Dazed and Confused by Richard Linklater joins the long list of re-releases meant to stir the nostalgia of generation Xers and open their wallets once more. The film has a cast ensemble, some of which emerged 25 years later as prominent actors and household names, whether they went on to make great or bad films or just a lot of films. The cast includes the young faces of Jason London as Randall "Pink" Floyd, Wiley Wiggins as Mitch Kramer, Ben Affleck as Fred O'Bannion, Adam Goldberg as Mike Newhouse, Matthew McConaughey as David Wooderson, Milla Jovovich as Michelle Burroughs, Parker Posey as Darla Marks, Renée Zellweger as Nesi White and the list goes on and on.
Dazed and Confused was made in 1993 but imagines the last day of school at Lee High School in 1976 in the suburbs of Austin, Texas. At the end of the school day, the seniors are out to get the incoming freshmen and turn the events in to a cat and mouse game. Dazed and Confused goes on to follow the chaos of the night and is complete with cliques and groupings that converge around the party scene. Like all teenage movies, the characters can be put into groups: popular kids, jocks, bullies, nerds, etc. When the main party of the night is cancelled, everyone disperses, roams and idles until the next opportunity to engage in pretty benign beer and pot activities. All in all, the kids are pretty ok, and don’t project the racism, mean, and rape culture that exist in the real world.
Like many of Linklater films, Dazed and Confused seems to be a partial autobiographical fantasy, nothing wrong with that, and many viewers and film critics accept or identify that experience as an “all-American” experience; but it isn’t all-American at all and often ignores people of diverse backgrounds and genders. Dazed and Confused seems to propagate stereotypes and white-washes coming of age experiences, it glorifies the mundane and narrow experiences of some and holds it up as a universal experience. Regardless of whether this was Linklater’s intent or not, the critics have certainly made it so. Dazed and Confused is a very narrow anthropological window into the awkward experience of a teenagers in a particular bubble of class and privilege, of their rituals, rites of passage, and ideas that create memories that carry them into adulthood and locks them into an idea of being “all-American”.
Dazed and Confused follows a long list of teenage coming-of-age movies but it’s not by any means the best of them. It wasn’t that good in 1993, and it’s still not that good in 2018. Dazed and Confused has a cool soundtrack and a couple of really memorable and LOL lines. And, if one looks at the timeline or landscape of films as they reflect the social components, including those of prominent and invisible cultures through the teenage lens, then Dazed and Confused is a marker along the way that really shows how Americans are represented along that timeline. At a time when the film industry is finally waking up to the fact that money comes in all colors and genders, to release a mediocre film for the sake of nostalgia and a quick buck is a party trick that’s getting old.
Dazed and Confused (1993) ~ 25th Anniversary Presentation
R for pervasive, continuous teen drug and alcohol use and very strong language
Thursday 4/19 at 10:30 PM