Almost all inhabitants of the occident are familiar with the term “slacker.” Invariably, the word has negative connotations. It generally refers to those burdensome people who do not live up to societal expectations. Douglas Coupland postulated that scientific progress has enabled us to live longer, thus prolonging all stages of maturity—the slacker simply suffers from an abnormally elongated adolescence.
He/she is usually a member of the white upper-middle class who has the potential socially, if not intellectually, to join the “respected” denizens of western civilization. The hallmarks of slackers are three main traits: a-motivation, aimlessness and indolence. It was Richard Linklater who, in his 1995 film Slacker, bestowed upon the world this slacker prototype.
Linklater, however, elaborated that the disenchanted group has suffered alienation as a result of being bombarded with excessive mass media and technology. Thus, critical of the mainstream, slackers nurture an affinity for sub-pop-culture. The Generation-X field guide and lexicon states that in an era of instant gratification, the fruitlessly low-paying jobs of slackers give them time to sit back, relax and let “it” happen to them. (Presumably “it” is the dross of popular culture.)
The newly released film Slackers (Dewey Nicks) proves that the original Linklaterian slacker has been adapted for the 21st century—where there was aimlessness, now there is a new hunger for instant gratification.
The film’s plot follows a loser-y guy, Jason Schwartzman (of Rushmore fame) who blackmails the very Canadian Devon Sawa into getting him the object of his affection (the gorgeously gangly James King). In our era of “instants,” the new brand of slacker is simply defined by his lack of drive towards an immediately lucrative profession. The indolence, aimlessness and a-motivation of the original slacker have been supplanted, in the film, by Sawa’s impassioned quest to win over James King.
Meanwhile, the film’s pop culture references don’t wander from the mainstream (with cameos by Gina Gershon and Cameron Diaz—with a sprinkle of subculture added by John Hughes alumnus Gedde Watanabe). The parody of various entertainment media, from musicals to 70s TV shows, render the movie more post-modern than Linklater’s Slacker.
Nicks has fully embraced our culture of instant gratification by including an excess of non-sequitur faecalphilia and cheap humour. Those original slackers among us, however, will be pleasantly surprised to find hidden “real” humour in the nuances of the film (especially in the peripheral characters and the use of negative space in various scenes).
Yet, the classic slackers remain indelible, in the form of “The Dude” from the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski and Ron Livingston in Office Space (Mike Judge)—anti-heroes who are partial to junk food, martial arts and all that is kitsch. Unfortunately, neither the Coens nor Mike Judge has the capacity to script the lives of each member of our society.
As we fall prey to the ease of instantaneousness in the 21st century, we are forced to succumb to the consequent perversion of slack.