“Junkyards” As Portrayed in Film
Junkyard mystique has long plagued Hollywood. It’s interesting to see how the junkyard setting is so laden with symbolism, whether that be transformation, change, or the past. In reality, junkyards are the future. Junkyards, or rather auto recycling facilities, are a place where the transportation sector can drastically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
Given that these spaces are only going to become more important with time, we need to get a few things straight. Hollywood, in all its glory, has done a disservice to these respectable, hardworking, small business owners. It almost seems as if Hollywood hates recycling, by way of the disrespect served to Auto Recyclers in films across the board.
If you try to search for ‘movies with junkyard scenes’, one of the first links to come up is a list of the 50 best dystopian movies of all time. What is that supposed to say about salvage yards and the auto recycling industry at large?
1. Queer Eye, Season 7, Ep. 4 “Jenni Seckel’s Diary”
Queer Eye is a reality makeover show where someone’s poor self-image is smashed (quite literally) and remade anew. Jenni, the focus of this episode, visits a salvage yard with one member of the Fab Five. In this clip Jenni scrawls her limiting self-beliefs onto glass window panes– things like ‘I am not pretty enough.’ and ‘No one will want me.’– and then is told to take a baseball bat to them.
This activity is ripe with symbolism and an important part of Jenni’s life-changing transformation. Though the scene takes place in an auto salvage yard, the glass panes they are shattering are from a building instead of a car.
This is understandable as car windows aren’t likely to give them the glass-shattering effect they were looking for when filming this scene (#shatterproof). But then why film this in an auto salvage yard? Why even involve auto recyclers?
Portrayals like this one make it seem like junkyards are the place to go to smash some glass. Viewers don’t have to be concerned about how all this glass will be cleaned up because after all, it’s a junkyard *side eye*.
2. Superman III (1983)
In this clip from the 1983 Super Man, the junkyard is a backdrop to a fight scene between evil SuperMan and Clark Kent.
In this scene, the junkyard is a place of magical realism, where the acid bath that Bad Superman falls into doesn’t kill him but instead allows him to grow far larger and stronger.
It is also a place of superhuman strength (Let’s be honest, there’s just something incredibly impressive about somebody lifting a car). The two men throw each other into piles of scrap metal, stacked haphazardly and unrealistically. There is a bit of magic in scrap yards, but not the Superman kind of magic.
There is magic in the intangible knowledge that many scrapyard owners possess. It is not uncommon for them to have 2,000 cars in their lot and to know exactly where each one of them is located. Now that is magic.
3. Deadpool (2016)
This scene is the junkyard at its gnarliest. In it, Deadpool is engaged in a gunfight against a troop of mercenaries who are holding his woman hostage. Deadpool performs a series of parkour-like moves over huge pieces of scrap metal whilst using his two machetes to kill the mercenaries one-by-one, beheading at least one of them in the process.
Superhuman powers are deployed by Deadpool’s accomplices to crush some of the mercenaries and ultimately, Deadpool is launched into the air and onto the platform that his lover sits hostage.
Scenes like this are the reason many associate junkyards with blood, gore, and violence. In reality, they are pretty wholesome places in which employees listen to music and take apart cars together. Risk of a gun fight breaking out is minimal, at best.
At this point, fight scenes and recycling yards go together like peanut butter and jelly. We’d prefer it to match reality, and be understood as more of an oil and water type of situationship.
4. High School Musical 3 (2008)
This scene features the standout number of HSM 3, ‘The Boys are Back’. This angsty song by the two male leads, Troy and Chad, has them running around Riley’s Auto Salvage Junkyard with backup dancers.
Of all the auto salvage yards portrayed on film, this yard appears pretty clean. And miraculously, there are no fight scenes. An exception to Hollywood’s hatred of recycling yards? Perhaps.
And yet, the mystique of the junkyard remains. This number explores the boys’ reflections on their childhood together and their future going off to college. They act like little boys, sword fighting and pretend race car-driving. Towards the end of the song, the boys are transformed into childhood versions of themselves. The number ends with backup dancers doing backflips off of cars.
Portrayal: 6/10 (+1 bonus point for backflips)
5. Herbie Fully Loaded (2006)
This scene features Herbie, a former racecar, being unloaded before being crushed at Crazy Dave’s Scrap Yard. Herbie is a fiery race car with a mind of its own and Herbie does NOT want to be crushed. Before we rate the state of the salvage yard we must state the obvious: cars are not conscious beings, despite how much of a hard time they can give us.
The salvage yard is very realistic– we see a truck filled with scrap tires being taken away, cars lined up in rows in the yard, and even a designated crushing area. Overall, this is one of the most accurate portrayals we’ve seen yet. If only the yard wasn’t called ‘Crazy Dave’s’…
Hollywood hates recycling is meant to simultaneously poke fun as much as it is also doing the necessary work of reframing the narrative surrounding auto recyclers.
The way movies portray salvage yards results in real-world consequences: fear and derision resulting in less R &D which prevents the industry from achieving its maximal possible environmental impact.
But, when you really think about it… all forms of recycling are visually messy businesses. That is the nature of the extraordinary work of turning waste into new forms in which it can be reused.
And yet, that doesn’t mean they aren’t also methodical about their yard’s organization and abide by strict federal and state standards. Many auto recyclers choose to go through further certification via the ARA’s CAR certification program, a program that takes these standards even further. All members within SHiFT’s partnership network are ARA certified. We must always remember, appearance is so little of what lies underneath.