Cars – A Life Worth Celebrating

Thematic Reflection

Movie stars, professional athletes, the Kardashians, and Justin Bieber all have one thing in common. Whether famous or infamous, they captivate our imaginations. We love celebrities, so much so that researchers in the US and the UK have concluded that pre-teenage children (ages 5-11) no longer aspire to be doctors, lawyers, or teachers as they did only a generation ago. Rather, children today want to be famous. According to the research, it seems to matter little if this fame is the product of talent, skill, or the significance of the contributions one makes to society. Instead, growing numbers of young people simply want recognition, and they want all the trappings that go with it.

It is perhaps unsurprising that Cars reflects a similar impulse. It tells the story of Lightning McQueen—a hot-shot sports car who wants nothing more than to be famous. Sure, he wants to be a champion, but he longs even more for the sponsorships, the preferential treatment, and the many other privileges that come with being a celebrity. The irony of course is that his quest for fame has no clear end. His thirst for celebrity is unquenchable. He fails to appreciate or even recognize the fans who already adore him and the community that is responsible for making his dreams a possibility (see Clip 1).

McQueen eventually comes to realize the error of his egotistical ways. The film charts his transition from self-absorbed individual to humbled member of a community—one who places the needs of others before his own (see Clip 2). Significantly, what he wants is recognition and praise, but what he actually needs is belonging and acceptance—something that he can only achieve through a willful act of self-giving love. In the end, Lightning realizes that no amount of success or notoriety is ultimately meaningful in the absence of a community.

“No one has greater love than this – that one lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). It is not inherently wrong to desire recognition for the contributions we make to the world. We all long to be valued. We all long for our lives to be affirmed as meaningful. However, something has gone terribly wrong when our desire for recognition becomes an end in itself, for it reveals a disoriented understanding of the source of our life’s joy. In other words, celebrity for celebrity’s sake is ultimately empty because it fails to acknowledge that the true measure of greatness is not the ease with which others recognize us, but the degree to which we lay down our life for someone else. Celebrity culture would have us believe the opposite—that we just need to do a better job of advertising our own intrinsic goodness or beauty or extraordinariness. But the truth of the matter is that, just as Lighting McQueen discovers, the only kind of life worth living—the only kind of life that is truly worth celebrating—is the one in which we set our own interests aside for the sake of a friend. Kachow indeed. 


Key Scenes

Clip 1

Clip 2


Discussion Questions

For Adults

Watch Clip 1.

1) How drawn to celebrity culture are you?
2) What is most compelling to you about celebrities?
3) What values are communicated in one’s desire for fame or celebrity?

Watch Clip 2, and read John 15:9-16.

1) Is it possible to be successful in your industry or profession while putting others first? Why or why not?
2) What is the significance of Jesus saying we ought to lay our lives down for our friends?
3) Does the idea of sacrificing for those you love bring you joy? Why or why not?

For Families

Watch Clip 1.

1) How drawn to celebrity culture are you? What is most compelling to you about celebrities?
2) What values are communicated in one’s desire for fame or celebrity?
3) Does our family value fame and recognition, or self-giving sacrifice?

Watch Clip 2, and read John 15:9-16.

1) Is it possible to be successful in life while putting others first? Why or why not?
2) Why would Jesus say we ought to lay our lives down for our friends?
3) Does the idea of sacrificing for those you love bring you joy? Why or why not?

For Students

Watch Clip 1.

1) How drawn to celebrity culture are you?
2) What is most compelling to you about celebrities?
3) What values are communicated in one’s desire for fame or celebrity?

Watch Clip 2, and read John 15:9-16.

1) Is it possible to be successful in life while putting others first? Why or why not?
2) Why would Jesus say we ought to lay our lives down for our friends?
3) Does the idea of sacrificing for those you love bring you joy? Why or why not?

For Children

Watch Clip 1.

1) What do you want to be when you grow up?
2) Would you rather be a teacher or a celebrity? Why or why not?
3) Why do you think Lightning McQueen treats his fans in this scene badly?

Watch Clip 2, and read John 15:9-16.

1) Who is your friend? What does it mean to “lay your life down” for your friend?
2) Have you ever helped someone like Lightning helps The King in this scene?
3) Has anyone helped you in this way? What happened because of it?

Related Scriptures

“Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; remain in my love. If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete. My commandment is this—to love one another just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this—that one lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because the slave does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because I have revealed to you everything I heard from my Father. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that remains, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. This I command you—to love one another.”
(John 15:9-16)

More Resources for Further Reflection and Discussion
Family