Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Small Towns Focused on the Past: Radiator Springs & Empire Falls (some thoughts)

In the movie Cars and in the Pulitzer prize winning novel Empire Falls by Richard Russo, both stories, although very different, deal with the stories of small towns that are beyond their glory days. The individuals of Radiator Springs and Empire Falls both deal with their challenging economic days they both have hope for economic revival.

For citizens of Radiator Springs it is hope that people would again recherish the drive along Route 66 despite the creation of interstate system, and for the citizens of Empire Falls it is hope that an outside developer would come and buy up the old shirt factory, creating jobs and bring the town back to it's economical validity.

The other day I wrote a post about the film Viridiana and how it challenges ideas of hope and idealism when they are not based on reality. In a related thought, when it comes to the typical citizens in these towns you can't help watch a film or read a book about a struggling small town and think...why don't these people move, let the past die, and let themselves carve out a new future for themselves, instead of waiting on others to understand why others should love their town as much as they do.

And yet in both of these stories, the end with varying degrees of hope. There is especially a message of hope in Pixar's Cars as Lighting McQueen's attachment that grows for the town and it's forgotten citizens allows him to revive the town by setting up his racing headquarters there.

Towards the end of Russo's novel, there is a little detail given to some revived economics in the town once condos and business districts are set up along the river that runs through the town, but it is not as romanticized as what is the movie Cars.

I think we can be like this often, where we expect other people to change what's important to us rather than us being an active agent in creating the change we long to see. I've talked before about Inspiration Overload, and how there are so many things people want us to care about, but I think it's important to search ourselves, find what's important to us, and try to be the change we want to see, not just waiting for other people. And at times, I believe we must push on ahead, not stuck trying and hoping to rebuild the past.


Lorna said...

I've been non-internet-related for the past week or so,as my daughter got married last Sunday, but I did enjoy catching pu with you.

I didn't see "Cars" but I have read "empire Falls" and because I have family that worked in mining and lumber in Northern Ontario, I know the desparation that can face people when their town loses its backbone. These kind of stories remind me of the Dust Bowl stories of the thirties. You have to hope there's learning in there somewhere

nate said...

Great thoughts. "do unto others." perhaps what is important to us is critically necessary for others.

Terence Towles Canote said...

What interests me about Cars is that it does romanticise small towns. Living in a small town myself, I think the reason for this is that I suspect America has lost something very precious in its ongoing move towards urbanisation. I think that is why characters in movies and books set in small towns past their prime simply don't move on. For many, a small town, even one past its prime, can be more of a home than the biggest city in the midst of its biggest economic boom.

RC said...

@ lorna, there certainly is a parallelism to dust bowl stories and mining town stories.

@ nate, i love that thought of yours...."what is important to us is critically necessary for others." that is something to cheew on for sure.

@ mercurie, i think you're right...the home-iness factor certainly for many is more valuable than giving some of that up for economic success.

Glenn Dunks said...

Hmm, I really want to read this Empire Falls now. I have a big soft spot for these sorts of stories. I have no idea why.