Just watched this again with a few friends—as I thought it was both a good film and an appropriate one for the 4th of July. Even though I really liked this film, I had seen this a while ago, and I expected that I may not like it as much now—mainly because I suspected this would be too sappy but that wasn’t really the case. In addition, I loved the pacing (the film having almost no fat), dialogue and cinematography. Martin Landau’s character and performance stood out for me as well. I thought this would be just a film I personally liked, but I’m prepared to say that this is quite a good film, period.
In this thread, I wanted to talk about in general about this film, and also one aspect of the film—namely, the notion that sometimes a good idea isn’t sufficient. In the case of the film, Tucker had good ideas for cars and even though he could successfully incorporate these ideas, the powers that be (the Big Three and the politician beholden to them). In what ways do you feel the quality of ideas matter or don’t matter in your professional life? In what circumstances would having a good idea matter and in what circumstances would it matter little? In Tucker’s situation, his good ideas matter little because they threaten the profits of big corporations—and they squashed him before he could threaten their share on the market. Do people feel like the world is more like this or do good ideas generally triumph and give success to the people who come up with them?
“Do people feel like the world is more like this or do good ideas generally triumph and give success to the people who come up with them?”
It all has to due with capital and the way it works. Supposedly Heny Ford wanted to design his first cars using
natural gas as fuel but financial backers who had interest in petroleum insisted on him using gasoline or not giving him loans.
Do you have any idea how many asthmatics would get better just by not drinking milk/consuming dairy products? That is what I did more than twenty years ago and went from nearly dying to getting only a couple of mild attacks a year. Do you think big pharma and the dairy industry want asthmatics to know about this? Or even doctors? I saw a Pneumologist for years as my asthma kept getting worse and never did she ever bring the idea up. I had to do it by myself when I realizaed on my own that it may help me.
“In what ways do you feel the quality of ideas matter or don’t matter in your professional life?”
Back around 1986 I was working as an editor and my boss asked me to design an online video editing room.
I did research on the subject and designed a system using Beta SP machines, then the up and coming video tape standard. When I presented him the plans he was very angry and basically told me to get lost. He got another editor to design the room and the guy used one inch reel to reel video tape as the basis. The room was built and was obsolete within two years. Only months after my presentation I learned that my boss did not even know what Beta SP was. He thought it was the by then obsolete regular Beta home system! Since he was himself an editor I never thought I had to explain to him what Beta SP meant. I was obviously wrong and he lost a lot of money.
I’m not sure I can add much to this thread other than the fact that I had a lot of the same questions after watching The Social Network. That movie was all about the execution of an idea as opposed to the actual idea itself. The ones that came up with the idea would have never been able to execute it the way Zuckerberg did but he also may have never come up with said idea had he not taken it from the ones that came up with it.
I haven’t seen the film, so I will only address the idea aspect you bring up by quoting from Vonnegut’s Bluebeard (I also do not have the book, so I am using my notes from several years ago, thus portions of the quotes may be missing. Anyway,) In the book, a character basically says that, as you glean from the movie, that an idea man is not enough, three types of people are needed:
the rarest is an “authentic genius, one capable of seemingly good ideas not in general circulation;” but “a genius working alone . . . is invariably ignored as a lunatic.”
second, a “Highly intelligent citizen in good standing in his or her community, who understands and admires the fresh ideas of the genius and testifies that the genius is far from mad.” Working alone, this type " can only yearn out loud for changes, but fail to say what their shapes should be."
finally, “a person who can explain anything, no matter how complicated, to the satisfaction of most people, no matter how stupid or pig-headed they may be.” The type who “will say anything in order to be interesting and exciting.” “working alone, depending solely on his own shallow ideas, he would be regarded of being as full of shit as a Christmas turkey.”
In the context of Tucker, it sounds like the second type of person, if he was present, was opposed by other highly intelligent citizens in better standing who had their own interests (the big three).
Which one of the three was Vonnegut?
If he were to refer to himself as any of the three, I would guess he would consider himself the third. He certainly had a way of presenting ideas so that they were both attractive and easily understood. He also tended to use the ideas and experiences of others in addition to his own. And of course, there is the very real possibility that he was none of the three.
Whatever the case may be, these are ultimately generalizations, so (even to the extent that these are representative of reality) a single person may potentially encompass multiple types (or parts of multiple types, or multiple people may be required to create a single type). However, it is the rare person who can fill all three roles, and such a person will ultimately need assistance of some sort eventually.
