Why do cars have horns? In Real Life, to alert other drivers of danger, or to let them know of the car's presence if they're not looking. However, in fiction, the horn's main purpose is to announce that traffic has stopped - a traffic jam in fiction will inevitably resound with the noise of dozens of car horns, seemingly being honked for no reason other than the frustration of the drivers.
Related to Percussive Therapy. A driver enveloped in traffic that's crawling along or at a standstill can't get out of there, nor change lanes, nor reverse course, or anything really. His sole recourse is to lay on the horn, as if this signal of impatience will somehow unsnarl the obstacle. On the one hand, drivers can vent their anger and frustration this way, however, it can significantly increase the level of stress in other road users and onlookers. Also, the image of cars crawling silently along isn't very interesting for the audience so adding the honking creates auditory involvement and makes for a less bland scene.
Usually, there is a law against this practice in Real Life and it is illegal for drivers to sound their horn in stationary traffic.
Big Honking Examples:
- In AKIRA, two tanks and a detachment of soldiers are blocking a road during Tetsuo's rampage. At first, the motorists stuck behind the roadblock are annoyed, honking their horns and shouting, until they see a helicopter crash in the intersection ahead.
- A scene in The Incredibles shows Bob stuck in honking traffic on the way home from work.
- Several drivers impatiently honk their horns at the stalled traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge in Dreamworks' Monsters vs. Aliens. Although the bottleneck is caused by a fifty foot tall young woman engaged in combat with a colossal alien robot, leadfoot drivers nevertheless honk at them for the delay.
- The 1980's Made For Tv Movie The Great American Traffic Jam (also known as Gridlock) follows a day in the life a group of Los Angeles citizens trapped in a massive traffic jam (massive enough that port-a-potties need to be flown in by the National Guard, to "Ride of the Valkyries"). As expected, every scene of the movie that happens on the highway has a constant background noise of people honking their car horns.
- Horse Feathers has Pinky (Harpo) taking a lunch break with his horse in the middle of a city street. A crescendo of car horns begins around him, a policeman comes up to write him a ticket, and Hilarity Ensues.
- The musical La La Land opens with everyone stuck in LA traffic and honking their horns. It's done subtly, since there's an upbeat Crowd Song to follow. However, after the Crowd Song is over, everyone gets into their cars and goes right back to honking at each other.
- Cartoon cars are inching along the approach road to the basketball arena in Space Jam, honking horns and bumping each other to make progress.
- In Bruce Almighty, Bruce seems to get stuck in a loud, honking traffic jam during his commute almost every day.
- In the late 1980s novelty song "Car Phone" (a parody of C. W. McCall's "Convoy"), a yuppie executive sings about his car phone; traffic-jam horns honking can be heard periodically throughout.
- The "Weird Al" Yankovic song "Traffic Jam" starts with a bunch of cars blowing their horns. The song itself is about the singer being caught in a traffic jam.
- "Expressway to Your Heart" by The Soul Survivors (1967) opens with honking horns, and brings them back for the chorus to go with the line "At five o'clock it's much too crowded".
- Traffic jams in Sim Copter will feature this with traffic jams. Part of this is so the player will know how close they are to the traffic jam if they are not looking at the ground.
- The Johnny Bravo episode "Time Stopped" has two lanes of traffic at a standstill, honking fervently. Then one driver decides that mindless honking solves nothing, and the standstill would make a fine opportunity for a nap. All other drivers concur until the entire motorcade is dozing quietly. Johnny comes along, sees a mass of cars not moving, nor honking, and interprets this as further proof that time has stopped for everyone but himself.
- In the The Powerpuff Girls episode, "Super Zeroes", Blossom takes on the identity of Liberty Belle, inspired by her favorite comic book superhero, Freedom Gal. When she tries to rush to Townsville to save it from a giant monster in the Freedom Mobile, she gets caught in a large traffic jam where every driver is honking their horn. This makes her arrive too late to stop the monster, and The Mayor reprimands her for showing up late.
- The Simpsons:
- Homer finds himself right in the middle of a traffic jam. He tells his family, "I've got an ace up my sleeve"; the "ace" turns out to be... sounding the horn repeatedly.
- Homer sounds his horn at former president George Bush (senior) when the latter is taking too long to order something from the drive-thru at Krusty Burger; Bush has his Secret Service agent disable Homer's horn.
- Stymied traffic seen by the Martian probe in What on Earth! begin honking, which brings a "worker" (caterpillar construction machinery) on the double. The "worker" chews up the obstructive mountains, and lays down more smooth roadway in mere seconds, alleviating the backlog, which quiets the honking.
- In The Flintstones, one episode has Fred, stuck in stationary bumper-to-bumper traffic, comment that the highway is "the world's biggest parking lot".
- The Jetsons: When George is stuck in a jam, the radio broadcast talks about moving to a different highway, which is clear of traffic. As they're in flying cars, he decides to fly his car straight over—and all of the other cars in the jam follow him to that highway too, causing it to become jammed instead. However, the drivers have stopped honking.