Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Our Eunuch Future
Uh, I know we're supposed to be happy, happy, happy with less, less, less,
but market researchers suggest people still like what they've always liked.
SAVING THE PLANET. It's really not clear that people are willing to go gentle into the good night of species self-loathing and tiny human footprints on the good earth. I saw my first Smart Car (see the pink thing above) in the flesh last week, and I was instantly struck by what a statement it seems to be. It flagrantly violates all the traditions of automotive esthetics, so much so that this seems one of its main purposes in being.
Not coincidentally to my mind, the sighting occurred outside an orthopedic shoe shop, where I have since seen the vehicle a second and a third time. I get the feeling I'm being given an orthopedic lesson: ugly and offputting is fine if the result is somehow therapeutic. Well, maybe. But one of the things I have always hated about counterculture cars is the artful "happy face" so many of them seem to wear, as if a broad enough smile could overcome their deficiencies in such politically incorrect categories as speed, handling, responsiveness, and crashworthiness. I mean, we are trusting our lives to these mechanical creations. Is it wrong to expect that they have been designed to defend us from sudden death and other forms of automotive violence? And shouldn't their appearance suggest that somehow? Or do today's green designers really expect us to overlook everything but a cheerful grille? For example, here's the sheetmetal remake of the Smart Car before it was released for sale in the U.S.:
The righthand pic is the newer version. Note the friendlier eyes and happier grin.
The purveyors of hybrids and microcars obviously believe we can be seduced by little deathtraps that exude bonhomie even as they lead us in wide-eyed innocence to fatal collisions with vehicles of vastly more predatory origins. Here's a quick look at the glad grilles of the smaller, slower, more planet-oriented set.
Various cheerful goofy-mobiles from Nissan, Toyota, Suzuki, etc.
Are you charmed? Chances are, you're not. What's the evidence? A new survey about what people are attracted to in cars. Here's the straight skinny:
People Love Angry-Faced Cars
If a Toyota Prius just looks too friendly for your tastes, you're not alone. People readily see faces and traits in cars, and a new study suggests that they prefer cars to appear dominant, masculine and angry.
The finding rests on the propensity we have to actually see faces or human characteristics in everything from cars to clouds, a phenomenon called pareidolia. But now researchers hope to better understand what goes on in the brain when people see faces in objects versus humans faces, as well as help automakers design more appealing cars.
"When investing in a new passenger car, you're talking about billions," said Truls Thorstensen, head of EFS Consulting Vienna. "If you get the wrong styling, you get problems"...
Study participants assessed cars based on a system known as geometric morphometrics (GM), which allowed the men and women to rate certain traits on a sliding scale (such as "infancy" to "adulthood"). The traits represented maturity, sex, attitudes, emotions, and personality - all things that people infer from human faces at a single glance.
After rating car traits, participants then answered the question of whether they saw a human face, animal face or no face at all on the cars. They drew facial features such as eyes, nose and mouth on the car images whenever they did see faces...
People overwhelmingly preferred cars that rated highest on "power" traits." High "power" cars like the BMW 5 Series tended to be lower or wider, and have slit-like or angled headlights with a wider air intake.
The participants also largely agreed on which cars had which traits, such as arrogant, afraid and agreeable. A few traits such as disgusted, extroverted and sad caused more disagreement. [emphases added]
In other words, automobiles are still important for their perceived embodiment of sexual power, the planet be damned. The remaining debate would appear to be not about the significance of sexuality per se, but what gender automotive sexuality ideally represents. In short, it's still an automotive rather than an environmental controversy. As it should be. If the greens want to drag us into their new Luddite paradise, they're going to have to give up on the neutered appliance-like vehicles that would satisfy their obsession with wiping out the human drive to reproduce. Instead, they'll have to devote themselves to promulgating lousy, slow, dangerous pieces of crap that still look something like this:
But cars that look like this and can't do anything but deliver their occupants into the devouring steel maw of a runaway Peterbilt may not exactly entice large numbers of the populace. Except the death wish cases, of course. Which is precisely who the greens are and have always been. Maybe they'll have to rethink the Pied Piper pilgrimage to doom they've had their dried up hearts (and gonads) set on all these years.
But that they will. It's fun to imagine them trying -- and constantly stubbing their undersized toe on a human reality they can't begin to comprehend. Especially the part about how women also love angry male cars. It gives one hope for the whole human race.
Zoom zoom zoom.
EXTRA CREDIT. Why did this car fail so completely in the markeplace?
Nice liquid eyes, though.