The sample essay on Slacker Genre deals with a framework of research-based facts, approaches and arguments concerning this theme. To see the essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion, read on.
Those movies categorized under the Slacker genre break away from conventional Hollywood style in many respects. The very term ‘Slacker’ is taken after a Richard Linklater movie of the same name released in 1991. Made as an experimental project, the film became a cult classic and impressed the critics as well.
It is not often that a movie would spawn a genre of its own as Slacker did. Starring Linklater himself in the lead character role, the movie lays aside well-trodden, formulaic plot and structure. Instead, it adopts a ‘scatter-brained’ narrative style, characterized by frequent shifting of focus from one character to another, seemingly at random. But behind this apparent chaos is an orchestrating directorial mind at work. (Jardine, 2010) And its appeal is not easy to grasp at the outset. The postmodern basis of the genre is also evident in the apparent moral apathy of the characters in the film.
In Slacker and other movies of the genre such as Mutual Appreciation and The Puffy Chair what’s at play is youthful resistance to social conformity and discipline. By not assimilating themselves into the corporate world of work and by assuming a casual (bordering on lethargic) attitude to everyday existence, the characters in the film show irreverence toward the concept of work ethic. This attitude is also evident in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, albeit manifest in a more sophisticated manner.
The apparent lack of values and virtues should not be evaluated using prevailing social norms (or their representations on-screen). Instead, seen from a post-modern stance, there are indeed virtues and values in the choices and actions of the slackers. An acquaintance with the writings of influential post-modern philosopher Frederic Nietzsche and his formulation of morality, virtue and value will elucidate and help appreciate the beauty behind the film’s amoral universe. Also, another definitive character of the slacker genre, which both the movies exemplify, is the lack of materialistic ambition on part of the male protagonist. As Linklater observes in one of his interviews, this attribute of the slacker is meant to have positive connotations. The dialogues written for Jesse certaininly capture this spirit, making his character stand out from the express heroism of typical Hollywood fare.
In Before Sunrise, the two lead roles are played by Ethan Hawke (Jesse) and Julie Delfy (Celine). Their chance meeting in a train from Budapest leads them to spending the night walking the streets of Venice and talking about love, life, politics and beyond. What makes their conversation exceptional is the broad range of topics they touch upon – something which conventional Hollywood fare cannot afford to have. In this context, it helped Linklater’s cause that he was a self-taught director,
“Luckily, this means that no one ever taught him to rely on the cliches and emotional manipulations of most Hollywood romances. We’ve become so used to the shorthand version, even in good films, that we no longer notice what we’re missing. These days it usually goes something like this: cue the song on the soundtrack, played over a montage sequence of three or four inter-cut activities—laughing over dinner, talking animatedly while strolling through the park, maybe a cute messy food fight. In short, a music video. (The Naked Gun serves up the definitive parody, if one were even needed.) Before Sunrise lapses into this mode briefly only once, but earns it, since the segment immediately follows the film’s most delicately observed scene, the play of glances in the record listening booth.” (Syngle, 2004)
The irony lies in the fact that as against derogatory usage of the term ‘slacker’, these two twenty-somethings come across as thoughtful, perceptive, politically aware and have their own rational philosophies of life. Based on these qualities, the audience is forced to re-evaluate negative connotations of slacking. Herein lies the artistry of the genre, whereby, beneath apparent rootlessness, confusion, purposelessness and apathy shown by the characters, there is a well-formed personality to go along with well-informed life-style choices. Upon realising this fact at moments in the passage of film, the audience adjust and readjust their understanding of who the on-screen characters are. This is a far-cry from run-of-the-mill productions from major American studios, where the emphasis is more on plot, suspense and eventual denouement as opposed to character exploration and open-ended narrative threads.
Divergent as the slacker genre might be from well-trodden genres, it is a testament to its authenticity that its legacy continues even today. Reviews of the film that appeared immediately after its release tended to bracket it along side such popular genres as Date Film or Chick Flick. But what dismantles such convenient classifications are later (more detailed) analyses from young and old critics alike of diverse sexual orientations and political persuasions. All of them were able to concur on the originality and innovativeness in the film. (Wood, 1998, p.324) Critic Eric Syngle’s analysis of Before Sunrise is full of heart-felt appreciation for the ingenuity of the project – much of which applies to the sequel as well. In Syngle’s case, his critical appraisal is colored by his own subjective personal experience of watching the movie as a teenager. But that does not dilute the validity of some of the observations he makes. The following words written by Syngle serve as a suitable summary of Richard Linklater’s contribution to the creation of this exciting new genre:
“As Richard Linklater’s name rose to general recognition, it came tied (and still is, to some extent) to the American Independent scene. With time, however, it has become clear that his links to that school of filmmaking aren’t nearly as important as his divergences, especially in the sensitive humanist ethos that guides his films and his complete disregard for the juggernaut of hipness—whether trendsetting or trend-chasing—that plagues so many filmmakers. (“Slacker” may have been a Gen-X buzzword in the early Nineties, but that’s as far as it went.) Before Sunrise is a blend of poetic realism, Nouvelle Vague youthfulness and spontaneity, but mainly classical Hollywood plotting and construction must have seemed about as cool as Pat Boone in comparison. Who, young or old, Hollywood or indie, made films this embarrassingly sincere anymore, or this unabashedly romantic?” (Syngle, 2004)
Wood, Robin (1998). Sexual Politics and Narrative Film: Hollywood and Beyond. Columbia University Press. p.324.
Dan Jardine (January 11th, 2010), Before Sunrise and Before Sunset: Laden with Happiness and Tears, published in Film
Erik Syngle (Summer 2004), ‘Love Me Tonight?’, published in Before Sunrise Reverse Shot’s Richard Linklater symposium.
Before Sunrise (1995), Feature film Produced by Castle Rock Entertainment, currently distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Before Sunset (2004), Feature film Produced by Richard Linklater, distributed by Warner Independent Pictures.