Today a DeLorean was driving the other way on a road I was on. In the rear-view I saw it do a u-turn behind me and follow me. Of course I slowed to let it catch up, and I admired it as it passed me and went on its way.
And then I remembered how silly and clunky those things were when they came out.
Yes, I am old enough to remember when they came out. And they were pricey and looked like a stainless steel brick. History shows a mixed reception of the DeLorean at the time. They caught the public eye. They ended up on back-order because to many people wanted one. But I remember people I knew laughing or rolling their eyes at them, especially when hearing things like the doors leaked in the rain, and no one I knew seemed a whit surprised when the company began to fail.
I had forgotten the story about Johnny Carson, very much in the public eye at that time, being an investor in DeLorean and having his DeLorean break down during the test drive after he first received it. The DeLorean was plagued with problems and became a joke (at least in my area of the world) much as the Pinto had (a car that was recalled because it could possibly explode if rear-ended).
Then the movie came out. Yes, THAT movie. But by then, if I remember right, John DeLorean had already made a mess of himself by getting caught up in the news with drug dealing. At least that was the way I remembered it. I just now looked it up and was surprised to find he got off because of “entrapment”. Either that part didn’t make much news, or I didn’t care enough to remember. I do remember seeing him on the news asking, “Would you buy a used car from me?”
It was a joke. Of course not. None of us would have.
Seeing that DeLorean on the road today made me think about symbols and the power they hold over us.
When the DeLorean came out, I laughed at it. I wasn’t old enough to buy one, or even drive, to be honest, but I truly found it laughable. And now, today, I found myself unable to take my eyes off of one as it drove down the street.
I hadn’t realized this until just now, but when the DeLorean appeared in Back to the Future, I laughed. We all did. I am pretty sure it was supposed to be a joke.
“…it’s a DeLorean… What—”
(Doc interrupts and explains stuff)
“Wait a minute… Wait a minute… Doc. Are you telling me you built a time machine—out of a DeLorean?”
“The way I see it, if you’re going to build a time machine out of a car, why not do it with some style!”
Right…, I thought when I saw this in the theater for the first time. Doc has no sense of style or utility! Plus, they’re cheap! (I couldn’t find any resource on this to back me up, but if my memory serves correctly, DeLoreans were becoming pretty darn cheap around the time a movie studio would have been deciding what kind of car they could buy multiples of in case they crashed one while making a movie. No one wanted to buy a car notorious for leaks and breakdowns from a drug-dealing crook!)***
That joke didn’t last. Somehow, amazingly, the Back to the Future movie managed to negate one of its own jokes, turning it on its head and making it a factual comment instead.
Why? Because the DeLorean became the symbol for those movies and those movies have themselves become a beloved symbol of a “better time”. (It wasn’t really better, but you know, hindsight wears 20/20 prescription rose-colored glasses.)
And now, I can see something I used to laugh at, mock, and think ill of, and it mesmerizes me and makes me think of things I love and give me good feelings, and I like it….
Symbols are powerful.
And it scares me to realize the reverse of this example is also true. I don’t usually make much in the way of political statements, but I would just take a moment to say that in the last few years I have seen symbols twisted to apply to things they didn’t before. To mean things they didn’t before. To get us to beleive, accept, agree with, and want things we didn’t before.
I’m not going to tell you what to beleive. I’m not going to bother you with what I beleive. I do want to suggest that you should be cognizant of the power symbols seem to hold over us, as I am trying to be aware of the power they hold over me.
That all being said, I am beginning to understand why some book covers and movie posters do better than others. And some books and movies, for that matter.
I hope to be able to apply this lesson to other areas in my life.