Do we still care about Art?


In this post, I want to talk about how a movie that I watched years ago added some value in the current version of myself. How, now that I’m much older than back then, I see that the movie showed to me that art is much more important that I thought. How, even in my profession, there can be a noble purpose.


Sometimes we remember our infancy. We remember the toys we used to play with, the people we used to interact with, the lessons that we learned along the way (usually in the most painful way), and also we remember what we used to watch.

I was talking to a friend the other day and she asked me about what I used to watch when young, i.e., between 10 to 15 years of age. My mind sent me to the show Speed Racer. I remember watching it a lot, including having DVDs and toys. I don’t, however, remember anymore the story or the main plots of it, unfortunately. What I do remember is that we had a live-action movie based on it.

The movie itself is a gigantic piece of nostalgia for me, it has cool visuals and some cringe moments throughout it. When I was young, that was about it for me about this movie. But, now that I’m older I see that another thing resides in this movie; a much more important question is embedded in this piece of entertainment.

Don’t get me wrong, the movie actually makes this message very clear in some of its dialogues, but it took me years to properly value it. More interestingly, such a message fits perfectly with a lot of what I see happening in current times and I’m afraid humanity will go downhill about it.


The created universe has incredible cars (that you may argue do not follow the laws of physics) and racing has a lot of vertical movements now in comparison with our age. Propulsion mechanisms were added to the vehicles, thus allowing them to jump. More pedals and directionality were also added, thus allowing rotation at high velocity. The metals that the cars are made of are super resistant. Such races need to be captured via multiple cameras, given that the competitors are going up to 400 MPH in horsepower. Finally, it is allowed for the pilots to try to make the opponents get off the track, given that the security system of the cars is also significantly more robust than today’s standards.

The story of the film is pretty straightforward. Speed Racer and his family view racing as something different than the corporations in the universe that they are in. In fact, his brother, Rex Racer, started being an annoyance for such dictators of that industry, thus the Racers started getting threats and attempts to get rid of them. Later on, Rex decides to leave his family behind in order to protect it. The movie continues with Speed, now grown up, starting to interact with such evil entities and discovering what Rex was trying to fight against.

What I want to talk about is this different view that the Racers had about the sport of racing and what exactly they were fighting, in terms of abstract ideas.

The Final Race

The most memorable thing for me about this movie is the final scene. Speed got a way to participate in a very important race, making the villain (CEO of the aforementioned corporation) extremely mad. His move, then, is to put a gigantic pile of money on Speed’s head for all the other racers. This basically makes the situation all-versus-one for the protagonist.

This, however, is not enough to stop him. Speed is the most talented racer of the bunch, and even with everybody trying to push him out of boundaries, he keeps climbing to the top leaders. After some up-and-down moments, he is in a very precarious situation, losing multiple positions. After some drama to increase the suspense, he activates a hidden lever in Mach 6 (his car), and not only he starts to surpass everybody and everything in front of him, but a sequence of dialogues from the movie starts, all composed together. And that is what I want to talk about. You can follow along via this video from minute 1:39 until 3:22.

The Dialogue

Like I said before, this moment is the one I remember the most. Something about it just always gets me every time. It is fair to say that it is because this is the climax of the movie, but that is not it. There is something more profound going on in this scene. Until more recently, I didn’t know why, but now I think do.

The following sequence of dialogues starts. From here, I want to put slightly altered parts of the sequence of dialogue and explain the meaning behind it from my perspective.

Speed: I don’t know why I’m doing it anymore.

Racer X: You don’t climb into a car to be a driver. You do it because you’re driven.

Speed tells Racer X (that it is in fact Rex after plastic surgery) that he does not know why he keeps doing it. He confessed that he does not know why he keeps pushing it so hard to portray his view of what racing is about. To atone his confusion, Racer X answers that whatever the reason behind it is, it must be something that explains why this is more than just a sport for him. It must explain why it is more than just a way of living for him. Something that drives him forward. Something much more powerful than just free will.

Villain: Racing has nothing to do with cars or drivers. Are you ready to put away your toys and grow up? Are you ready to become a real race-car driver?

What a stark contrast. While Racer X suggested that racing is something deep and profound for Speed, the villain flipped the coin. He picked this abstract point of view and judged it as something that only kids care about, and grown-up men throw away the moment they want to become real drivers in their professions.

Speed: If you know so much, why don’t you tell me why I should keep driving?

Racer X: That’s for you to figure out… I just hope when you do, I’m there to see it.

Naturally, Speed asks Racer X if he knows what the reason is, given that he is so knowledgeable. Wisely, Racer X just says that this answer is for him to find and that moment would be special. So special in fact, that he wants to be there and admire his discovery.

Speed’s Mom: When I watch you do some of the things you do… I just take my breath away…

Speed’s Father: Remember that night, when we sat together and watched and cheered for that race? That night something just… clicked!

And there we go. This is when Speed realizes that he is not alone in this fight. The point of view that he holds is also shared by his mother and father. She gets amazed watching him race and his father literally felt like his existence was justified by the same feeling. I argue that they are talking about viewing racing as a form of expressing art. The activity is a mean to a very noble end, which is the admiration and contemplation of something beautiful. Something more than us. Something that is above us all.

Now it is not a surprise that mister villain needs to combat this. This character is the materialization of modern pragmatism, which adds an utilitarian twist to all of this. It can’t comprehend something noble because everything it sees needs to sit in the material world. And think about it: how far this point of view has gone? Are we thinking like that all time? Think about discussions with our families in which money and prize are the subjects of whatever discussion, especially the ones that involve youngsters that are trying to understand what to do and are flooded with uncertainty. Should we keep looking at the world like that? If not, what can we do about it? Racer X gives us the answer:

Speed: Racing hasn’t changed and never will.

Racer X: It doesn’t matter if racing never changes. What matters is if we let racing change us.

It does not really matter if we are surrounded by people that exclude the art aspect from the equation. It does not matter if that will always be the case. What really matters is if we let that pragmatic point of view ruin art’s nature. What matters is if we allow the poison to destroy such human value. The constant fight of not allowing that to happen even if in a gigantic disadvantage. That is what matters the most.


My first reaction when reaching those conclusions was that I am in the same group as the Racer family. Not in racing of course, but in programming. I see all the time, the pragmatic demon flying around discussions. I see it changing how we think about things and how we deal with them. How extreme this goes always bothered me. It is one thing to see practical value in something, but it is a different conversation if that is the main focus.

This understanding of the final race really changed how I looked at the movie itself. Now it totally makes sense that during Speed’s final sprint towards winning the race, the commenters and the audience went just crazy. They were watching an artist creating a wonderful piece. They were watching someone that values art expressing his defense by showing them how far he can go because he holds this value. I don’t think it is a mere coincidence that we have this scene happening in the middle of the sequence of dialogues:

Are we doomed to forget art altogether? Are we gonna lose such an important value? Are gonna be sick with this pragmatic disease? What I know is that the people that hold that as a value will not allow that process of osmosis to happen to them. They will fight against it with all their will and strength. I will end this post with the complete speech of Speed’s mom:

Speed, when I watch you do some of the things you do, I feel like I’m watching someone paint or play music. When I go to the races, I go to watch you make art and it’s beautiful and inspiring and everything that art should be, even though there are times when I have to close my eyes. But then there are other times, when you just take my breath away and it’s at those moments, when I feel your father’s chest swell and I know he’s smiling, trying to pretend he doesn’t have tears in his eyes, I just go to pieces.