Tesla's Cybertruck is a dystopian, masturbatory fantasy

In Elon's future, the rich should be allowed to dominate (and probably run over) the poor with impunity.


It’s been four years since Tesla first announced the Cybertruck, a hideously ugly electric pickup truck that didn’t seem to actually improve on EVs or pickups in any meaningful way. Instead, the 6,600-pound mass of “stainless super steel” seems to be more the culmination of one man's bizarre fantasy, and that man just so happened to own an entire company he could leverage to birth that fantasy, with all its sharp angles and unnecessary lighting bars, into reality.

Today, Tesla finally delivered the first, long-delayed production Cybertrucks to 10 buyers in a livestream on CEO Elon Musk’s decimated X platform, the first of an unknown number of wealthy consumers who have bought into his grim vision of the future. It's a car that promises — for only those who can afford them — a blank check for vehicular manslaughter and unnecessary survivability from semi-automatic firearms. Its tagline ("more utility than a truck, faster than a sports car") speaks almost poetically to two distinct but orthogonal archetypes of threatened masculinity: the tacti-cool milspec dork, and the showboating rich guy.

A “bulletproof” body has been a key feature since the Cybertruck's introduction in 2019; today Musk admitted it was there for no good reason. “Why did you make it bulletproof?” Musk said. “Why not?” he said with a broad grin, before metaphorically waving his genitals at the cheering crowd, while also promising metaphorically larger genitals to anyone who buys the Cybertruck. “How tough is your truck?” Musk smirked.

This admission came alongside video footage of a Cybertruck being sprayed with rounds from a .45 caliber tommy gun, a Glock 9mm and a MP5-SD submachine gun, which also uses 9mm rounds. We'd ask Tesla what cartridges they were firing and if they were being shot from within the effective range of any of these weapons, but the company dissolved its PR team in 2019.

It was a stupid but expected bit of showboating from Musk during his rambling presentation. Right before the gunfire demo, Musk touted the truck’s overall toughness, noting that its low center of gravity made it extremely difficult to flip in an accident. A video also showed the Cybertruck barely moving after a much smaller vehicle moving at 38 mph collided with it. To that, Musk commented that “if you’re ever in an argument with another car, you will win,” glibly encouraging Cybertruck owners to engage in such "arguments."

In a country where both traffic fatalities and gun violence have surged in recent years, it’s a little galling to see Musk promoting his vehicle as some sort of tool for rich people to survive the apocalypse, or even just the inconveniences of a world where their lessers occupy space at all. (All-wheel drive Cybertrucks start at about $80,000; a $60,000 RWD model is supposedly arriving in 2025.) “Sometimes you get these late civilization vibes, the apocalypse could come along at any moment, and here at Tesla we have the finest apocalypse technology,” Musk mused.

Beyond that is the simple fact that SUVs and trucks have gotten dramatically bigger and heavier in the past decade or so. EVs naturally weigh more because of their batteries, but auto manufacturers have been making the fronts of cars larger and taller in recent years, too. That’s a combo that makes these vehicles more dangerous for pedestrians and other drivers alike.

“Whatever their nose shape, pickups, SUVs and vans with a hood height greater than 40 inches are about 45 percent more likely to cause fatalities in pedestrian crashes than cars and other vehicles with a hood height of 30 inches or less and a sloping profile,” research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states. It also noted that pedestrian crash deaths have risen 80 percent since a low in 2009. Anyone who walks or bikes around a city has probably felt that danger before, and it’s even more startling when the wall of a truck stops short when you’re crossing the street. Finally, it’s well known that the speed of a car dramatically impacts the survivability of a pedestrian, which isn’t great when an extremely heavy car also can do 0-60 in less than three seconds.

Now that the Cybertruck is nearly ready for public consumption, it looks like Musk has basically built a vehicle that, for a steep price, enables the worst impulses of US drivers and gives them the “freedom” to do whatever they want. It doesn’t matter if the Cybertruck’s lightbar headlights blind the drivers of smaller vehicles; they should get the hell out of the left lane. And if someone else on the road pisses off a Cybertruck driver, who cares? Other drivers should just accept that they’re about to lose a very expensive and potentially life-threatening “argument” with the Cybertruck’s front fender.

This all should have been obvious right from the start. From day one, the Cybertruck has alluded to a cyberpunk future, a genre with cool haircuts and hacking and slightly problematic orientalism, yes — but also one where wealth inequality is even worse than it currently is, and the rules don’t apply to those with money. The implicit promise of the Cybertruck has always been a vehicle that waives societal standards for people who can afford it, and today’s spectacle made that explicit. To that end, maybe this marketing is as much genius as it is nonsense.

“If Al Capone showed up with a Tommy gun and emptied the entire magazine into the car door, you’d still be alive,” Musk crowed at one point, either promising to revive the dead or oblivious to the terrifying number of human beings who use guns to commit acts of violence. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a world where being swiss cheesed by lethal armaments is something I need to consider when I’m buying a car. Maybe the rich survivalists playing out Blade Runner meets Mad Max in their Cybertrucks haven't considered that when everything burns down, the power grid will go down too.