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