Let's All Have a Very 'Dazed and Confused'-y Summer


Last weekend I watched Dazed and Confused for the first time in years, split up over several viewings, the bulk of it while ironing my hair to get ready for Friday night. For the first 45 minutes or so I had a bad feeling I'd outgrown the movie: the hazing stuff isn't all that funny or compelling to me now, I was bored and worried that I didn't need it anymore. But then it picked up around when Wooderson slow-mo walks into the Emporium and "Hurricane" by Bob Dylan's playing and everything is so cool, and by the time we get to the beer bust I was in love all over again -- kids drinking in the woods and dancing to scuzzy music and trying to become who they are will never not undo me.

What's weirdest to me now is how the setting of Dazed and Confused is only 17 years away from its release (i.e., the distance between now and 1995). I saw it in the theater, when I was 15, and the movie seemed to take place in such a glamorously distant past. It still does. All those kids are so cool to me, and I worship their hair and jeans and starry-eyed commitment to fun and "visceral experience." When Dazed came out, Spin ran an article with this quote, which I like: "The twin forces that conspire to do in its characters -- Boredom and Disillusionment -- lurk around every corner. There's nothing for them to do beyond driving around, getting high, hanging out, and watching TV. Everything else leads to grief or disappointment." I guess that's about a third of why Dazed and Confused will always be one of my favorite movies, and the other two thirds are the rock and roll and those kids I love so hugely and completely, even O'Bannion, who's the saddest. One of my buds once told me, "I love them so much, it hurts that they're not really my friends," and I still really feel that. I want to know what became of all of them, and I also wish Richard Linklater and the entire cast would time-travel back to the early '90s and make a sequel that takes place the following summer, the last day of school in 1977.

And I have two more wishes: one is for kids to keep watching Dazed and Confused for years and years to come (and for all of you to be good citizens and show it to your little sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews and children), and the second is for each of us to have a very Dazed and Confused-y summer, chill and sweet and wild, with many of the following elements in place:

BOYS WHO LOOK LIKE PICKFORD. The first movie character to help shape my notions of "what I want boys to be like" was Andrew McCarthy as the bitter, bongo-playing writer/romantic in St. Elmo's Fire, when I was in junior high. I didn't get Pickford till junior year of high school but my love has endured over the past 19 years and I still believe him to be the best-looking boy on the planet. He's also the coolest boy in Dazed and Confused: it's his hot orange Chevelle that slow-mo rolls onto the screen in the opening shot, he's the one with the drugs and the prog-rock-y bedroom and the guitar-playing girlfriend. His hair is so good and he's gorgeous at smoking cigarettes and I like how he moves, with the grace and elegance of someone who knows he's beautiful but you forgive him because he just is, and you're grateful for that.

ALSO: BOYS WHO LOOK LIKE COLE HAUSER. Or just generally have an unobtrusively cool, no-bullshit, Cole Hauser-y vibe. Such a chill virility -- that's Cole Hauser's gift to us.

ACTUAL WOODERSON. Of all the Dazed characters I want to be buddies with, I think Wooderson's number one. So I think Matthew McConaughey should consider doing a thing where you can ask him to show up at parties/bars in complete costume and character as Wooderson, and then just hang out with you and your friends. It would be a really beneficial public service. 

THE SONG "NEVER BEEN ANY REASON" BY HEAD EAST. It plays at the part when Nicky Katt's talking trash about Wooderson's car and it's a beauty of a song, all laser-y and romantic and desperate in a dreamy, epic sort of way. It's important to me because I heard it one day at the gym last winter and I hadn't heard it in a long time and I knew right away that it should be a song that the kids in my book listen to at the party in the first chapter, which is a detail that helped me understand the mood of my novel in a way I hadn't before. Also I always thought the lyric was "woman with the sweet lovin' better than a white lion" and turns out it's "better than a white line" but I'm gonna keep on singing "lion." LIONS NOT COCAINE.

HIGH-WAIST JEANS. When I was 18 I found the most Dazed and Confused-y jeans for like a dollar at Salvation Army; they're long gone now, I miss them. All these jeans are so good and I especially approve of Shavonne's jeans + peach t-shirt and I'm totally going to copy her.

I also really dig Carl's look. What's that t-shirt? Krist Novoselic wears that t-shirt in one of the pictures in the CD booklet for Bleach. "Lookin' good" indeed.

GENEROSITY. There's a little moment that I adore, when Mel sends Mitch over to get a six-pack and Mitch comes back and Mel gives all but one of the beers away and lets Mitch keep the change. One time Laura Jane and I were on the phone, reading the Leo moon section of The Only Astrology Book You'll Ever Need and LJ laughed at the part about how Leo moons can often be expected to pick up the check, unless their sun sign is an Earth sign. I'm a Capricorn with my moon in Leo and I never pick up the check, but I'd like to become someone who does pick up the check sometimes. I wanna be like Mel.

STUPID DANCING. Darla's an asshole but her "Cherry Bomb" dance at the beer bust is really dumb and inspired and transcendent. And when Joey Lauren Adams falls over and Parker Posey drops to the ground and knocks her back down, her laugh is just so witchy and amazing.

CUTE MAKEOUTS. In the grass, on a blanket, with Seals and Crofts playing on the car radio.

DURABLE IDEALISM AND L-I-V-I-N. In the aforementioned Spin article there's a pull quote that's Pink's big line in the football-field scene ("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"). Before I even saw Dazed and Confused, I clipped the pull quote from the magazine and taped it to my wall and my mom seemed concerned but mostly understanding. That line doesn't resonate with me much anymore, probably because I'm no longer 15 or 16 or 17. But the thing that Don says in the same scene still really gets to me, the thing about "I did it the best I could while I was stuck in this place. Had as much fun as I could when I was stuck in this place. Played as hard as I could when I was stuck in this place." That's a smart way to be, no matter which place you're stuck in.



  1. omfg. I have had Dazed and Confused on VHS twice, and on DVD twice, and I don't have it at all right now. But I saw part of it on tv a few months ago and I was like, I will never turn down this movie.

    I totally concur with everything you write.

    My husband and I say "watch the leather, man" apropos of nothing all the time.

    1. yeah that's a good call, way better than going with 'check ya later!' or 'alright alright alright.' i think i'm gonna start saying 'be a lot cooler if you did' apropos of nothing all the time!

  2. I was renting a random movie from Blockbuster a few years ago, and when I asked the clerk kid (like maybe 19 years old) at the register how he was doing, he said, "I'm just livin'. L-I-V-I-N."

    1. god, what a beautiful moment! thank you for sharing it :)

  3. I don't know how I missed this post. Dazed and Confused was my favourite movie in high school and my friends and I watched it over and over. It was so important and relatable to my life. We bought seventies clothes in thrift stores and liked the same music the kids in the movie liked. But also, there were basically no cliques. Kids hopped from car to car. The jock hung out with the geeks. And for me that was exactly how high school was, and it was great to see that in a movie with no explanation, no moralizing at all.

    Anyway, sorry for the late comment, but I had to say I loved this post!

    And Wiley Wiggins is kind of really awesome these days.

    1. it's so funny, several people have said a similar thing to me about not having cliques in their high school, in response to this post. i like it.

      i haven't seen wiley wiggins lately but i used to work for a woman who had his number in her computer address book and i always thought it would be fun to call him up one day...