I’m offended by Spring Breakers. Not because of the t&a or the plodding plotlessness or the turning of Disney Princesses into balaclava-wearing machinegun wielding felons. I’m offended by Spring Breakers because it’s aimed at me. Every time a stomach-churning dubstep thing crashed through the soundtrack like a towtruck through a gallery wall, every single exposed breast and jiggling woman’s behind, every sequence of utterly insipid partying and whooping idiocy of the sort that I hear outside my flat at three in the morning on a Friday night; that was all for me. And I’m better than that. Being an 18-25 male doesn’t mean I read Loaded and talk about the football and secretly wish I was dead. I can focus on something for more than fifteen minutes without a mammarian intervention. I can appreciate a character without him having to spend five on-screen minutes listing things he owns like a fucking Argos catalogue with grills; but Spring Breakers doesn’t think so. It is the worst example of patriarchy-as-film I have seen in a long time. Patriarchy says that men are sleazy sex-obsessed meatheads who only want girls for their bodies, and that those same girls can’t and won’t achieve anything and should devote themselves to a life of nail-painted nonsense.
I’m offended by it because it’s aspirational. Not like Dallas, selling the miserable oil billionaire lifestyle; it sells this millennial MTV idea of eternal sun-dashed youth, drinking, nefarious sexuality and narcotics use as something desirable and is desperately trying to be the capstone on the entire ‘spring break’ idea while also being a generation defining cult pic. Sorry Spring Breakers; our generation will be defined by Scott Pilgrim Versus the World and there’s nothing you can do about it. Clerks is a generation-defining film. Fight Club (unfortunately) is a generation-defining film. Spring Breakers is sleazy exploitative sexist trash, more in common with Zack Snyder’s equally overblown Sucker Punch, which mistakes music video aesthetic and repetitive nonstory for authorial genius and transcendent filmmaking.
Playing like a version of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on crack, or Baise Moi envisioned by Nuts, or a feature long episode of Skins broadcast straight from hell; Spring Breakers focuses on a group of airheaded teenagers obsessed with the almost mythical ‘spring break’. Surprisingly unphased by car theft, robbery, violence and arson, they knock over a local fast food chicken diner to get enough money to get to Florida and ‘spring break’. Once there their incessant whooping partying leads quite rightly to their arrest. They are bailed out by James Franco’s moronic thug rapper wannabe and one of the girls, Jesus-freak Faith (yes, the Jesus-freak is called Faith) makes the first intelligent decision of the movie by bailing post-haste; fearing that Alien (yes, he calls himself Alien, I wish I was making this shit up) will turn out to be the Z-list Svengali; but as the remaining three become his lovers and accomplices in armed robbery, their story spirals out of control and it’s unclear who is using who.
The Skins comparison is an apt one. Like that loathsome and inexplicably popular show, Spring Breakers presents the four girls as sexually experienced, in control, comfortable with alcohol, drugs, parties and minor league crime as well as more outlandish loaded firearms and hustler assholes like Alien; they are unironically impressed with his ‘crib’ decked out in weaponry and renditions of Britney Spears’ ‘classics’ with air-quotes in the largest font Microsoft word will allow. Such characters can’t feature in ‘generation defining’ work because their experience is entirely imaginary. Youth is a profoundly frightening and alienating experience. Teenagers are afraid of the world when they aren’t disgusted by it. They connect to Clerks’ Dante more and more desperately proclaiming “I’m not even supposed to be here today”; teenagers connect not with Ferris Bueller, but with the neurotic Cameron. They connect with the hopelessly-out-of-his-depth Scott Pilgrim because these characters mimic how actual teenagers feel. Worse, Spring Breakers presents these whooping air-headed bikini-fillers as not only typical of American youth, but desirable. The first half of the film, filled with smoky beer-drenched sapphic bonding presents the neon-soaked landscapes of urban Florida not as some sort of ninth circle but as paradise. When Alien serenades the girls with a Britney Spears song, it isn’t an ironic Dadaist satire, but a genuine message supposed to pluck meaningfully at the heartstrings of people unfortunate enough to be pre-teens in the early nineties.
Spring Breakers dreams of defining a generation; every scene screams to capture some essential truth about teenage life in the second decade of the new millennium but unless my experience of youth is intergalactically removed from that of American youth, it misses the mark spectacularly. With acres of jiggling flesh making the opening scenes of the film look like some Boschian butcher’s shop window; the film attempts to idolise and immortalise that ‘yolo’ party moment without the self-awareness to criticise, satirise or deconstruct. For young people hopelessly brainwashed by corporate dross like Jersey Shore this will probably be some sort of clarion call; for anyone else feeling hopelessly confused and alone on the cusp of adulthood, this will only make you feel more alone. For anyone older than the film’s barely legal anti-heroines, you’re probably just going to sigh heavily and think “see what happens when you don’t hit your kids?”
Written under duress by Steven.