January 29, 2010
Don DeLillo can say anything better than me. A passage about movie car crashes:
“I see these car crashes as part of a long tradition of American optimism. They are positive events, full of the “can-do” spirit. Each car crash is meant to be better than the last…The movie breaks away from complicated human passions to show us something elemental, something fiery and loud and head-on…It’s a celebration. A reaffirmation of traditional values and beliefs.” (White Noise, p. 217-19)
This is very abridged. White Noise is the best book ever. Read it.
I can’t pretend I had a lifelong goal to see monster trucks. In fact, the reason I decided to go was because I poo-pooed them. I was elitist. But I realized there was probably a visceral, primitive joy to be had watching big things get crushed by bigger things. Why deny myself such pleasure?
Here’s the most valuable lesson I learned: monster trucks fail too. Sometimes you fall over, unable to rise without the assistance of a bulldozer. Sometimes you have to let others lift you up, and you have to brush it off and come back ready to try again.
Of course, I’m over-intellectualizing. Honestly, monster trucks (don’t hate me) are kind of lame. At least they are when they’re in a venue too small for their monstrosity. All the trucks did was wheelies over the same four groups of cars. Not so exciting the sixteenth time. You can only be so crushed before you are the essence of crush. There is no more crush to be had.
There was also something uncomfortably American about the whole experience. I am proud to be American. To have arrived on this earth at the end of the 20th century in America is not a bad gig. I have options, movement, opinions. I’m fascinated by our history. I think it’s all pretty fantastic.
Yet I don’t identify with the need to shout out the military, police, and firefighters before crushing things (and why don’t we call out teachers, doctors, NGO volunteers?) Why is it necessary to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before mass destruction? We don’t sing the national anthem before a theatrical performance. Maybe this is why we liberal theatre-attending elitist types are considered somehow unpatriotic.
Adding to my discomfort was the blatant consumerism. The MC encouraged the crowd to buy pennants and flags to wave, establishing them as THE craziest fan. You yourself were not enough to be the wildest fanatic. You needed a flag to prove it.
Size does matter – and the bigger you are, the less elegant and nuanced you can be. All you can do is smash, indiscriminately and without art. This is a gross generalization but…monster trucks don’t make a compelling case for might and power embracing the beauty inherent in detail and complexity.
This lack of finesse was exacerbated by the intermission Motorcross show. These dudes fling their bodies off motorcycles midair – hands let go, or legs perpendicular to the bike. They maneuver the bikes in 360 degree flips. Nothing has ever terrified me so much to watch. It requires grace and practice and skill, unlike awkward, cumbersome trucks demolishing junkyard cars. (I think the sense of destruction would have been greater if the cars looked new, fresh, valuable.)
But the pretzel I bought at the concession stand was amazing. And I was in good company. And even if I still kinda look down on monster trucks, at least now I can articulate why.