Hollywood Hates Junkyards

Debunking Movie Myths: Junkyards

Scenes from American cinema, both old and new, seem to have a lot to say about junkyards. What if there was a different story to tell? 

This dramatic 1975 clip from the film Nashville is just one of many portrayals of junkyards or rather, Auto Recycling Facilities, that the industry has worked to disassociate itself from. There have been one too many fight scenes or other forms of general debauchery that always seem to land the characters in a similarly disheveled and dangerous junkyard. I mean, think of The Sandlot. In this story, an aggressive English Mastiff frothing at the mouth, deemed by the children ‘The Beast’, guards his equally unfriendly owner’s junkyard. Legend has it he once ate a kid in the backyard.

While these films were made in good fun, it is a simple fact that Americans fail to fully separate the portrayal of something on the screen from their understanding of it in reality. As a consequence, fiction can become fact. For example, the term ‘junkyard dog’, based off of dogs like The Beast, is a term used to refer to someone who is mean and combative. All this to say, the media heavily influences how we talk about things.

It is the work of the Auto Recycling industry to take back control of their narrative. But a little help from their friends (that’s us!) doesn’t hurt. 

While there may be some facilities out there that stack cars 10-high and leave vehicles and their fluids to leach toxic chemicals into the soil, the majority of Auto Recyclers have a net-positive impact on the environment and are required to abide by state regulations to remain in operation. Many recyclers seek further certification from groups like the ARA who certify Auto Recyclers upon their compliance to a set of standards that go beyond most states’ guidelines. All of the Auto Recyclers enrolled in the SHiFT program are CAR-certified by the ARA, meaning they follow the very best, most up-to-date industry practices. 

With this in mind, let’s watch some junkyard-related movie clips! We aim to highlight the difference between what one might assume based on what they saw on the screen versus the reality of our network of professional Automotive Recyclers.

1. The aforementioned classic, The Sandlot, 1993.

In this scene the boys are trying to retrieve a baseball from The Beast. This scene portrays the junkyard as a dangerous place to fear. Even the dog’s paw is monster-like, exaggerated by it being detached from a larger body. The viewers do not see too much into the yard, but the little they do see looks pretty rusty and dusty. Though comedic, it’s not an accurate portrayal of your local Auto Recycler’s salvage yard. 

2. Breaking Bad, 2008.

Ah yes, the classic troupe: junkyards as a place for drug deals. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Most junkyards are secured facilities, not open for just any individual to wander into. Further, the work of Auto Recycling requires one to be incredibly alert and vigilant. Working with heavy equipment and corrosive chemicals is dangerous work. Auto Recyclers are careful to protect their employees, as well as themselves, to the best of their ability.

3. Halloween Ends*, 2022; *cw: explicit, violence.

Another horror movie favorite: chase scenes in junkyards. This scene is particularly gruesome. While some might say that these bullies had it coming, I beg to differ. While salvage yards are not great places to hangout at night, you would not be brutally murdered if you did land in one after dark. And you certainly would not have such easy access to tools like blow torches, wrenches, and chains.

4. Transformers the Last Knight, 2017.

We’ll admit, this one is kinda cool. But in actuality most Auto Recyclers are small, family-owned, ‘mom n’ pop’ businesses. While the scale of this yard is not unheard of, it is also not the norm. Also, Auto Recyclers do not typically work on giant talking robots…at least not yet…

5. Blade Runner 2049, 2017.

Last but not least, this one is just offensive. You mean to tell me that humans have figured out flying cars and THAT is the state of salvage yards? The future of Auto Recycling will look different in 2049, but not in this way and certainly not with the growth of ARTI, supported by the SHiFT program.

While this article was meant all in good fun, there is a clear narrative that Hollywood’s formed around Auto Recycling facilities over the years. Part of SHiFT is highlighting and uplifting the hard working individuals within the industry. These types of portrayal make that difficult to do. 

Check back in with the Talk SHiFT blog in the coming months for content directly from our partners (real professional Automotive Recyclers!). Salvage yards should not be seen as places to fear, but rather recycling hubs responsible for an incredible amount of avoided emissions.

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