But you know what? Cars and culture haven’t really changed that much. The old SUV ads and the new green-car ones have something in common. In both cases, the car is the hero of the narrative. Conqueror or saviour, it doesn’t matter as long as the viewer believes the product will win the day.
And that’s a problem because cars will not save us or polar bears or the rainforest. Even if we could make cars from branches and grasses (as one Prius ad demonstrated) and power them with the sun, we’d still need roads and parking lots. And those bring habitat loss and the colonization of wildish places.
Just as I like to dream about cars, I get a kick from the ads. They are indeed a barometer of culture, and they signal at least a small shift in values. But let’s not deceive ourselves into believing that we can save the world at the car dealership. What you drive matters, but not driving matters much more.