Project X or Why I Hate Youth Culture

Over the years, I’ve been guilty of falling in love with films that highlight the darker side of human nature.  As the cinematic experience is so often about the grand ideal of human capability, its refreshing to see a film that goes in the reverse direction and, instead of focusing on what we wish we were, focuses on what we really are deep down inside.  Films like A Clockwork Orange give us a peek behind the sociopathic curtain of our own inner demons and allow us to see what really drives the human machine.  Hell, the idea of flawed characters driven by the darker corners of their own personalities is one of the reasons I responded so much to Battlestar Galactica.  But one of the things that make these films so appealing is the fact that they expose these dank, dirty and terrible aspects of us all in situations and worlds that aren’t realistic.  None of us are going to be at war with sentient machines anytime soon and, lets face it, if you are going to break into a woman’s home and rape her while serenading her with “Singing in the Rain,” you are out of your damn mind and were probably going to do something terrible anyway.  The point is, its hard to blame films like this as they don’t encourage deviant or dark behavior, they simple expose it for what it is.  We are all guilty of having some seriously fucked up thoughts on occasion, but our morality, respect for each other and the unspoken social contract that holds society together act as safeguards, keeping us from ever giving these impulses any serious consideration.  Watching a film like a Clockwork Orange not only reminds me that we all have this darker side, but also reminds me of how grateful I am to live in a world in which we have become strong enough to overcome these impulses.  And then I saw Project X.

Project X is, put simply, the story of three young men throwing an epic birthday party that gets wildly out of hand.  Things start innocently enough.  Costa (Oliver Cooper) and JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown) plan to throw Thomas (Thomas Mann) a game-changing 17th birthday party since Thomas’s parents are out of town for the weekend.  They score a little pot, get their hands on some alcohol and invite everyone in school hoping that maybe, just maybe a few of the popular kids might show up.  What they don’t expect is that the entire school and a few thousand other people will descend on this quiet neighborhood and turn what was meant to be a simple pool party into a Dionysian nightmare.  The dark destructive nature of the teenage mob, fueled by drugs, alcohol, and hormones overtakes the party, turning it into a post-post-modern Lord of the Flies.

My disgust with modern youth is no secret among those closest to me.  Don’t get me wrong, there are good kids out there and I know a lot of smart, kind, respectful young adults so I want to be clear that I’m not speaking of youth culture as a whole, but simply referring to a trend I’ve noticed in a growing number of teens over the past few years. As someone in their twenties who spends a lot of time in movie theaters, concert venues, and various other social locals, I can’t help but notice the complete lack of respect many young people seem to have for society in general.  As the asshole of the group, it would be really easy to think that I am a profoundly disrespectful person but that just isn’t the case.  While I bust balls regularly, I have an acute respect for the social contract and the people who surround me.  After all, its one thing to give your friend crap for falling asleep hugging a bucket of fried chicken and another to taunt a complete stranger about their weight without any provocation.

More and more often, I seem to be faced with young people who seem to show absolutely no respect for the rest of the people they share the world with.  Some of you may remember Brunden’s article The Four Simple Rules For Going to a Movie which was, by and large, inspired by these disrespectful teenagers.  A few weeks ago, we saw a group of teens come out of the theater with a full large bucket of popcorn.  As they walked out into the parking lot, they passed a total of four trash receptacles but rather then use them, these kids dumped a steady stream of popcorn across the parking lot.  Once the bucket was empty, they dropped it in the street and drove away as though making a mess of a public place was not only their right, but their duty and I just can’t wrap my mind around what makes anybody think this type of behavior is acceptable.  In fact, while watching Project X, the kids behind us were either repeating things the characters on screen just said or having random unrelated conversations as though they were the only ones in the theater.  At many points in the past, I’ve considered saying something and, on a few occasions, I have (Note:  Ask Brunden, Christina, or Matt about the Predators Debacle sometime).  But more and more I’m realizing that being someone who behaves out of respect for my fellow man puts me squarely in the minority.  It seems as though the youth generation sees the world as their disposable playground, like their own personal Grand Theft Auto and we are simply the random two dimensional characters that inhabit it.

So what does all this have to do with Project X?  Simple.  Project X, much like a Clockwork Orange, puts the spotlight on the absolute worst of what drives the behavior of youth culture.  What makes it far worse however, is that unlike Clockwork Orange, the behavior represented in Project X is not only portrayed in a positive light, but would be very easy to replicate making it far more reprehensible.  About halfway into the movie, I stopped seeing Project X as a cinematic experience and began thinking about those kids behind us.  And the kids next to us.  And the kids in front of us.  It was then that I was gripped by fear as it began to sink in that this wasn’t just a movie, but a yardstick with which all of these high school kids would measure their own parties.  It doesn’t take much to imagine these kids all trying to replicate the behavior portrayed in the movie.  While I’m all for raunchy behavior in film and television (Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia is one of my favorite shows, after all), its one thing to do so for comedic purposes and another to offer genuine praise for terrible behavior.  Project X makes a specific point of glorifying alcoholism, drug abuse, objectification of women, violence and causing destruction without any real purpose or concept of the consequences that come with it or how it affects the rest of the world as a whole.

While I would like to say that Project X is a fun and debaucherous comedy along the lines of The Hangover guaranteed to make you laugh, all I really see it doing is confirming to an entire generation of young people that disgraceful and distructive behavior is not only acceptable, but to be celebrated and that scares the crap out of me.

