March 29th saw the Canadian release of Harmony Korine’s highly anticipated film Spring Breakers. There’s been a lot of a buzz and controversy surrounding the film and the reviews which I’d read prior to seeing it were either negative or seemingly positive with a passive aggressive negativity strategically woven in. Now, as an aspiring filmmaker and student, I’ve been a longtime fan of Korine’s trailblazing cinematography style. As a 13 year old, he wrote the screenplay to one of my favorite all time movies, Kids which is probably the best way to scare someone into lifelong celibacy. And if people found Spring Breakers to be disturbing, I challenge them to watch Gummo. I guarantee that you’ll lose your appetite for two weeks and have ample daymares.
But regardless of what the critics may say, I can assure you that this film is not just gratuitous nudity and tongue-in-cheek Britney Spears homages. It is loaded, if not completely saturated with an underlying social commentary that isn’t that hard to figure out once you get past all the Day-Glo and dubstep. So here’s a summary of all I learned from Spring Breakers and I warn you THERE ARE PLENTY OF SPOILERS BELOW.
Rapid cutting is meant to hurt your brain.
For the first half of the film, before Selena Gomez, Rachel Korine, Ashley Benson and Vanessa Hudgen’s characters get arrested, there is so much rapid cutting to and fro that a single image only stays on the screen for roughly two seconds. In the middle of the film I honestly developed a headache and had to pop two aspirins to relieve pain that was essentially caused by an onslaught of bright colors and loud sounds coming at me rapidly. I believe that in doing this, Korine is poking fun at how the human brain has lost its capability to focus on something for longer than 30 seconds. Literally, studies show that thanks to high speed internet, downloads, commercials, food, etc., people have lost their ability to focus attention on something for longer than half of a minute. I personally think ADHD is a load of shit and our brains are just lazy.
Penis envy is not Freudian bullshit.
When Benson and Hudgen’s characters playfully draw penises in their notebooks with words like “I want dick” scribbled, some might get excited and think that these girls are on the prowl for the D. Sorry to burst your bubble but they’re not. They don’t want a penis for sexual pleasure, they want to actually have one themselves. Why? Because in modern-day society to be a man with a dick is still considered a sign of ultimate power and ultimate power is really all these girls want.
The video game issue is not passe.
Throughout the beginning of the film, you see Hudgen’s and Benson’s characters making gunshot noises, gesturing with their fingers and using a squirt gun to spray liquor into their mouths. Ultimately, this same squirt gun is used as their “weapon” when they decide to rob a local chicken shack. “Just pretend its a video game,” they keep saying. For every teenager that gets their hands on a real pistol and goes out into the world to kill, I can bet good money that they’ve played a violent video or two on a constant basis that conditioned them into believing they could be a natural born killer.
Does God/religion have a place in modern day society?
I’m not posing this question to offend anyone nor am I going to go off on an atheist rant. But when I look at Gomez’s good girl character Faith, a Christian girl who attends some sort of cult-like meeting that seemingly leaves her unfulfilled, I am led to believe that these scenes are meant to bring awareness to the decline of religion’s place in modern day society. Once upon a time, religious leaders were as powerful as kings and people’s biggest fears were that they’d wind up in Hell. Now Hell is being marketed as a hedonistic adult playground and everyone seems to want to try it out. If you have faith in something, anything, hold steadfast to it because if Faith is anything of a realistic portrayal, there’s a lot of fair-weather believers out there.
How do you measure success?
In the scene where James Franco’s character Alien brings Hudgens, Benson and Korine’s characters back to his crib, he shows off all his stuff to them, and boy is he proud of his stuff. He has guns, cocaine and enough money to sleep on. He also has “shorts in every color,” not one, but two different kinds of Calvin Klein cologne and “dark tanning oil.” Yes, everything big and small is special to him, because he earned it, I guess. But what about some sound financial investments, a few fancy degrees and a loving family? As society changes, so do the values of said society. In this somewhat confusing time we are brought to question how does one truly measure success?
White girl power is real and its scary.
In the final scene of the film, Hudgen and Benson’s character’s pull up to Gucci Mane’s beautiful neon pink crib in a speed boat wearing fluorescent bikinis. They’re armed with guns and they begin to shoot up the place. They kill everyone and each of their victims is a black man. Now, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the story of Emmet Till. In 1955, he was savagely tortured and beaten to death for allegedly looking at a white woman. His mother bravely decided to have an open casket funeral, and JET magazine published the photos. The young man’s body was so viscously mangled, that it looked like a large piece of bruised and battered meat. This pattern has continued much throughout the United States’ racist history. This is not the only story of a black man who received gross injustice because someone believed that he had had inappropriate contact with a white woman. Its no secret that non-Caucasian women who are assaulted don’t receive nearly the same amount of care, vigilance, justice or media coverage as their white counterparts. Instead, they are marginalized, forgotten about and even ridiculed for the violence that is done to them. There’s a reason that American jails are overpopulated with black males and its because the majority of the government and the judicial system is racist. The hatred in their hearts, which they openly display and get away with time and time again is depicted in the scene where these two young, reckless white women claim the lives of multiple black men, without remorse and without fear because they know that can get away with their heinous crimes. America should be post-racial, but is it really?
Spring Break is not foreva.
Gomez’s character finds her dream vacation turning into a Floridian nightmare and she naively exclaims “we were supposed to find ourselves during spring break!” Listen, you don’t go to a place where alcohol flows in rivers, drugs are consumed like candy and sexual partners are exchanged like musical chairs to “find yourself.” You go there to lose yourself and escape from all of life’s mundane problems. You want to go find yourself? Go read something enlightening or mediate or pray or feed starving children. You can only find yourself when you’re sober, calm and rational. Now, I’m not chastising party people nor am I saying don’t go buckwild. Just make sure that when you try to lose yourself for a bit, you don’t wind up lost forever.
I strongly recommend watching Spring Breakers. Yes its graphic. Yes it hurts your eyes and makes your conscience feel dizzy but give it a shot and keeps your eyes open, not for the titties but for what the film is really trying to tell you. And trust me, it is no way, shape, or form telling you to morph your inner ratchet into a full on partying devil.