Not sure what you mean by “capital.” Do you mean that the people who control capital? (How does that relate to the asthma example, though?)
Just to throw in my two cents, I think the some ideas are such that many people come up with them at the same time. (Something like Facebook would qualify, I think.) Perhaps, in such cases, we could say the idea is not so crucial as the execution and the ability to apply or bring the ideas to life. On the other hand, there are some ideas that are so radical and innovative (maybe something like Einstein’s Theory of Relativity) that very few other people, if any, came up with the same idea. In such cases, the idea might be more important.
Actually, I think timing—rather than the second and third type of people you describe—is more critical—although if the second person is highly respected (think of someone like Warren Buffet or Bill Gates, perhaps), then that might be sufficient for an idea to be embraced.
Well, by “better standing,” if you mean they had more power and influence, then, yeah. The thing about Tucker was that he had people to actually make his ideas become a reality, so one could see the results. Still, in the film, it posed a commercial threat to the Big Three, so they used their political muscle to shoot him down.
it posed a commercial threat to the Big Three,
How? he barely got 50 cars made…. the innovations were uh, pathetic – using rubber as suspension parts – how long could that have lasted?
so they used their political muscle to shoot him down.
Has a smoking gun ever been found? it is possible people acted on behalf of a power source without being asked to do so by that source (the Big Three).
Jazzaloha – I certainly agree about timing, but what is timing except the good fortune to find a person or persons who believe that the idea is more than mere lunacy (or, what is probably more likely, a waste of time) and a person or persons who believe that second group who can sell the idea to the masses. What makes being in the right place at the right time right? A group willing to listen, willing to believe and willing to act (whether that action be to make a material or mental change doesn’t matter in the general). Such a group comprises the people types (and as mentioned, I do not take the three people as literal individuals, but as three types of people or, essentially, three attitudes, mindsets or characteristics necessary to bring about such change, as mentioned, each may exist in many or one). Perhaps by doing so I make the distinction meaningless, I don’t know.
By “good standing” I did mean “ha[ving] more power and influence”, and not ironically, but because, it seems to me, that good standing to many people is earned by an ability to a, accomplish something one would like to accomplish (e.g., acquire power and money) and, b, provide some sort of comfortable contribution (through the ability to acquire power and/or money by way of salary, contribution or acquaintance. One would hope that such attributes would generally be in a person “worthy” of “good standing”, but, certainly, this is not often the case.
Your response to M I, I think, is interesting in that the ideas like the one you both mention (Facebook) which take off like that are often not so novel as to actually require explaining or convincing; the explaining and convincing have been done by the culture at large beforehand. There is no lone voice crying in the wilderness, rather there is one who, as M I notes, translates the idea for mass consumption, and even that translation is not novel except in how it is marketed (and even that, really, is not so new). This, in turn, brings up a potentially interesting aspect of the modern IT dominated society in which people who match the second two qualifications to varying degrees can find true or ersatz visionaries and a whole culture can be shifted (often for only a short time, as the next [not really] novel idea soon shifts the same mass). Whether Facebook is an example remains to be see, but whether it stays or not, did it really change the way people see things, or did it expand the way people already saw things (and is there a difference)?
I cannot speak for Francisco, but it seems to me that he is asserting that “the Big Three and the politician beholden to them” who “squashed [Tucker] before he could threaten their share on the market” are the ones who understand and manipulate (control) the way it (capital, I think he is primarily referring to money and the general means to create, but hopefully he will clarify if I am incorrect) works. He would seem to fall into the first camp posed by the last sentence of your original post ("Do people feel like the world is more like this . . . "). I believe the asthma example is relevant to his statement in that the pharmaceutical and dairy industries (who control a great deal of capital, and consequently, a great deal of influence) restrict the idea that reducing or eliminating dairy consumption will reduce or eliminate asthma/asthma symptoms (reinforcing the notion that the world is as it is depicted in the film). I can see the confusion, however, in part, because a great deal of tradition also plays a part in that particular issue, and the influence of tradition can trump, in certain situations, the influence of “capital and the way it works”.
Capital in the Marxian sense, the concept of (accumulated) money as a commodity to be used as leverage by the financial sector.
I brought up the astma example because there is a great deal of money beign made by companies selling medication, doctors “treating” asthmatics and by the dairy companies. No way any of them would like people to realize that they could improve their health by just not consuming dairy products, thus hurting the profits of both pharmaceutical companies, doctors and the dairy industry.
