Many consider Terrence Malick to be a cinematic genius and philosopher who thinks very deeply. His 2011 film The Tree of Life brought the birth of the universe, the formation galaxies, the ripples of time, the days of the dinosaurs, and an afterlife of Plutonic forms right into the suburban home of an all-American family — severe daddy, dreamy mommy, and a moody son with a dead brother.
Malick's latest film is an ad for one of the biggest automakers in the world, Ford. It is narrated by the Hollywood star, Don Cheadle. Its title: “Leading the Electric Revolution and Sustainability.” What cannot be doubted is that Ford gave the director all the artistic freedom he needed to make exactly his kind of film: lots of striking images that never fail to add up to nothing:
Check out the ad for a new generation of the very popular monster, the F-150 Lightning. This pickup truck, which will run on electricity, promises to make tomorrow a "brand new day," to use the words of Cybertron. Zero emissions. Lots and lots of green jobs. Cheadle's people finally getting a piece of the pie. And so on. But what Malick's ad is really telling us is that we've finally passed from the long period of climate denialism and transitioned to the period of the technological fix. This is what the political economist Philip Mirowski calls the science fiction moment of the crisis. In essence, it comes down to this: The system that created the mess will be the one to fix it, and, most importantly, fix it without changing consumer behavior.
And indeed, the top engineer of the F-150 Lightning, Linda Zhang, described the appeal of the electric pickup in these hard terms:
Zhang made it clear [to Bloomberg], that Ford isn't focusing on fuel economy as the reason people should switch to an electric truck. It's hard to change people's minds when it comes to the environment, global warming, and their personal habits. Rather than push gas savings and helping the environment, Zhang says Ford wants people to fall in love with the Lightning's capability.
The machine can light your house, carry your golf clubs, and, of course, "store beverages".
There was a time (not that long ago) when automakers impressed on the buyer the moral superiority of green or greenish cars. One ad even had a polar bear hugging (rather than eating) the driver of a Nissan LEAF. The idea there was that you could change the world with your purchasing power. Instead of buying products that did themselves (for example, Coca-Cola), you could buy ones that undid themselves (Diet Coke). The green car was a car without being one. You could buy it without the feeling of guilt. The polar bear will love you to bits. But that way of marketing, which the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek famously dissected, is, apparently, now a thing of the past.
The electric car of the future is better because it meets more ad-created consumer needs than the gas-powered vehicle. It has more space for your other stuff. This is how Ford selling the Mega Power Frunk.
So, do not worry about polar ice or the bears or those boring warming oceans. Stay focused on all the things you can do with a massive machine that, in reality, you do not need. The technology will take care of the rest. This is Malick's new ad. The lights of F-150 Lightning glow in the magic hour.