Are Cars Like Cigarettes?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
are cars like cigarettes

Actor Mathew Modine votes aye over at HuffPo, calling our four-wheeled friends “the new pariahs.” After informing us that the world’s resources are finite, bicycles rule, and that there’s much to be learned from a baby’s first steps, Modine finally gets around to making his argument.

“We must look at the automobile as a cigarette–a cancer stick–a nail in our collective coffin. The sexy lifestyle that the tobacco industry sold to us contains the same advertising lies and poison which the automobile industry sold and continues to sell to the world. Look at the ads for automobiles and you’ll begin to recognize the lies. You’ll see open roads with happy smiling drivers. Ask yourself, When was the last time I was NOT stuck in traffic?”

Interestingly, the lasting impression from Modine’s rant is that actors’ opinions are like all forms of advertising: facile and misleading.

Over at Reason’s Hit & Run blog, Nick Gillespie tears into Modine with gusto.

“Can everyone who started smoking Newports because they thought they’d become Alive with Pleasure! please signal aye via their vocoder box? The last dupes in the tobacco game must have been the folks that Ronald Reagan sent Chesterfields to at Christmas time.

But by all means, let’s exhume the corpses of Jack Kerouac and Dinah Shore and Gary Numan (who may not be technically dead in anything other than a career sense) and put them on trial for making cars sexy! Tawny Kitaen, you stand accused of not simply destroying the clearcoat finish on a half-dozen vehicles in that Whitesnake video but of raising demand for automobiles and CO2 destroying hairspray for a good chunk of the 1980s!”

Gillespie probably meant ozone-destroying, but the point is well made. It didn’t take a bunch of morally bankrupt Mad Men to make cars sexy. They’re just drawn that way, as Jessica Rabbit would say. More importantly, cars may seem like polluting pariahs when you’re stuck in traffic on the way to a Hollywood cocktail party, but for most of America they’re still an indispensable part of everyday life.

Gillespie concludes, “the post perfectly captures the moralizing smugitude of the leisured class, so if it has been a while since you fully imbibed a head-up-his-ass Hollywood solipsist, read the whole thing here.” We couldn’t agree more.

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  • David C. Holzman David C. Holzman on May 29, 2009

    I disagree with Quasimondo, above. I think the people responding favorably to Modine on huffpo are way on the fringe.

  • DarkSpork DarkSpork on May 31, 2009
    "Ask yourself, When was the last time I was NOT stuck in traffic?” Better question: When was the last time I was stuck in traffic? Seems like its been almost 2 years.

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