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Brown: The reckless party culture

BY MARCUS BROWN | NOVEMBER 17, 2014 5:00 AM

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The idea of the “rager” is nothing new, and for some the prospect of getting blackout drunk with attractive women is the main allure of college. Your parents would probably point to the film National Lampoon’s Animal House as a quintessential example of how there really is nothing new under the sun.

However, a disparity is forming between the culture that spawned Animal House (which carried the larger theme of standing up for individuality) as opposed to the culture being portrayed today which is youthful hedonism with no rhyme or reason. An idealized experience of raucous behavior is being commoditized for profit as a way of marketing rites of passage and life milestones. The story of your life is coming to a screen near you, starring a cast of attractive actors, an awesome soundtrack, and more drugs than you could imagine.

If you haven’t seen the 2012 movie Project X, you aren’t missing much in terms of characterization, plot development, or theme. However, films such as this do signal a trend in glamorized depictions of teen debauchery in popular culture. Lately, the prevailing attitude has shifted slightly from sex sells to partying sells. In Project X, we see a high-school party thrown by a few social outcasts hoping to gain popularity, which erupts into a full-blown riot that destroys the entire neighborhood.

In the format of film, it can be argued that this kind of skewed depiction is just an artistic outlet and not necessarily an exact reflection of today’s society. One could argue that perpetuating this kind of media is as harmless as the wildly exaggerated features of a caricature drawing, which is ultimately not supposed to mirror the realities of the subject. However, I see darker motivations in all of this.

These films have begun to melt off the screens and seep into the realities of the audience. The party-turned-riot is no longer confined to the imagination. It is actively encouraged. The best example of this is the brand I’m Shmacked, which capitalizes on promoting and filming parties on college campuses across the nation.

It made an appearance at Iowa City’s Union Bar on Halloween, and Shmacked parties at the University of Delaware escalated out of control warranting heavy police involvement to shut it down. The popularity of this kind of escalation is on the rise with parties turning into full blown, car flipping, fire in the street riots at such schools as Iowa State University, University of California-Santa Barbara, and Western Michigan University, among others.

What is concerning is that the companies such as I’m Shmacked, bolstered by social media, are actively raising the stakes for out-of-control behavior and essentially pouring gasoline on the fire.

We have a whole market formed solely to steer kids like cattle to perpetuate a culture that will ultimately come back to haunt them. I’m Shmacked can just go to another college campus, having gotten the crazy footage it came for while the students and administrators will be left to clean up the mess. Our generation is constantly criticized for the youthful hedonism we seemingly embody.

However, the culture in which we operate is being shifted beyond our control by outside parties to encourage and validate the very behavior we are looked down on for participating in.

A brilliant stage is set for the youths of today to make asses of themselves by an audience all too pleased to capitalize on and criticize the performance. There is nothing wrong with partying in moderation, but now more than ever, we must be wary of the old guy at the party with a video camera trying to get girls to make-out with each other or wrestle in a kiddie pool full of Jello.


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