Car movies—movies that subordinate plot and character to chases and collisions—typically appear in cycles that coincide with breakthroughs in visual effects production, concomitant changes in production cultures, and—not coincidentally—devastating advancements in corporate globalization. Comparing the construction and ideological framing of automotive effects from the 1970s and 2000s US car movie cycles, I demonstrate how digital effects cultures are promoting neoliberal economies of spectacle through the same tropes their predecessors established to critique corporate culture. This analysis refutes prior critical dismissals of spectacle as mere visual stimulation, suggesting that its sensation also inspires political feelings
Caetlin Benson-Allott is the author of Killer Tapes and Shattered Screens: Video Spectatorship from VHS to File Sharing (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013). Her work on film and technology, home video, and spectatorship has appeared in South Atlantic Quarterly, The Journal of Visual Culture, Jump Cut, Film Quarterly, Film Criticism, In Media Res, The Quarterly Review of Film and Video, and multiple anthologies. Her dissertation won the Society for the Cinema and Media Studies Best Dissertation Award in 2009. After winning Film Quarterly’s 50th Anniversary Review Essay Competition in 2008, she continued to write for the journal and is now a regular columnist and contributing editor. She is currently working on two book projects, a history of the remote control device (to be published in Bloomsbury Press’s Object Lessons series), and comparative study of the political impact of stunt work and digital visual effects that focuses on the automotive spectacles of the 1970s and 2000s US car movie cycles. She teaches courses on film history and theory, histories of new media, gender and technology studies, and the horror genre. She spends her spare time playing with her Shih Tzu, Frisco.