**Note: This film contains coarse language.**
I’d never seen Dazed and Confused (1993) before, but I’d heard a lot about it. In fact, it’s kind of sad, but my roommates had a poster of it on our dorm room wall in high school, but I never saw it. They talked about it all the time, referenced it every day, and I just went with it. So, I figured I should watch it, particularly as it’s part of Yahoo’s 100 Modern Classic Movies You Must See Before You Die list.
Right off the bat, I noticed that Adam Goldberg (Eddie, Chandler’s crazy roommate). So are Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Milla Jovovich, Parker Posey, and a few other eventually well-known actors.
I absolutely love that the juniors spend their last day of class, as well as the rest of the summer, hazing the incoming freshman. It’s rather wrong of me, I know, but it’s hilarious that the widespread hazing is enjoyed by all, teachers and parents included. One of the seniors to-be, who is just a spectator of the crazy antics of his peers, says,
“Now, see, what’s fascinating is the way, not only the school, but the entire community, seems to be supporting this or, at least, turn their heads. I mean, they apparently have permission to use the parking lot. No parents seem to mind, you know. They’re selling concessions. You, know.”
The mother of one of the incoming freshmen gives her son one “get out of jail free card,” when he comes home after the all night party at dawn. She realizes he’s been drinking, then asks if he’s drunk. He shrugs it off and rolls his eyes, obviously drunk, and she grins with a very “oh, those darn kids and their ways…” kind of a look and walks away. Well done, mom, well done.
The painful antics are all fully justified by the fact that, “It was done to us when we were your age, and you’ll do it later.” It’s an odd metaphor for coming of age—that the road ahead is filled with trials, and you have to just take what comes.
Even in the midst of this crazy, harsh, excessively aggressive bout of initiatory hazing, it’s portrayed as nostalgic—just something that happens. While the hazing is obviously a painful, terrible experience, it’s peculiarly comic, especially when Ben Affleck, the most insanely hostile of them all gets a bit of revenge from some of the freshmen. It’s all good after that, when they stand up for themselves.
This is one of those films that divides its population into the stereotypical groups. There are the meatheads (further sub-divided into the football players and the baseball players–not to mention Matthew McConaughey’s creepy, will-soon-go-to-jail-for-statutory-rape character), the potheads, the cheerleaders, the freshmen, and the philosophers.
It does what most high school movies do, like 10 Things I Hate About You (also a great movie) and American Pie. I’m never sure how I feel about that. While it’s an over-exaggerated representation of actual stratifications of the social order in high school, I think it’s overdone at times. This movie does it pretty well, 10 Things takes it to an even more hyperbolic level that works a bit better. Even better is Freaks and Geeks by Judd Apatow—which is more of a dramedy, but very well done. That being said, both of these build on something that Dazed and Confused established earlier.
Finally, I think that this is a pretty good addition to the Modern Classics list. It plays on a lot of stereotypes, provides an interesting, if idealistic view of the past. That is the point, I think, as one of the characters talks about remembering these as the best years of his life—he seems to see these acts for what they are, while everyone else just rolls with them.
Also, there’s some great music throughout this movie—some of the best from the 70’s. Dazed and Confused is a cult classic, portraying the first hours of summer for a wide range of teenagers. Some, as many teens are wont to do, decide to throw a keg party, some try to sneak into a club, some go parking, some decide to haze incoming freshman. In the end, it’s about those first few hours of blissful freedom, with the whole summer spread out in front of you just waiting for you to leap in feet first.
“Okay guys, one more thing, this summer when you’re being inundated with all this American bicentennial Fourth Of July brouhaha, don’t forget what you’re celebrating, and that’s the fact that a bunch of slave-owning, aristocratic, white males didn’t want to pay their taxes.”
“[George Washington] had people growin’ [weed] all over the country, you know. The whole country back then was gettin’ high. Lemme tell you, man, ’cause he knew he was onto somethin’, man. He knew that it would be a good cash crop for the southern states, man, so he grew fields of it, man. But you know what? Behind every good man there’s a woman, and that woman was Martha Washington, man, and every day, George would come home, she’d have a big fat bowl waiting for him, man, when he’d come in the door. She was a hip, a hip, hip lady, man.”