High School Movies and Bad Behavior: Or everything I hated about Project X
If you were a friend of mine talking to me recently, you’ll know one of my favorite things to rant about is how much I hate Project X. Yes, despite having seen the movie several days ago, I’m still feeling sore knowing I dropped $11 to see it.
I think it is quite interesting that I saw it at around the same time I saw Waterboys and the first season of Mad Men. The reason that is so is because like Project X, Waterboys is a high school movie, and like Project X, Mad Men depicts alcohol drinking, promiscuity, and basically general kinds of bad behavior. Despite having similar subject matter to two winning things, Project X just somehow did it all wrong.
As I said in my review of Waterboys, it surrounds a team of lovable losers who aim to get their act together to put on a synchronized swimming show for their high school sports festival. At the same time, Project X was about three losers who wanted to throw the ultimate party so they could ultimately lose their virginity.
The operative word in Waterboys is “lovable”. Yes, the characters are pathetic in their own ways from the insecure Suzuki to the nerdy Sato. The thing is, these characters were all easy to relate to, and all five of them had some sort of redeeming quality that in the end made them extremely likeable.
At the same time you have the pathetic Thomas Kub in Project X. At the movie’s end, he was equally as spineless as he was at the beginning. It was said spinelessness that allowed Costa (Jonah Hill-wannabe Oliver Cooper) and JB to push him into throwing this party to begin with. While Thomas was supposed to be a fundamentally decent character who happened to fall in with the wrong crowd, Costa and JB were easily two of the most manipulative, mean-spirited characters I have ever seen in a movie. I don’t remember Costa saying anything that wasn’t either a weak attempt to reassure Thomas that everything would be fine or something really hurtful, such as every fat joke he made to JB. At the same time, I found something really sad about the overweight JB’s attempts to get lucky throughout the night. The entire time, I simply wanted to give both Costa and JB a solid smack upside their heads and tell them to grow up.
That brings me to Mad Men. As many of you probably know, the main character Donald Draper is an alcoholic nicotine-addict who carries on affairs despite being married to Betty. In fact, I can’t think of a single male character from the show who was consistently faithful to his wife. If that wasn’t bad enough, Don smoked weed in an episode. The thing is that despite having such vices, all the characters (ok, maybe with exceptions) have a side to them that is more inherently decent. For example, what is shown about Don is that the two things he cares about most are his job and his children. Don never rests on his laurels at Sterling-Cooper, and instead jumps on the next challenge. Despite not being home much of the time, whenever he is home, Don devotes all the attention he can to his kids, largely to avoid the mistakes his own abusive parents made. Another notable example is the one time the married Harry Crane had a one-night stand with a secretary. He was shown to actually feel guilty about the incident.
What may have made Mad Men controversial is that it also depicts such behavior in a rather glamorous way. The sad truth is that the show takes place in the 1960s, and such acts very much was the glamorous thing to do at the time, as exhibited in important figures like President John F. Kennedy.
At the same time, Project X was exactly the horror story your health teacher probably wanted to tell you about the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and promiscuity. I legitimately felt disgusted by the entire party portion of the movie. I can truthfully say that I saw one of the unsexiest kiss scenes ever in the latter half of the movie. What’s more is that despite burning the house down and generally making a complete nuisance of themselves, none of the three lead characters appeared to feel any remorse for what they have done. As I mentioned in my review, the movie actually villainized everyone that was disturbed by this massive party happening on their street. Thomas even made a speech at the end saying that despite having his college fund being burned away to restore his family’s house and almost permanently losing the one girl who gave a damn about him, somehow it was all worth it.
I think ultimately, Project X was the first time I saw a movie and was genuinely bothered by the message it gave people. The movie ended with the three characters having achieved their goal of becoming the most popular kids at their school, and basically getting rewarded for immoral, hurtful (even criminal) acts. The last thing I care to do is preach about my own values on this blog, but this was the first time I was truly uncomfortable with what a movie wanted to glamorize.