In 1909 Italian writer Filippo Tommaso Marinetti published The Futurist Manifesto. Italian futurism was an intellectual movement described as being “focused on the dynamic character of changing 20th century life especially city life. It emphasized the power, force and motion of machinery, combined with the contemporary fascination with speed while denouncing the static art of the past.” The Manifesto included the following comment about motor vehicles and speed:
A new beauty has enriched the splendor of the
world: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great
tubes like serpents with explosive breath … a roaring motorcar which seems to run on
machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace (an 11 foot, winged
marble statue in the Louvre Museum in Paris found on the Greek Island of
Samothrace and dating from 190 BC.)
Maybe the futurists were the first figurative road racers? Their ideas live on fuelling the imaginations and behaviour of (invariably) young high-powered car owners, by the messages communicated in the sumptuous marketing packages from the modern auto industry.
The awareness of the message of advertising may help with resisting its allure. The recent auto show in Vancouver offered a good opportunity to revisit this subject. Admittedly there was emphasis on other qualities: affordability, stylishness, the driving “fun factor” and last (but not least?) safety considerations and environmental impact including fuel efficiency and emissions. But the old chestnut—that the allure of speed was still important—was very evident. The following is a sample from the collected literature:
One car type was celebrated in a spread in which the headline described it as the
winner of the P2 Division of the Canadian Rally championship.
The zoom zoom manufacturer’s headline leads straight back to Marinetti’s manifesto: “Rediscover the emotion of motion” and “It doesn’t just push the envelope. It tears it to shreds.”
The self-described “essence of who we are” on the part of one manufacturer is summed up in the imperative “Never Follow.” Their materials describe “Never Follow” as a celebration of their innovative spirit, leadership, determination, and stylishness but then they summarize the real essence of the message in one of the final sub-headings: “Form and function now equal fast.”
Here are some more speed-celebrating headlines:
“Welcome to the next muscle car era.”
“Street smart performance runs in the family.”
“Easy to look at. Tough to beat.”
Now it has to be acknowledged that plenty of power in a vehicle can come in very handy in dealing with today’s traffic conditions. When entering onto the freeway, adequate horsepower is essential to safely merge with the traffic flow. An underpowered vintage vehicle can be a hazard in these circumstances. A competent vehicle these days does need plenty of power.
However, we are bombarded with images and text that encourage fast driving for the sake of it. And all for personal gratification, feeding pride and arrogance. Who can resist?
Please drive safely.