Oh, the Hummer

Just over a month ago, I celebrated the news that GM was probably going to kill the Hummer brand. Matthew DeBord has a different take on the news. (Via LGM.)

GM desperately needs an obnoxious, attention-grabbing brand to keep from turning into a dreary shadow of its former self. And America needs the Hummer to remind us of what has always made our automobiles stand out, from the tailfin 1950s to the muscle car 1960s and '70s: swagger. Americans don't just drive their cars--they proclaim something about themselves by driving them.
Funny thing, there, Matty--GM has become a dreary shadow of its former self precisely because it relied on obnoxious, attention-grabbing vehicles and didn't try to look ahead at what the market was going to require in five or ten years. It's been bigger and guzzlier and smellier for decades now. Even Toyota fell into the trap a bit and is slowing down its production of the Tundra pickup and the Sequoia SUV. But you know why they're not becoming a dreary shadow? Because they sell a boatload of Priuses and Corollas every freaking day.

But hey, attitude is more important than profitability, right? That's why GM is trading at its lowest stock price since the 1950's.

I could go on, but the crux of DeBord's article is this--Americans are obnoxious, and that's what makes us great, so we need obnoxious vehicles to demonstrate how obnoxious we are, so we can shove them in the faces of the rest of the world.

I was trying to come up with an example of someone DeBord's American reminds me of, and then it hit me--it's not a single character; it's an amalgamation. DeBord's American is a combination of Veruca Salt, Augustus Gloop, Mike Teavee and Violet Beauregard. They're all spoiled, greedy, obsessive children and we all want bad things to happen to them. And eventually, their greed does them in. That makes our economy the equivalent of the Chocolate Factory.

Too many Americans have bought into DeBord's fantasy over the last few decades, and we're paying the price now. Our housing market has collapsed under the weight of our Veruca-esque demands of wanting it now. Our national health is threatened by our Violet-like demand for processed foods. We're so captivated by the latest Britney/Lindsay/Madonna/Brangelina story that we have no concept of what's happening in the real world, just like Mike Teavee. And substitute energy for chocolate, and we're a nation of Augustus Gloops--no self-control, no sense of perspective. And we're being wrecked by our excesses.

The Hummer was the preeminent symbol of that excess in the world of automobiles, and of our lack of self-esteen. DeBord got one thing almost right:
Every once in while, you see a little guy clambering out of a Hummer, painfully in need of a ladder, and you realize that it can also be viewed as a $57,000 ticket to enlarged self-esteem.
A little hint, DeBord--pretty much everyone not in one of those things sees it as an attempt to gain self-esteem--a pathetic attempt, and one that doesn't work. And if you're a big guy climbing out of one, well, we assume you're compensating for something else that's undersized.

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