.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Robert Farago Robert Farago on Apr 15, 2008
    aja: But isn’t it insincere to water things down so much that, say, an SUV can be categorized as a better luxury car than a utility vehicle? Is something is reinvigorated by the cultural cycle, or is it outright replaced? Yes. And what do you mean by "insincere?" The point of mainstreaming is profit, not sincerity or authenticity. And again, I would argue that taking the cutting edge (or authentic car) mainstream frees -up space for another cutting edge artist.
  • Ajla Ajla on Apr 15, 2008
    And what do you mean by “insincere?” The point of mainstreaming is profit, not sincerity or authenticity. By insincere I mean artificial. If the Explorer (which I guess I need to drive) has more in common with the Town Car than a Land Cruiser what makes it an SUV? A rap song about bar-hopping in Miami is just a pop song with a different beat. Although the point of mainstreaming is profit, that doesn't make it good for everyone. Authenticity and sincerity holds importance to enthusiasts or social scientists. If GM built a 4-cylinder 100hp "Corvette" that somehow saves the company it would be great for GM, but Corvette fans would hate the bastardization of their car.
  • RedStapler RedStapler on Apr 15, 2008

    Land Rover still makes the Defender and Jeep still has the Wrangler for the off-roadin' OGs. The Toyota 4WD pickup can roll with them as well. I knew the SUV thing had jumped the shark the 1st time I saw a lift kit used on a H2to clear giant shiny rims. It was the unholy combination of the redneck and hip-hop car cultures. I agree that all of the larger SUVs are effectively a minivan or station wagon that has been given the "Bigfoot" treatment. Heck with a few exceptions no one makes actual station wagons anymore. You can't get mainstream cars like a Taurus, Camry or Accord in Wagon. Ajlia Same with SUVs. Jeep and Land Rover went from being unique brands whose vehicles had a definite character and utilitarian purpose to being things that tout luxury features or the ability to easily navigate a crowded parking lot. An interesting part of the automotive world got taken down to a mainstream equilibrium so everyone could experience it.

  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Apr 15, 2008

    "I'm sure it's suitably frugal and considerably cleaner than Bill O'Reilly's phone calls." You get the Dennis Milleresque Reference of the Day Award. Congratulations, Robert!