Jun 12, 2019 in Review
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The Movie “Taken for a Ride” 

The movie “Taken for a Ride” presents the history of how an efficient system of streetcars was compromised and then destroyed to the benefit of large corporations. The presenters reveal the scheme behind this whole affair, showing the viewers how step by step the society and its preferences were changed and manipulated. Consequently, the viewer finds out the little known information that explains the way America took to change from a country with a well established and developed a system of public transport to a state where nearly every citizen has got a car and spends hours in traffic jams.

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Everything began in 1930s, when only 10% of Americans owned cars. Seeing this as an unexplored market, General Motors decides to take action. The only obstacle on their way was the environmentally-friendly, fast and cheap public transportation system represented by an extensive network of streetcars. Hidden behind the name of National City Lines, GM created the nation-wide trend “away from rail.” They made buses fashionable, managing to convince people that streetcars were obsolete. GM also influenced the way that streetcars were run, increasing the intervals between them. The fewer streetcars were on the streets, the less people used them, and the more expensive they became triggering further decline in the number of people who used them. Coupled, both these measures led to the destruction of the streetcar system in just some 15 years. Clean streetcars were replaced with dirty and smelling buses. When public awareness was finally raised it was too late to reverse the trend. Further, lobbying of pro-highway laws by GM and the conglomerate of petrol companies resulted in the America as we know it. The cities that are cut in half by huge highways, miles of traffic jams, as well as an awful smog and air pollution: these are the problems that most cities are struggling to solve spending millions of dollars on new public transport system establishment.

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The authors of this documentary managed to achieve balance between presenting historical facts, making the movie interesting and persuasive at the same time. The viewer has the opportunity to see and understand how the corporations manipulate the society and make country-changing shifts. By providing examples of highly efficient European and Japanese public transport systems, the authors lead the audience to the reasonable conclusion that the only way out of the dead end transport situation is to reestablish the streetcars.

This movie is eye-opening on two levels. Firstly, it reveals the secrets of corporate policies and behind-the-scene manipulations, which is interesting in itself. More important, however, is the principle of artificial consumer need creation. What GM has done is convince the customers who neither needed nor wanted to buy cars that the cars are absolutely indispensable to them. Looking closely at the current market trends, it becomes quite clear that many of the things that people are convinced to buy are actually unnecessary. Consequently, it is apparent that corporate greed has transformed the US into a consumer society. Everything is done to convince people that the latest fashionable gadget will make them happy. It is the major issue that lies at the core of many problems including the destruction of streetcar network.

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All in all, “Taken for a Ride” is an excellent documentary that accomplishes the task of informing the viewers of the pressing problem, provides the background facts and point to a practical solution, as well as encourages viewers to think critically and rationally. By revealing how GM manipulated public opinion to suit their financial purposes, this movie shows the scheme that corporations in general use to make people buy things that they do not need, thus, creating artificial consumer needs.

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