History Faculty Publications

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2-2015

Publication Source

The Journal of Popular Culture

Abstract

In the real world today auto theft is usually about gangs, drugs, and money (Heitmann and Morales 5). However, since 1945, the cinematic representation of auto theft has had more to do with the symbolic meaning cars and driving hold in American culture. In the early twentieth century, the automobile and driving became associated with many of the classic qualities of American identity (March and Collette 107). The roots of that expectation stretch back even further to the role that movement played in the colonization of the continent. The unrestrained capacity to move became equated early in the American cultural imagination with personal reinvention and self-determination (Feldman 13–19). Those who could control their own movement were deemed self-sufficient, independent agents.

Thus, the capacity of movement became linked to political economy. Indeed, mobility came to stand for liberty itself. But, as in early America, the capacity to move freely was frequently denied to those not white or male. The lack of mobility marked African-American slaves and women as unfit for individual liberty and incapable of sovereign selfhood.

The American vision of the mobile, liberal individual was both raced and gendered (Cresswell 147–74).

Inclusive pages

86–101

ISBN/ISSN

0022-3840

Document Version

Postprint

Comments

The document available for download is the authors' accepted manuscript, provided in compliance with the publisher's policy on self-archiving. Differences may exist between this document and the published version. Permission documentation is on file.

Publisher

John Wiley & Sons

Volume

48

Issue

1

Peer Reviewed

yes