I Saw "Spring Breakers" As a PSA For How Boring Debauchery Really Is

Imagine a 6-second looping video on Vine of hot girls in bikinis saying "Spring Break, forever." Now stretch that out to 90 minutes.
Publish date:
March 25, 2013
spring breakers, debauchery

I so wanted a dirty thrill from "Spring Breakers," watching Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens cavorting around in a sparkly cesspool of cocaine, guns and cash on the sun-dappled beaches of Miami with a leering, ruthless, Britney Spears-singing, gold-grilled James Franco.

Instead, I was reminded of how dull and embarrassing and repetitive debauchery really is.

I'm a fan of Harmony Korine, but in this case, like in life itself, the hedonism in the movie proves plotless, insipid, trite and filled with laughter for nothing -- the worst kind of laughter there is.

Interestingly, though, despite my better judgement, for a few minutes -- at the very beginning of the movie, something primal and teenage took hold in my subconscious.

And I actually found myself craving IT.

I wanted to be the cool bad girl. I wanted to writhe and do headstands in the hallway while singing songs and escaping the trappings of What I Was Supposed to Do. To be part of a crew, tied together by secrets and daring and adrenaline and beauty.

This is how deeply the hooks of the Sexiness of Debauchery are lodged into my brain. All from being younger and remembering what it was like to lust after that smoky elusive forbidden thrill of doing that which you are not supposed to do. Seeing these Sapphic princesses blowing smoke into one each others' mouths, seemingly freed from the ability of anyone to tame them -- and I remembered the hypnotic allure of that kind of wild DGAF crackling potential. The very young and very primal me wanted to be one of these girls as my heart beat faster. To not be the shy nerd. But to be the fearless unstoppable hypnotic ball of anarchy and sex.

And then I watched a few more minutes of the movie.

That's when the adult me saw it as the PSA it proved to be.

Because debauchery is fucking boring.

All the transparency and posturing and simpleness of the partying via rebellion song and dance. One note. I got it. It was a fucking beer commercial. A sorority girl hazing ritual. And a lame, repetitive one at that.

But I realize why, for a flash, my brain hooked in. It was my 13-year-old brain.

The one who wanted to be bad. The one who bought cigarettes from the vending machine at the store when no one was looking. The one who stole alcohol from the house where I was babysitting. The one who went down to the bars in Tijuana from San Diego when I was 15 years old, let in the secret dangerous no one else was there back way using my fake ID and having the tequila bottle thrust down my throat by some random man walking around the bar. The one who dyed her hair black and red and blonde again in the kitchen sink, wanting to escape into something I Wasn't Supposed to Do that promised ecstasy and rebellion and fantasy.

The one who got pulled over in my Ford Escort at 16, stoned to the gills, staring at the cop car, my mind racing and thinking the police lights looked like America, man, all flashing red and white, and thinking how great this was going to be as a story to tell. The one who tumbled around in the sand, going down on a boyfriend in his twenties as a teenager, knowing full well he could be arrested for even taking me out, let alone what we were doing in the darkness.

It was the same boring story of what happens to any little girl who is seduced by the flash of partying and drugs and alcohol and promiscuity and just being a bad fucking little girl.

It twinkled at me when I was younger, beckoning me to something better and bigger and MORE REBELLIOUS, just like those first few raw minutes of "Spring Breakers."

Because when you are that young, unless you are given the gift of vision from someone older and who you respect and who gives it to you straight and who actually seems to be pretty fucking cool themselves, you will very often buy this tempting lie.

You actually think self-annihilation is rebellion. You actually think it's novel. When in reality it's the most conformist boring thing you can do. Get fucked up? Do stupid shit. Oh man. That sounds like a great copycat replica of every other boring teenage story that ever there was.

Please understand: I'm not at all shaming any of these things. I'm just trying to share some lessons I've learned that I wish my parents or an older wiser adult had shared with me when I was younger. To consider. To mull around. To perhaps puncture a bit the glamour of the exploitation movie on display.

Louis C.K. has a great bit about realizing the idiocy of the called-out, role-assigned PARTY GIRL function played by the hot chick at the bar.

"Oh what do you do?" he wonders then imitates her voice: "Oh, I'm hot, and people want to fuck me."

That's it.

It's boring. So boring. But you don't know that when you are young. Or maybe -- hopefully -- you do.

It kind of tickles me that Twitter has been blowing up with criticism of the movie (mostly from teens and people in their twenties as far as I can tell) about how it's just one long dragon chase of trying to get somewhere -- and never getting quite there enough, which in reality, is every experience of getting high, ever.

The pathos-voyeuristic hilarity of half the dialogue being repeated, and half of that which gets repeated being "Spring Break," "Spring Break, bitches" and "Spring Break, forever," is pretty much what it is like to gaze or catch a glimpse at a Secret Exclusive Debauchery Fest in Motion.

Oh wow. We're at the party. The party! The secret, secret party! The party no one gets to go to. And it's so mind-numbingly dull.

I've seen Vine videos with more plot. That's the real spoiler.

But here's my main thought about the sexiness and allure of the exploitation genre: When you're young you might not see the stupid one-noteness of it all. I guess I just hope, maybe some adults realize there is an opportunity to unhook the sneaky claws of the Illicit Promise of Debauchery being planted into their brains so furtively as it did in mine when I was young.

Because, like those first few minutes did to me as an adult, it looked cool and the girls looked popular and prettier and why didn't I have their confidence and oh gosh.

But seeing it now, I think context and framing is everything.

Honestly, here's the speech that I wish that my parents gave me when I was a kid about drugs and alcohol and partying, something that I learned through burning out on it on my very own.

"Here's the secret about partying so I can save you a bit of time, unless you want to go down that boring obvious route then go nuts, but honestly, I think you're more interesting and smarter and better than that. Because truthfully, it's about as cliche and easy as it gets. Here's what happens when you party. Your brain is dulled and numbed and made stupider. Everyone laughs. People have sex easier. Things feel more gooey and liquid and nothing seems wrong because you're taking yourself out of the equation of being a player by purposefully making yourself slower and sloppier and easier.

"It's obvious and embarrassing and if you want to truly rebel -- then get as smart as you possibly can. There is no rebellion like intelligence. None. Circling the drain of perpetual intoxication because you're not enough of an interesting person to have a personality without it and you need that kind of courage will ultimately make the people around you pity you.

"They might be shoving drinks and drugs in your face while they're doing it because no one wants to be a brain-dead lemming alone, but that stench wafting off you is one of sad predictable conformity. What might seem like rebellion by living life in a haze is really just drinking the Kool-Aid of complacency. Sure, you can party and do whatever if you really want to. I'm sure you'll find a way. No one can ultimately stop you.

"But I want you to know that all the people you admire, the people who actually run the world, the ones who are making a difference, the ones who are remembered and inspire light and change and goodness in this world, the ones who have power and swagger and influence, they have no use for party girl jokes. If you want to really rebel, then do something. Build something. Create something. Getting wasted and making bad choices in the name of being young is about the most boring, conformist thing you can do."

And with honesty -- you never know.

You must just help a kid who didn't see the movie as the same PSA I did. You might just help that kid save a little time. Save a few brain cells. Get started on a life that is incredibly rebellious -- not in any cliche way -- but in its focus and power.

You might help someone: Spring free, forever.


Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.