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An Inquiry Into The Nature of Mavericks

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Where’s the DJ? He was supposed to cue “Sesame Street”‘s, “Three of These Things Belong Together”.

Three of these things belong together,
Three of these things are sort of the same,
One of these things does not belong here,
Now it’s time to play our game.

And then we guess which item doesn’t belong with the others.

Okay, so we have to do it without the music… let’s see… we have Tom Cruise, as the character Maverick in “Top Gun”, James Garner as Maverick in the 1950s television show “Maverick”, John McCain as, well, this year’s presumptive political Maverick, and a 1972 Ford Maverick.

Tom Cruise: well, he’s called “Maverick”, but he’s a pilot in the most conformist organization in the world, the US Military. Just to get in you have to be good at keeping your shoes clean and your dress uniform pressed. You have to know the dress code and stick to it. You have to salute in the right way under the right circumstances and you’d better learn all that protocol so that it’s not just second nature, but first nature. And he’s a pilot, so he’s got to understand and follow endless checklists and procedures and he has to practice his flying so that he can do the regular stuff with ease and the emergency procedures without panicking. I have a lot of respect for the military and especially for good military pilots. But to function well you have to be the most perfectly machined cog in a very very complex machine. Maverick? I don’t know that the military really has room for mavericks. Let’s see what else we have.

James Garner. I like James Garner and I have a vague memory of him in the television show “Maverick”. He brought something new to the role of the gunfighter/cowboy, a complete reluctance to commit acts of violence, even in a violent and untamed land. He laughed in the face of death, even though they were just Hollywood prop guns, and he always came up with a clever way to outwit the bad guys, usually with his brains rather than the speed of his draw. But the whole premise of his character and the program was that he wandered from place to place, so the story took place in a new location every week. Way to take a stand, muchacho. It’s pretty easy to be flippant and cool when you don’t have to stand your ground for more than 30 minutes (less commercial breaks), so I gotta take off a few Maverick points just for that.

John McCain. Got his start in the navy from his grandfather and his father, both of whom were navy Admirals. His career seems characterized by nepotism, entitlement, self-promotion and recklessness, until he was shot down over Vietnam, captured and held prisoner for 5 years. Once back in the states he dumped his wife who had gained weight and lost her looks in an auto accident, married a rich blonde and returned to a life of nepotism, entitlement, self-promotion and a conservativism. Sorry, I don’t see anything Mavericky here.

Now, the Ford Maverick. What a car. With this design, the Ford Motor Company managed merge the reduced luggage and leg room of a compact automobile with the handling characteristics of a light-duty backhoe. The Ford Maverick stood out in every imaginable way, from a complete lack of crash-worthiness to bad mileage to an array of ill-conceived color options. Like all American cars from the mid-70s, the frame and body were in a race to see which one could rust out fastest. But the Maverick stood out from the crowd with a set of unique cost-cutting measures, like being initially released without a glove-compartment or rear windows that could roll down. This is a car whose sales numbers were finally ruined by the introduction of the Ford Grenada for God’s sake. The 70s and 80s saw some of the worst automotive ideas of the short history of automobiles, but even in this crowd, a truly horrible ideas stand out. Like the AMC Pacer, the Chervrolet Vega and the Ford Maverick.

So, looking at our list of items that may or may not belong together, I guess I have to go with the car as the real Maverick in the crowd. Bad automotive design ideas come and go, but few make it through the aesthetic gatekeepers with so many poor initial decisions intact.

Written by Alan

October 11th, 2008 at 11:01 am