Someone Explain This To Me, Please

Illustration for article titled Someone Explain This To Me, Please
Graphic: GS Creations/ Jason Torchinsky (In-House Art)

No emperor in ermine or crowned king or be-shashed mayor bestowed the honor on me, but I still claim the title of Global Taillight Culture Ambassador. This is not a position I take lightly, which means that it’s my responsibility to do my best to understand and advocate for all taillight subcultures, from the Altezzans to the Amber Rear Indicator League to the true taillight pervs. That’s why when I find a confusing aspect of taillight culture, I need to do what I can to understand it. And this time I need help. From you.

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The thing I don’t understand is a trend that involves blacking out taillight reflectors, especially when those reflectors housed in units removed from the main taillight housing. I’ve seen this on cars over the years, sometimes accompanied by deleted or blacked-out marker lamps as well.

Now, sometimes I can understand the aesthetic reasons for some modifications like these—some people, for some reason, seem to hate amber reflectors and lamps and replace amber lenses with clear ones. Okay, I can see how for certain cars, with a certain more monochrome aesthetic, this makes sense.

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But the reflector-blackening doesn’t seem to fit this, necessarily. To show you what I mean, here’s a company selling these reflector-blackening kits, and its before and after pics:

Illustration for article titled Someone Explain This To Me, Please
Photo: GS Creations (Fair Use)

Okay. What the hell am I missing, here? It’s not like blacking out those reflectors do anything to clean up the look of the rear bumper; the little hyphen-shaped housings are still there, still visible, just now black instead of red and no longer doing anything to actually help the car remain visible at night.

Maybe it makes more of a difference on a black car? They have an example of that, too:

Illustration for article titled Someone Explain This To Me, Please
Photo: GS Creations (Fair Use)
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Uhhh. Maybe? Barely? I don’t know. I really don’t get this. I mean, the kit is only 25 bucks, but I really don’t understand the appeal, here. Do the red reflectors look that bad to people? And do the blacked-out ones look any better?

Illustration for article titled Someone Explain This To Me, Please
Photo: eBay
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Is this part of some automotive subculture? Is there an accompanying ethos that rejects the very idea of government-mandated reflectors? Is some statement being made here I’m not picking up on?

I guess maybe if you’re rocking that whole smoked-taillight look for all your rear lights, this might make sense? Is that it? And they’re just not showing it with the rest of the lights darkened? If so, why not show it with the other lights darkened?

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So, I’m asking for help. Is just blacking out the rear, legally-mandated retroreflectors (which are useful to make your car visible if parked on a dark street, or something) cool and I’m just not seeing it?

I need to understand this taillight cultural niche, even if I don’t personally find it appealing. Reflector-blackeners now’s your chance to speak out.

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The Global Taillight Culture Ambassador is listening.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)

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DISCUSSION

keaton-45
Keaton Belliston

Many people like their cars to reflect themselves.

Many people are dim (and non-reflective).