Car culture began before World War II with Ford’s mass production of low-cost automobiles. In its beginnings, car culture represented the nation’s transition from a rural, producer economy to an industrialized capitalist force. The automobile became a symbol of progress, especially after the feeling of regression left in the wake of WWI. Similarly, car culture represented the nation’s return to prosperity after WWII. In his book, Hell on Wheels , David Blanke remarks, “As millions of veterans returned home, landed jobs, and started families, their newly purchased cars became signs of restored consumer power and renewed possibility--of a refurbished American dream (134).” Car culture after WWII embodied a new, refined sense of the American…show more content… It challenges this new American dream l through its depiction of car culture. Since the end of WWII meant an end to government limits on gasoline and car sales, an increase in national affluence, and the beginning of a highway system, car culture benefited greatly from WWII. Thereby when film noir uses car culture, it directly confronts the legacy of WWII. Through its adaptation of car culture, film noir highlights the overall shortcomings of this new American dream, as well as convey man’s internal capacity for evil and the limits of personal freedom.
The noir landscape, though ultimately undefined, often includes the fundamental elements of car culture: the car and the road. The car in American postwar society embodied autonomy and freedom, as the individual controlled his or her own mobility. The car also symbolized identity. A car meant status and prosperity, so to have a car would become an element of one’s identity. In addition, the car’s mechanics allowed the owner to exceed his own biological limits, becoming a sort of mechanical extension to the…show more content… A convertible picks up the hitchhiking protagonist, Al. After Al takes the wheel, the car’s owner dies in the passenger seat. Desperate to avoid trouble with the law, Al assumes the previous owner’s identity. Since he takes the owner’s wallet and the car’s information is in the same name, the car is now an extension of Al’s identity. The car in this context provides the opportunity for a new identity. Likewise, the film Kiss Me Deadly also presents the car as a form of identity. In this case, the protagonist, Mike Hammer, drives a convertible as well. He does not “convert” his identity as Al does, but instead the convertible is his identity. Both films demonstrate identity and its propensity for darkness in a postwar consumer culture. For Al, his new identity is convertible, but not sustainable. Once Vera enters the vehicle and knows he is a fraud, Al cannot return to his original identity literally because the police find his wallet on a dead man, but also figuratively as he continues on his journey and does uncharacteristic acts of violence in order to survive. Detour uses the car and its place in car culture to offer a parallel between Al’s identity and the American dream’s “self-made” man. Al converts his identity in order to reach California and began a new life, a better life, with his love. Al is unable to sustain