Another example was the time I got a kidney stone. After it was destroyed by ultrasound treatment I asked the urologist what diet I should follow from then on, especially if I should avoid carbonated soft drinks- when he said “No you can drink all the soda you want” I decided never to drink the stuff again. He had a vested interest in seeing me back in a few years with another stone to treat and make a few K$ in the process.
It is all about the money.
Tucker was a new competitor—that possibly posed a serious threat—if the excitement around the car portrayed in the film was accurate. (People were asking for the car just based on advertisements before it was even built.) Also, Tucker was able to secure the biggest manufacturing space in the world at the time, a respectable board and finances to support his company.
The innovations themselves may not have made Tucker’s car more competitive—although they did add to the futuristic element (“Don’t let the future pass you by”) that seemed to help with marketing. But the innovations weren’t pathetic, as many were later adopted (e.g. fuel injection, seat belts, etc.).
Has a smoking gun ever been found? it is possible people acted on behalf of a power source without being asked to do so by that source (the Big Three).
Based on the film, the Senator from Michigan acts on behalf of the Big Three. They wouldn’t have to ask him to do this. Remember, Tucker was attempting to start a plant in Chicago.
It’s a very good film, and very personal to Coppola (who dedicates it to the meory of his son Ginacarlo) Tuckers’ rise and fall mirrors Coppola and hsi Zoetrope Studios.
“How? he barely got 50 cars made…. the innovations were uh, pathetic – using rubber as suspension parts – how long could that have lasted?”
But innovations that turned out to be in fact design flaws could have been corrected if the company had endured, right? The problem with the American auto industry is that it eventually developed into a industry that discouraged innovation rather than fostering it. I wonder how much further along we might be with alternative fuels, etc., if the industry had pursued this stuff rather than actively suppressed it. Instead, we’re bailing them out in the desperate hope that they can continue to sorta maintain the status quo a little longer.
By innovations you mean water cooling an air-cooled engine?
I suppose we would have had seat-belt laws a full 2 or 3 years sooner if Tucker hadn’t gone out of business.
And maybe the Edsel could have been fixed as well. Ford had the capital to weather that, Tucker didn’t.
But ultimately it was the Tucker that killed the Tucker.
Conspiracy theorists are gonna say if only the media wasn’t in with the Big Three – but if they had bought one of the lemons, they would have been moaning that no one told them.
Not just seat belts, but front wheel drive, power steering, air bags, fuel injection, disc brakes, ergonomics, aerodynamics, etc, and in most of those areas it might have made quite a bit more than a couple of years worth of difference. You’re right of course that it was ultimately Tucker that did Tucker in, just like it was Kaiser and Frazer who killed Kaiser-Frazer (who by the way got a much more favorable treatment from the government) . . . but without those companies having come along, the Big Three might still be trying to sell 1941 designs.
“Conspiracy theorists are gonna say if only the media wasn’t in with the Big Three – but if they had bought one of the lemons, they would have been moaning that no one told them.”
Lemons are lemons, and I’m fine with the Tuckers being exposed for what they were . . . now if only the media had been holding the Big Three to the same standards. Remember the “Ford Pinto Memo”?
Remember the “Ford Pinto Memo”?
Yeah, but that wasn’t meant to be an innovation ;-)
You forgot the pop-out windshield, that he most likely stole from the Nazi’s VW.
I learned how to drive in a ’78 Pinto.
That was Big Three innovation—actuarial innovation . . . figuring out how many people they could afford to incinerate before it became cost effective to fix a design flaw . . . or just quit making the thing.
I re-watched this movie about six months ago and my biggest problem with that is that I felt Coppola had no direction for the film. It functions as neither a tribute to the creative, individualistic spirit of the great American inventor/entrepreneur, or as a critical reflection on the decreased possibility of achieving the American dream in a market strangled by ruthless oligopolists.
As a result, the movie is neither here nor there from my point of view, it is basically a missed opportunity
Given the direction that big business moved in during the 80s, Coppola could have fashioned a great allegory, with Tucker as the symbol, that, if handled correctly, would have been powerful and resonant and completely relevant to both the times and in the here and now.
The movie does hint at this idea but it doesn’t explore it sufficiently enough to be meaningful, and in the end, we are given a bittersweet finale; Tucker wasn’t really defeated, because he realised his dream, even if his business was a total failure.
It just felt so glossed over to me
I actually preferred Flash Of Genius to be honest.
please excuse the number of posts
Tucker wasn’t really defeated, because he realised his dream, even if his business was a total failure.
Are you saying his dream was perhaps One from the Heart? So to speak…