RATING:  I don’t want to live on this planet with you people/10

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~ by Andrew Craig on March 3, 2012.

10 Responses to “Project X or Why I Hate Youth Culture”

  1. very well said… couldn’t agree more

  2. Reblogged this on The Film Discussion.

  3. Excellent, You are not alone…I stopped in project x for 5 minutes…I felt overwhelming sensations of sin……. And I say that in a post theological indoctrinated sense.

  4. That’s why I don’t want to teach High School. Those goddamn kids are insane and I want to round them all up and shoot them, to make an example for future generations not to be massive dickholes.

  5. I’m an 18 year old female and do not agree with this article. Obviously the teens outside the cinema were being disrespectful by littering around the car park but this isn’t my point.

    The three guys at the end of the movie end up with criminal records and court appaerences and Thomas will be paying back his parent for a long time into his future for the damage he done to his parents house. I really wouldn’t be interested in carrying that through to my future for one party night and not everyone cares what their fellow classmates think of them.

    I also think Thomas’ love interest in the film balances the use of ‘airhead beauties’ used during the film. Although I don’t like the use of so many girls portrayed like this , unfortunately it is half true ( in my life anyway ).

    I thoroughly enjoyed the film and have only heard good reviews from my friends (of all ages).

    • Sami, while I truly do appreciate your position, I think you are wrong. So let me take this point by point if I may.

      *While the movie may end with the three young men facing criminal proceedings and a boatload of fines, it is treated as an afterthought. His classmates celebrate him, the media celebrates him and even his father, the man who will have to shoulder the financial burden for years to come, celebrates his behavior. Most people watching Project X will not identify the impact it will have on his future as we don’t see him struggling to send his daughter to college because his wages are still being garnished. What we do see him with is the esteem of everyone around him and thus that is what most people will walk away with.

      *The whole slutty girl thing may be half true but portraying that as the singular option is not the way to go. By portraying that as the truth, many impressionable young women accept it as a reality and think they need to mimic that reality in order to be socially successful. While I wish this wasn’t the case, it is a cultural issue. Many people take their cues on behavior from pop culture and so by encouraging this behavior, media makes it true. If you doubt the validity of this, look at how many stupid girls have started putting on the fake tanner, a short skirt, and big ass hair to mimic the idiots from the Jersey Shore. And it isn’t just women. There is an entire culture of young men who do the same. Believe me, I’m related to one of them.

      I understand why you feel the way you do, but the sad truth is that many teenagers don’t share your insight. Like I said in the article, I don’t believe that all young people act as though real life is 4chan, but a shocking number of them do. Look at the article Brunden posted a link to. It’s hard to deny the reality that this film will encourage deviant behavior. And while you and your friends may have enjoyed the movie for what it was, there are bound to be many more that see it as a template for future mayhem.

      I would also like to point out for all of our readers that I am an atheist, a libertarian, and an absurdist so writing this article had nothing to do with religious conservatism, political agenda, or hatred of things that shake up the system. I’m just a strong believer in the idea that if we all treat each other with respect and understanding, there is a lot more awesome we could all be getting away with.

  6. http://www.slashfilm.com/project-x-inspired-parties/?utm_source=Movie%20Magic&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed:%20slashfilm%20%28/Film%29

    Lawyered.

  7. this movie shows how american does’nt respect girls!! and partying is the best way to make you famous and cool, and all the girls are bitches. the guy like costa (read: The son of bitch) is not such a bestfriend to enviable!

  8. surely it is up the audience to take what they like from any film they watch. It is true that in this film socially unaccepatble actions are portrayed in a positive light, but this film wouldn’t have worked if they were to be portrayed in they way society actually veiws them as. At the end of the day when the audience leaves the theatre, it is down to their morals and personal experiences to do what they wish afterwards. Whether they left and carried on with their lives as normal or went out and tried to recreate the party in every way, the film will still exist in the way it has been made. Surely it is down to the individuals themselves to do what they want after they have watched the film. If youths in America actually act in the way they are represented in the film, the film is clearly just bringing to light issues that are evident in modern American society rather than brainwashing kids into thinking that this is the way they should behave (which in itself is fundamentally flawed). Maybe you should stop hating on the film if you disagree with it, and look at the society you live in.

    • While I absolutely agree that it is the audience’s responsibility to act accordingly, the sad fact is that so many people (especially young people) take their cues from media. I don’t hate the movie, I just recognize the negative influence it can (not will) have on an audience of people who are, lets face it, unable to define their behavior without help from outside sources. While this is nothing new, my generation simply borrowed ideals from the things we responded too. The current generation seems way more hellbent on the idea of replicating what they see. I saw what made Han Solo cool and decided I wanted his carefree attitude and bad-ass swagger. While I failed miserably at replicating it, I never shot someone in a bar or aided in blowing up a symbol of the big corporations in an attempt to be more like him. But clearly, kids today aren’t always that bright. Case in point? Brunden posted a nice article about some kids in Texas that literally did their damndest to replicate the events of the movie. Show me an article about some kid freezing himself in hopes of being like Han, and we can talk. Until then, accept the fact that the basis of this article wasn’t my hatred of Project X, but my distate for a generation that will take the film as an excuse to act like drunk morons instead of just enjoying it for what it is; a movie.

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