A Mythical Roadmap of the Movie Cars

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ELIT 1060 D: Reading Literature Myths
Final Project
Justin Downs
The Heroic Journey of Lightning McQueen
12/18/10

In the movie Cars, the protagonist, or hero, is a car named Lightning McQueen. McQueen is not just a car, but rather, a race car. The movie details McQueen’s journey as he becomes the master of two different worlds, the racing world where he is a god-like figure, and Radiator Springs, where he is an unknown outcast. The three main aspects of Lightning’s journey are his separation from the racing world, initiation to a new world, and the return. The first stage of separation is the call to adventure. Followed by the refusal of the call and the crossing of a threshold. Call to Adventure: In most situations, this call becomes the subject of the story or the plot of the movie. For Lightning, he thinks his call to adventure comes over the Public Announcement System when the tie-breaking race in California is announced. While this may be the obvious choice, but I don’t think that it is. We need to look at Lightning as the potential hero and observes how he grows over the course of the journey. He doesn’t grow in skill as a driver. He ran his first race at the beginning of the movie a lot better than the race at the end. The call to adventure is not always the destination, but the road leading to the destination. The adventure is in the hero’s growth. The growth that Lightning experiences is in his ability to have and appreciate friends. As cheesy as it sounds, the call to adventure for this movie is the call to find friendship. Refusal of the Call: The refusal of the call happened during the first race when Lightning refused the help and friendship around him. Let’s admit it, Lightning was a jerk. He alienated the people who tried to help him. Three different crew chiefs quit on him during the one season he’s been racing. His arrogance at the end of the first race was so bad his entire crew quit on him. Another example of Lightnings Refusal was his initial refusal to pave the road he destroyed in Radiator Springs. It was through his paving the road that he learned the lessons of the journey. Crossing the Threshold: The symbolism of the thresholds in the movie are found in the highways that Mack and Lightning are traveling. The “Mother Road” on Route 66 is significantly more important as it is on the Mother Road that we meet the Threshold Guardian, embodied by the Sheriff. As Lightning is frantically trying to find the interstate and Mack, he speeds pas a sleepy Sheriff’s speed trap. The local sheriff begins to follow him with sirens going. Instead of stopping, Lightening goes through a chain of events through the forgotten town of Radiator Spring destroying the main road and other property and landing himself in jail, or the impound. This leads to the initiation phase, which can be summarized by the road of trials, the meeting with the goddess, and apotheosis. Road of Trials: The neat part of the Road of Trials step in Cars is that they are somewhat associated with an actual road, in this case, Route 66 or the Mother Road. As Lightning began to face his trails during the movie, he began by failing them. Lighting’s failure in his encounter with the threshold guardian, the Sheriff, resulted in the destruction of the road. When Doc challenged Lightning to a race, Lightning again failed due to his arrogance and lack of experience racing on dirt. The turning point on his road of trials came in the pasture where he and Mater, the local tow truck, were tipping tractors. Lightning successfully tipped all of the tractors by revving his engine. He was also successful in escaping from Frank the Combine. There, Lightning’s luck changed and he was able to fix the road, learn to race on dirt and redeem himself from his earlier failures. The Meeting with the Goddess: I had a couple of options in picking the goddess who Lightning would meet. Since Lightning is a male, I began looking at the female characters. Had the hero...
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