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Frank Ocean’s BMW and the State of the Culture of Cars

Posted in Posts, and Syllabus Schedule

One final music suggestion, Frank Ocean’s Lost:

One of the areas constantly in the background of this econ of the auto industry course was car culture. In fact, it is important enough that we even spent time reading and discussing Tom Wolfe’s “The Kandy-Colored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby,” a collection of essays which delve into car culture in the U.S. during the early 1960’s.

We also discussed the possible decline in interest in cars occurring among younger people today. I assume that with the decline in interest in cars, one would assume that there would also be a decline in car culture. One of the many problems I have with the argument that people are not as interested in cars as in the past revolves around the music we listen to. If you like country music, you’ve heard Florida Georgia line sing about a candy painted Silverado, or if you like R&B, Frank Ocean sing about his love for BMW’s (he’s currently working on a sleeper E30). Cars are an integral part of our music, and given that music tends to reflect culture, it seems as if people must still love cars.

But perhaps I am wrong and people are not as interested in cars as they used to be. If that is the case, I would say it is a shame, because so many of our best memories are in some way connected to cars. In some ways these are direct connections, as with distant recollections I have of going to car shows with my grandfather and listening to his seemingly endless knowledge of cars. In other ways these memories are more indirect, as with the conversations I had with friends in my old SUV. I simply don’t believe that metros and buses allow for the same sorts of memories.

It is almost a requirement that country bands mention a truck at some point in every one of their songs.


  1. cookg15

    I think people are still interested in cars, but the source of appeal for most people has changed. In the past, I think that the aesthetics of a car were the driving force of interest whereas today people are more concerned with function, safety, and quality. It’s a lot harder for a car to create an indelible image and become a cultural icon based on those characteristics. Secondly, I think the idea that cars represent has changed as well. In the past, cars like the Mustang represented people’s emotions and desires, and became a symbol of teenage rebellion. Today cars have become status symbols and representative of wealth more than anything. It’s like J. Mays said: people buy cars that represent the way they want others to think of them.

    May 18, 2013
  2. kuveke

    I don’t think cars have lost their appeal, but I do think people know less about cars then they used to. This makes sense though. Old cars were not nearly as complicated as cars today. People could do their own repairs and understood the mechanisms of the car. Today you would have to be a software engineer and a mechanic to understand cars. In a way our draw to cars hasn’t faded but our attachment to individual cars is not as strong because we more frequently take our cars to the shop rather than fix them ourselves.

    May 18, 2013
  3. Uh, Tom Wolfe’s essay was done as a reporter, it’s not a “novel” – not fiction.

    As to changes in car culture, the best test is to check again in 5 years, and to look at your own transportation choices once you’re 5 years into the labor market.

    May 19, 2013

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