Coming of Age: Dazed and Confused Turns 20.

You know you’re getting older in two different ways. The first way is birthdays. Birthdays essentially become inconvenient speed bumps after you turn 30. They make the switch from milestones of adulthood to doomsday indicators. The second way you know you’re getting older is through a series of scenarios– scenarios that are there to remind you on a daily basis that youth is no longer on your side.

Examples of these scenarios:
– You wake up in the morning and a random body part hurts
– You are perfectly cool with going to be at 10pm on a Friday night
– You find yourself going to a friend’s kid’s first birthday
– You swear off alcohol any time you accidentally get drunk because it takes you three to four days just to get over the hangover

There is a sub-category to this second way of age acknowledgement and it’s Pop Culture Indicators. Pop Culture Indicators are things like a 10 or 20 year anniversary re-release of an album by a band you listened to in high school, baseball players you watched growing up being inducted into the Hall of Fame and something like what happened to me this morning- learning it was twenty years ago today that a movie that defined my formative teenage years was released. The movie in question is Dazed and Confused and yes sir, it came out twenty years ago today.


How can it seem like years ago and yesterday at the same time?

We had left a middle school dance at Lyman Moore Middle School early, walked to the nearby Hollywood Video, rented Dazed and Confused and then watched it at Steve’s house. From that moment, things were viewed differently.

The last day of school always felt like this…

…even though it totally never felt like that.

And how could we not immediately think of George Washington’s secret stoner past whenever his name came up?

Speaking of Slater (played by Rory Cochrane– last seen being whisked out of Iran by Ben Affleck in Argo,) let’s all be completely honest- there was at least some part of us, the size varied, that wanted to be Slater. The way he walked, the way he helped a fellow student make a good air tight bong in shop class, his way with parents…

…and you know, his general burn out way of being…

Walking into a party or a bar never quite felt like it did in the movie, but man we wished it did.

Dazed and Confused
was more than just a movie about kids getting high & planning a keg party. It was about a time in a person’s life that we can all relate to and more importantly, an idealized time that we all wish would happen. We not only wished that we were one of the characters, we wished our friends were those characters. Dazed and Confused was destination viewing- it took you some place that you couldn’t go, but really wanted too.

There are two major takeaways from Dazed and Confused- the present is bullshit, but in both the best and worst ways possible.

Generational discontent is a very real thing and will be around until the end of time, it’s a theme touched on most recently by Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. Generational discontent is the idea that the present is lame, the past was the gold standard and the future is up for grabs. One of the strains that connects all of the characters of Dazed and Confused is the idea that the best days are behind us. That gold standard was the sixties and the future up for grabs was the eighties and ultimately both were better than the present- the seventies. What teenager doesn’t feel that way? In Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen uses magical realism to get this point across- subtly introducing time travel on the dark, whimsical streets of Paris. Owen Wilson’s character is convinced that he’d be better suited for the twenties, not 2010. It’s not until his time traveling lady love, Marion Cotillard, falls in love with the late 1800’s, does he realize that yes, just like those kids in Texas in Dazed and Confused, were always going to be thinking that we missed the bus. That there was always a time that was better than the one we are currently living in.

Now this could be viewed as kind of a bummer. But that leads us to our second takeaway- we just gotta be living, man- L-I-V-I-N.

Think about what the character Don is saying in that scene…

I just want to look back and say, that I did it the best I could when I was stuck in this place. That I had as much fun as I could when I was stuck in this place. That I played as hard as I could when I was stuck in this place. That I dogged as many chicks as I could when I was stuck in this place.

Besides the fact that that’s some amazing dialogue and the rhythm of it is almost poetic, it runs counter-intuitive to everything that was my first takeaway. It’s fatalist. Don knows there’s something better out there, but does he really care if that something better is behind him or in front of him? Not really. Don is all about the present, just like Wooderson. This idea that the present is bullshit is what really matters and what Dazed and Confused is all about. You can be forlorn about the past days or you could be all in on the now- but in the end, at 18, you’re just living man. That’s it. Wooderson is right- there’s always going to be assholes and there’s always going to be papers to sign. Even at 33, there’s going to be bullshit you have to deal with. But you can’t let it drag you down. Maybe you can’t just peace out and smoke a duber on the fifty yard line, but that’s not the point. We don’t need specifics to drag us down. We just need alternatives. We need to realize that the shit is the shit and will always be the shit. So whatever, have some fun and don’t get bogged down with negatives. Balance it with positives, think about what you have going for you instead of what you don’t.

You know, like Aerosmith tickets.







Categories: Life Lessons, Movies

Tags: , , , , ,

6 replies

  1. I loved your post, Dazed and Confused is a great movie and a spot-on potrayal of that late-boomer generation. I graduated from h.s. in the same year that D&C takes place and it was uncanny. The only thing that seemed a bit off to me was all the hazing but then Richard Linklater grew up in Texas where high school football is a much bigger deal. I grew up in Mass. and got a little taste of that (quitting football in my sophmore year) but nothing like the film. Imagine Ben Affleck coming after you with a huge paddle like that. Speaking of Ben, thanks for letting me know that Rory “Slater” Cochrane was in Argo. I will take another look when it comes out on DVD. I’m glad to see he’s still in the acting game.
    Cheers, Rick

  2. Hey Rick- glad you liked the post. Take it easy.


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