When the Malibu glows green, it vaporizes anyone who comes close. Televangelists are turned to ash. Many die. When Miller gets in the car, he beckons to Otto, and Otto gets in too.
This is a moment of freedom. Not only did Otto receive his prize, but he got much more. Like a f***-you-inflected version of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” Otto uses extraterrestrial means to find his home. As a punker, he wanted to leave human society behind. As a capitalist, he wanted to steal a car and be set for life. Miller provided him with both.
“Repo Man” argues that 1950s glamor is a bygone myth, and that the grease of a car’s undercarriage is all that remains. Our quests to earn money, get a job, and pay off our bills are all attempts to achieve what we really want: escape from humanity. Delving into the systems as they exist is no solution. Working a dead-end job at Package Mart will not fulfill you. Money will not fulfill you. Love and sex will not fulfill you. Religion will not fulfill you; Christianity had been reduced to its lowest state in the 1980s in the form of evangelical TV preachers who hatefully ranted against gay people.
Alex Cox gives us a fantastical solution. The symbol of physical and economic mobility in the United States, the car, will contain deep within it the means to leave forever. Maybe that’s what 1950s car culture should have been all about. Not the status, not the ability to consume hamburgers on the go, not even the necessity. Perhaps they should have always been about escape, about getting out.
Otto got out. Good job. This world sucked anyway.