Cruz Ramirez is not necessarily driven by technology, but she is driven by cutting edge methods, encouraging McQueen to motivate through visualization and even managing to get him on the car version of the yoga mat in her training studio (with a “carmaste” poster on the wall). McQueen, being an old dog, isn’t interested in learning new tricks, and sure enough, he drags Ramirez outside to experience the breeze and grit of a dirt track and a sandy beach. The most enjoyable extended scene of the movie ensues when these expensive racecars find themselves in a Crazy 8 demolition derby. For anyone from a rural community, where demolition derbies have real cultural status, the scene is a reminder that watching Crazy 8 racing offers some of the highest quality, lowest common denominator entertainment around—and, it turns out, an animated Crazy 8 race is just as fun to watch.
Not entirely unexpectedly, McQueen ends up transferring his outsized ambition and intense desire to continue to win races, even at his advanced age, to Cruz. The best part, though, is that he does so without sublimating her own ambition and her own dreams of her career. It is a lovely depiction of each generation bringing the best of themselves to their interactions—and, more importantly, a depiction of legacy-building not often seen: the tricky part about transference.
This is a topic close to the heart of Christian families especially. How do parents pass on the culture of a timeless faith to their children while still allowing their children to belong to their own generation and express their faith accordingly? Such transference—not of regeneration, but of the beauty of a life built on faith—can only take place in an atmosphere of mutual respect. As children grow up and ask questions, expressing to their parents, their teachers, and pastors all the specific difficulties of coming to faith in their own place and time, their parents must take these difficulties seriously, just as they expect their children to respond to the parents’ callout to history. “A liking for history has never been common among the young,” the historian and social critic Jacques Barzun wrote. “It is a mature taste that calls for some experience of life.”
In Cars 3, McQueen understands this intuitively. The lessons of history, of Doc Hudson and his generation, of McQueen and the citizens of Radiator Springs, can be passed on to Cruz and her generation of racecars, technological dominance notwithstanding—but only if the willingness to cede the dais is passed on as well.
S.D. Kelly is an editor for Christ and Pop Culture. She lives with her family in coastal Massachusetts, where she runs a community nonprofit.