Ode to a Monster Truck Rally
it's brash capitalism and i love it.
So, we had to do it. Our toddler is obsessed with monster trucks and so, last weekend, when Monster Jam came to town, we had to take him to the show. And it was everything we — the parents — could ask for. His two-year-old mind was regularly and successively blown for nine straight hours. As evidence, I submit the above photo.
I should note that this was his first monster truck rally. I should also note that Monster Jam rallies aren’t really rallies, they’re shows. Actually, let’s back up.
Firstly, there are two types of events with monster trucks. There are A.) monster truck rallies — these happen on weekends at little dirt “speedways” which stand along the highways outside small towns. Monster truck rallies are loud. They smell like smoke (from both cigarettes and exhausts) and sometimes they taste like hot chocolate and sometimes they taste like apple pie moonshine.
And then there are B.) Monster Jam shows — these are not rallies. A Monster Jam show is a heavily choreographed and trademarked property, owned by a company called Feld Entertainment. They also own the Ringling Brothers Circus, Disney on Ice and, more recently, Marvel Universe Live. There are no cigarettes at Monster Jam shows. And I didn’t see a single visibly intoxicated person in the whole stadium.1
But Monster Jam was the exact atmosphere that we — the parents — wanted for our kid. They had women monster truck drivers, they had a black monster truck driver and a Latino monster truck driver. You don’t see those kinds of things at monster truck rallies; monster truck rallies are more confederate flag t-shirts and Miller High Life.
Monster Jam was geared to kids in the year 2023. At one point, they interviewed opposing drivers and even the trash talk was G-rated. Yes, this is exactly what we wanted, and Monster Jam knows that. They’ve cornered the family friendly monster truck market. And they are raking. it. in.
According to a 7,500-word article about Monster Jam in the New Yorker last summer2, they sell more tickets every year than Taylor Swift. They also keep a stockpile of dirt outside all major cities.3 This is a total dad chat, but I cannot imagine the amount of money Monster Jam clears on a show. Again, they are raking. it. in.
Here’s what I mean: the show starts and they set up this big inflatable dinosaur skull. And then they blast epic music and they drive a monster truck (that looks like a phosphorescent dinosaur) through the dinosaur skull and it — the dinosaur monster truck — does a backflip4 and smashes onto two other monster trucks. That’s how the show begins.5
So now they’ve got to clean up the wreckage of the phosphorescent dinosaur monster truck. And while they’re cleaning him up, they jump up on the Jumbotron and they’re going around the stands, interviewing kids and giving them free Monster Jam™ monster truck toys.6 And after every giveaway they say on the Jumbotron, “now remember everybody, you can buy this toy here or you can order it at Walmart-dot-com.”
And I don’t want to say the kid-targeted marketing was aggressive. I don’t want to say that. But it was a little aggressive. Like those infomercials they play at 3am on Fox News, selling silver dollars to geriatric insomniacs for three-hundred-bucks. And I don’t want to use the word bamboozled, but it worked — we now have not one, not two, but three Monster Jam™ monster trucks in the playroom. Including a remote control Grave Digger. This has led to a bizarre new refrain in our home: the Grave Digger’s sleeping.
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