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Movies need to belt up

The movies have long been criticized for corrupting our children's morals and encouraging all sorts of bad behaviour. There's even a current petition to ban the depiction of smoking in movies.

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The movies have long been criticized for corrupting our children’s morals and encouraging all sorts of bad behaviour. There’s even a current petition to ban the depiction of smoking in movies.

How much of this is true is the subject of many PhD theses every year.

But what bugs me is the way automobile safety is so criminally portrayed in movies.

I’m on an airplane as I write this, heading to San Francisco. The in-flight movie was Little Miss Sunshine, a dark comedy about a family pulling together under the most bizarre of circumstances, among which is travelling from Albuquerque, N.M., to Redondo Beach, Calif., in an old Volkswagen Microbus.

Not a bad flick, actually, and the kid playing the title character is terrific.

But there are grandpa, mom and dad, Uncle Frank and kids Duane and Little Miss Sunshine Olive – and not a soul is wearing a seatbelt.

And if there’s any vehicle in which you need all the safety help you can get, it’s an old Microbus.

At one point, dad (Greg Kinnear) is driving in a particularly stupid and dangerous manner.

Then he says, “Put on your seatbelt!” As if it’s some sort of option only necessary under the direst of conditions.

No wonder the United States has the lowest belt-wearing rate among the leading industrial nations of the world, only now nudging 80 per cent nationwide.

The norm for civilized countries is more like 95 per cent.

That difference is surely responsible for most, if not all, of the proportionally worse death rate on American highways compared to Canada.

About 2,700 people die annually on our roads; the U.S. has about 10 times our population, so its toll should be around 27,000.

The reality? Some 44,000 road deaths a year.

The difference alone – some 17,000 deaths – is nearly the equivalent of six Sept. 11 tragedies.

Doesn’t anybody down there get it?

There was another movie I saw a few years ago, a largely forgettable J-Lo flick called Angel Eyes. She plays a cop whose boyfriend had been severely injured in a crash that killed his wife.

And maybe kid , too. I said it was forgettable: never mind direct to video, I think that one went direct to airline.

Anyway, in the climactic scene, he drives off with her into the sunset in her Jeep CJ with automatic tranny (a female cop and she doesn’t drive stick?).

Neither is wearing a seatbelt. This is another vehicle in which you need all the safety help you can get.

To recap: a cop, a recovering car crash victim and nobody has thought to belt up.

My daughter, the master’s degree holder in drama, might talk about the “willing suspension of disbelief.”

In the J-Lo case, you have to wrap your disbelief in plain brown paper and mail it to Moose Jaw.

I mean, no dramatic point is being made in either movie over the issue of not wearing a seatbelt.

It’s not like the Fast and Furious franchise, where driving like homicidal jerks is the entire point of the movie (and I am stretching a point on the definition of “point”).

It is simply irresponsible moviemaking.

And before I get too Canadian holier-than-thou, did you catch the first episode of the CBC’s Little Mosque on the Prairie?

Derek McGrath, playing a Protestant minister, pulls away in his car not wearing a seatbelt, either.

The writers, directors, producers and actors should be ashamed of themselves.


wheels@thestar.ca; jim@jimkenzie.com

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