By Sennah Yee
Richard Linklater calls Everybody Wants Some!! the “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused and the “cousin” to Boyhood —there’s always that low key sexist cousin in the family who you don’t have much in common with, isn’t there? He may as well rename this film Fuckboyhood.
The film features a whopping twelve baseball bro clones who I tried my best to tell apart based off their That Guy fame: that guy’s from Glee; that guy’s Kurt Russell’s son; that guy’s from Teen Wolf; that guy’s from Step Up 4 and 5...
We follow the bros over those magical few days before college starts and there are no responsibilities. Their goals are simple: get drunk, get stoned, and get laid. It’s a typical college movie, except there’s no maladjusted dorks, no virginal freshmen, no effeminate academics in sight. Every guy is the jock. The film begins with “nice guy” protagonist Jake (a freshman pitcher, and arguably the blandest of the bunch), cruising into campus, eyeing booty along the way. He gets a bit of shit when he moves into his frat house and McReynolds’ alpha male moustache declares his hatred for pitchers, but otherwise he fits in with the pack right away. Hazing rituals, bad bets, ping-pong matches, and knuckle-flicking competitions ensue. The team is a collision of fragile male egos, but their flaws and insecurities never truly hinder them.
At the end of the film, a professor writes “FRONTIERS ARE WHERE YOU FIND THEM” on the board, but the film has no boundaries in sight. It’s more of a plateau: a high area of level ground. While the boys navigate through their masculinity via parties, girls, and competitions, there are no peaks or valleys along the way. From start to finish, the boys are confident, entitled, and ready to go. Kurt Russell’s son encourages Jake to stay true to himself and to “just be weird,” but what constitutes “weird” in this film? Guys like girls, guys meet girls, guys get girls. Everybody wants some, and everybody gets some.
At one point at a punk show, Jake notices how he and the bros shift their personalities and outfits according to the venue they’re at to pick up girls: disco, country, punk, theater. But this is no epiphany; it brings out no change—and why would it? Jake is instantly reassured by one of the bros about their chameleon-esque pickup artistry: “It’s not phony; it’s adaptive.” They join the punk moshpit without any further concern or consequence.
This “identity crisis” doesn't cast the boys in an unflattering light. Instead, the film praises their capacity to have fun with whoever they’re with, however they are. I find my mind drifting off to how women never get away this easy; we always have to prove ourselves and defend our interests. Do we really like baseball if we can’t tell you our team’s full names, birthdays, and favourite foods? Do we really like this band if we haven’t seen them live a zillion times? Do we really read if we’ve only read On The Road once in high school and can’t remember what page his favourite quote is from? We can’t be budding fans, casual fans, or curious of anything. Everything is a test, and there’s no room for anything under 100%.
Women in this film include: "Country Girl #1, Sorority Girl #1, Mud Wrestling Champion, Buxom Coed, Friend of Buxom Coed, Cute Coed #1, Twister Coed, Bev's Friend, McReynolds' Girl, Fin's Girl, Girlfriend, and Hot Girl #1 at Soundmachine.” The only major female character is Beverly, a quirky Manic Pixie Theater Major who only gets significant screentime in the last half to demonstrate that Jake knows at least one poet. Jake gets her attention when all his friends are hitting on her and her friend, and he stays quiet in the back. Gold star! You see, he’s not like the other guys. When he follows her after she leaves to see her room number, it’s earned because he’s such a deep dudebro!
Linklater said to BuzzFeed that he wanted to examine male athletes in America: “You could be stupid, not a good student, not an interesting person, but if you’re good at sports — Our culture’s kind of fucked up in this way – we really elevate you. [...] And no one treats you like a dork. You kind of can’t be a dork. You don’t get bullied. It enforces this kind of entitlement, and I really wanted to show that.”
While the film doesn’t shy away from that entitlement, it’s not presented as “fucked up.” The film has lines like “Say goodbye to your highschool sweethearts fellas, the wonderful world of college pussy is upon you,” followed by a slow-motion shot of girls walking towards the camera. There’s an extreme close-up of a woman’s bare ass being groped that may as well be from American Pie or Van Wilder: Freshman Year. Linklater goes on to even celebrate their confidence: “There’s something pure about it. It’s beautiful. It’s like watching, like, peacocks or something. Certain animals stroll the earth in a certain way.”
The boys’ entitlement and horniness are so shameless, their skirt-chasing so dedicated, it apparently makes them genuine and harmless. Critics are calling the boys’ antics “endearing” and “lovable,” Linklater’s depiction of masculinity “mellow” and “sensitive.” A.O. Scott of The New York Times calls the film “downright utopian, a hormonal pastoral endowed with the innocent charm of a children’s book.” I don’t know or want to know what kinds of kids’ books Scott read.
This “boys will be boys” mentality makes me squirm. “He’s just teasing you because he likes you.” “It’s just a party.” “It’s just prom.” “It’s just college.” “It’s just for fun.” “It’s just sex.” On the other side, “soft”/“sensitive” masculinity can be just as toxic. Passive, “nice guy” traits can also be peacocked, exploited, manipulative.
As the credits roll, I think about all the formative bros from my high school and undergrad: HOT BRO #1, HOT BRO #2, FRIEND OF HOT BRO #2, ACTIVIST GUY, LIBRARY GUY, NICE GUY… I wonder how, what, who they’re all doing now. Peacocks can fly, but not far. Those big, flashy tail feathers weigh them down.