Ever since the dawn of the Automotive Age, people have found ways to project human characteristics onto their automobiles. Animated cartoons a century old have shown cars as living, breathing, sentient beings. It’s hardly a surprise, when so much of our collective lives is suffused with our personal means of transport.
When visualizing cars as Cartoony Metal People, there are two divergent styles: the Chevron, in which the headlights serve as eyes and the grille as mouth; and the Pixar, where the windshield represents the eyes.
Chevron (top) vs Pixar (bottom).
If one were to rely solely on these examples, one would conclude that cars using headlights for eyes have personalities befitting normal, matter-of-fact suburban humans, whereas windshield-eyed vehicles are far more exaggerated. It's not clear whether this observation is borne out by reality, but how much reality can you ascribe to a sentient vehicle, anyway?
There is something comforting about the Chevron model. Me, I think it’s the eyelids. They seem to convey a certain relaxed - almost sleepy - air. The Chevron car is homey, nonthreatening. This is the kind of car you would take with you to run a few errands in the neighborhood. It’s the car next door. It needs a nap.
The Pixar car, though - is he happy? Is he insane? He looks like he’s up for adventure - an adventure of the sort Thelma and Louise might involve themselves with. He runs on Hi-Test, which he guzzles by the six-pack.
This business of anthropomorphizing our vehicles is nothing new, as I mentioned above, but I suspect it will really get a shot in the arm as we take our first tentative steps into the age of self-driving cars - automobiles in the truest sense of the word. Ascribing a persona to a car that drives itself is really nothing strange: in fact, it seems perfectly natural.
Meanwhile, what say ye? Are you a Chevron or a Pixar kind of person?
Postscriptum: I’ve been reminded of other anthropoid cars by commenters here (thanks, Kevin!) and on Farcebook - specifically, Herbie the Love Bug and My Mother, the Car.
“My Mother, the Car,” was a TV series that aired during the 1965-66 season with a total of thirty episodes. The mid-1960’s were notorious for their horrible sitcoms, and MMTC, which featured a superannuated jalopy ensouled with the protagonist’s dead mother, was one of the worst. Even die-hard TV nostalgia freaks throw up a little in their mouths when they think of this show.
Herbie was the star of six Disney live-action feature films between 1968 and 2005 as well as of a five-episode television series in 1982. You’d think Disney would avoid the concept of an animate vehicle after having seen how badly MMTC bombed, but that didn’t faze them... and Herbie, surprisingly, was a success. Of course, Volkswagen Beetles have a certain cuteness factor, and then there was that dead mother business.
But both Herbie and MMTC’s Gladys, despite being sentient, were cars in their outward appearance. They looked, respectively, like a Volkswagen Beetle and a 1928 Porter. No cartoonishness... but it’s appropriate to give them a passing mention. So there you are.