Last night, I had the great opportunity to see a special 20th anniversary screening of Dazed and Confused. And if the evening’s general zeal and enthusiasm was of any indication, the 1993 film–centering around the last day of high school in 1976 Texas–hasn’t even come close to fading away. Dazed and Confused is universally considered one of the greatest coming of age movies ever made, and for great reason. Allow the following quotes to elaborate further:
1. “If it ain’t that piece of paper, there’s some other choice they’re gonna try and make for you. You gotta do what Randall Pink Floyd wants to do man. Let me tell you this, the older you do get the more rules they’re gonna try to get you to follow. You just gotta keep livin’ man, L-I-V-I-N.”
One of the seminal lessons of Dazed and Confused is that there are people in this world that want you to do shit, even though that shit may not necessarily be right for you. Wooderson, despite his questionable skeeziness, seems to have something figured out. He drops his old-person wisdom with an elegance only worthy of one of cinema’s more memorable characters, and helps Randall “Pink” Floyd fully realize that actively maintaining free will is more important than signing a paper that he doesn’t believe in.
2. “I’m just trying to be honest about being a misanthrope..”
Being 18 years old basically consists of experiencing a constant stream of intellectual epiphanies. Mike’s realization that he “hates people” is something new for him, but it’s something that a lot of us have gone through. There’s a lot pent up in this guy, and the movie lets him break out in satisfying fashion.
3. “You act like you’re so oppressed. you guys are kings of the school. What are you bitching about?”
This is classic high school angst. If Floyd and co. went through their growing pains in the mid-2000’s, no question they would’ve secretly loved Brand New and Taking Back Sunday.
4. “You know, but that’s valid because if we are all gonna die anyway shouldn’t we be enjoying ourselves now? You know, I’d like to quit thinking of the present, like right now, as some minor insignificant preamble to something else.”
This will always be applicable. As all of us 20-somethings have realized, #cubiclelife is a stark, likely meaningless contrast to whatever it is that’s “the point” of our time on earth. Cynthia Dunn spews some calculated hedonism, which might be what it’s all about.
5. “All I’m saying is that if I ever start referring to these as the best years of my life – remind me to kill myself.”
High school is where that “trapped in this crummy old town” feeling can sometimes suffocate all. Particularly as we near 18, getting out becomes our default setting. Peaking at 18 has long been declared something that no one should ever aspire to. Perhaps it’s our fear of the unknown–what awaits us out there in the world other than hanging out in the Starbucks parking lot–but this sort of anticipatory dread is damn near universal.
6. “I only came here to do two things, kick some ass and drink some beer…Looks like we’re almost outta beer.”
Jacked up on youth and beer. There’s something about a high school party that makes everyone want to exist outside their de facto boring, “you know everything about me” selves. It’s an exceptionalism–an invincibility still lined by innocence–that can’t really be replicated.
7. “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.”
Your late high school years are when you begin to realize that things you were previously told were “good” may actually not have been. Here, Ms. Stroud really nails down that “us against the world” critical thinking model that seems to dominate high school thought. S’all about progress.
8. “Oh, man, I’m fuckin’ wasted.”
That first feeling of top-of-the-world exuberance. Can’t be beat.
9. “Well, all I’m saying is that I want to look back and say that I did I the best I could while I was stuck in this place. Had as much fun as I could while I was stuck in this place. Played as hard as I could while I was stuck in this place… Dogged as many girls as I could while I was stuck in this place.”
Everyone has a “let’s make some memories, and let’s make sure we have no regrets” guy. Don Dawson nails it an then some. It’s overly sentimental and overtly cheesy, which is why the humor is necessary. Cliche, but oh-so importantly so.
10. “That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.”
Profound? Technically. Wooderson indirectly demonstrates that while the people who embrace youth move through a revolving door, youth, as a concept, will never die. Dazed and Confused merely captured it for a group of people–a group of people who weren’t necessarily special, but shared an experience that most certainly was. Their experience is something that we’ve all come in contact with at some point–and it’s that magical, universal resonance that really makes this timeless. Dazed and Confused captures an essence. An essence that’ll always be a part of all of us.