The Social Behavior of the Automobile: A Satire of Car Culture

This quirky animated short documents (or mockuments) Earth’s civilization from the perspective of extraterrestrial visitors. Seeing our infrastructure from a bird’s eye view, they understandably draw some faulty conclusions. Mistaking the automobile as Earth’s dominant species, the extraterrestrials study the social behavior of the Earthling. “What on Earth! The Automobile Inherits the Planet” offers a humorous, and surprisingly insightful, perspective of car culture.

When vehicles are viewed as the sentient creatures, all associations become distorted. The mockumentary presents a world in which gas stations, garages, repair shops, junkyards, factories, construction, and, of course, humans, play very different roles. The humor has a bite, however; and one that is particular harsh considering the technological advances on the horizon. As artificial intelligence and driverless/vehicle-to-vehicle technologies become more prevalent; this 50-year-old film is eerily relevant. You never know, “car culture” might actually come to mean “car culture.”

This animated short proposes what many earthlings have long feared – that the automobile has inherited the planet. When life on Earth is portrayed as one long, unending conga-line of cars, a crew of extra-terrestrial visitors understandably assume they are the dominant race. While humans, on the other hand, are merely parasites. An Oscar® nominee, this film serves as an entertaining case study.

National Film Board of Canada