I saw Be Cool last night. It’s the sequel to Get Shorty, and as you would expect, it’s not nearly as good. But there are enough spirited, funny moments — mainly involving bit characters played by The Rock and Andre 3000 — to make it worth the price of admission. Barely.

One of the running jokes in Get Shorty was that Chili Palmer (apparently the only character John Travolta plays well) got stuck with a minivan. After he becomes a successful movie producer, and thus an arbiter of cool, everyone in Hollywood starts driving minivans.

The jokes is basically repeated in Be Cool, except this time he gets stuck with a Honda Insight (guess Honda outbid Toyota for product placement).

It’s obvious why the minivan is funny — it’s associated with soccer moms and suburban squares. But it’s worth pondering why the hybrid is funny.

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The only overt jokes are about its size and speed (prompting one of the movie’s best lines, as Chili says, “if you’re important, people will wait”). But neither the Insight nor the Prius is any smaller than the smallish sedans they’re meant to compete with, and neither is any slower, either in acceleration or top speed. So that can’t be it.

The answer seems to be that hybrids are, in the current cultural zeitgeist, the anti-SUVs. Where SUVs are about size and status and a kind of macho middle finger to trendy liberalism, hybrids are about  limp-wristed do-gooderism.

I’m uncertain whether this is a good thing. On the one hand hybrids are, currently at least, just normal sedans — buying them shouldn’t have to involve participating in the culture war.

But on the other hand, the argument seems to be tipping in our favor. More to the point, it’s an argument we are inevitably going to win. Hybrid technology is already spreading to other car types, and eventually the notion that a car should aim for the best possible gas mileage will be taken for granted and the retrograde Hummer-driver will lose his cultural cachet. So maybe setting the argument up in this way, even though it currently reflects poorly on hybrids and hybrid owners, is just the way to go.

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