Wednesday, Sep. 28, 2011

Dazed and Confused (1993)

Please be advised that the above clip contains strong language.

Bullying is an institutionalized ritual that one Texas town implicitly endorses in Richard Linklater's 1993 coming-of-age film. It's the last day of school in 1976, and upperclassmen are hazing the incoming freshmen as they leave junior high.

The boys are subject to physical assaults and, despite futile attempts to escape, most agree that it is better to just submit and get it over with. Meanwhile, the girls are verbally abused and humiliated: after they are rounded up in the school parking lot, they are forced to suck on pacifiers, propose to senior boys, and be doused with ketchup, mustard, eggs, and flour at the behest of the merciless ringleader Darla.

Dazed and Confused reflects '70s culture, when this sort of teasing and initiation was seen as a natural part of growing up. To escape hazing, the logic goes, would be to miss a key character-building experience in one's adolescence. Small acts of rebellion or revenge are permitted, but opting out of this ritual is never seriously considered: After the initial hazing, many kids begin to bond and form friendships with those who have just tormented them.