The Car In Sharp Objects Is Fucking Me Up

Image: Supplied

There are a lot of things that can mess a person up whilst watching HBO's Sharp Objects.

If murdered teen girls aren't enough, perhaps the imagery of brutally pulled teeth will do the trick. Or the gratuitous sexual assault flashbacks. Even the spiral of self-destruction of protagonist Camille Preaker (Amy Adams) is too much to handle at times.

Yet it's none of these single details that have made me replay entire scenes repeatedly.

No. It's because Camille drives a rusty red 1980s Volvo 240 GL.

My disturbance over the presence of this car is not a dig at Volvo drivers. It's due to the fact that my very first car was a rusty red 1986 Volvo 240 GL which looked exactly like the one in the show

It wasn't the first car I ever drove. I actually cut my teeth in a Toyota Camry. But it was the first car I bought myself — at a used car auction in Warrawong on the south coast of New South Wales. It cost a cool $800 and served as a noble steed for many years. People could poke fun as much as they liked, but god damn I loved that car.

So why is seeing it manifested on the small screen messing with my head so much?

Image: Look, my 23rd birthday was certainly an event.

It isn't as if the 200 series of Volvos are rare. Around 2.8 million of the things were sold over a 19-year production life between 1974 and 1993. I still see them on the streets in 2018.

They aren't exactly special, and nor am I for owning one second, third or fourth hand.

The answer may lie in simple projection. The protagonist is a journalist roughly my age who hails from a small town. And while I am fortunate enough to not suffer from trauma-induced alcoholism and self-harm, I know a bit about parental neglect, sexual assault and the attempt to hide from your past in the big city.

Not to mention the constant attempt to exercise your demons through the written word.

Throw my car into the mix and you have a pretty healthy hypothesis.

But some might argue that my fixation on what is such a small piece of the narrative puzzle is quite normal.

Anyone who has entered into an obsessive relationship with a TV show, movie, book series or video game can attest to the fact that the devil is in the details. It's what makes the stories real, relatable and utterly personal.

Camille's Volvo is an automotive manifestation of her character — unwashed, scarred and in desperate need of some water. She may have moved away from her hometown, but her past has followed her. She drove there in a metal chunk of it.

She doesn't drive it because she can't afford a new one. She has a steady job and comes from old money. But you get the impression that it's to keep the car she presumably always has, giving it the most basic mechanical attention to keep it running. What it looks like is secondary. Superfluous.

You also see this in her makeup — the remnants of yesterday's smudged mascara simply washed away with spittle and covered over in a half-attempt at basic presentation. It's all she can muster.

And can't we say the same about Camille? She covers up her self-inflicted scars, self-medicates with alcohol and gives herself the most basic attention to keep going. The severe trauma she has experienced is too hard to face head-on. At least so far in the show. We still have one episode to go.

So while such a familiar car may be the reason for my fixation and the connection of dots between myself and Camille, there could be more to it.

For one, that car still holds a special place in my heart. It was my first and represents not only my youth but the freedom that came with the purchase. It bore witness to five years of joy and sorrow. Real tears from my formative years seeped into the interior. Those memories and the feelings attached to them never really leave you.

But perhaps it is also the show itself. The recognition of the artistic weaving of fine details that construct a character who isn't going to be miraculously healed by the end of the final episode. Whose declining mental health across the series has somehow become more important than the actual plot.

Because the question of who the killer is has steadily been replaced with whether Camille will survive herself. And what exactly happened to her.

If depression is affecting you or someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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