A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know Dazed and Confused is a 1993 coming-of-age story by writer-director Richard Linklater (Slacker, Before Sunrise, and Boyhood) that is all about sex, drugs, rock-and-roll, powerlessness, and violence. On the last day of school, with the seeming approval of the entire adult community, incoming high school seniors sadistically haze next year's incoming freshman. When caught, the younger kids are subjected to painful and humiliating paddlings, and it's difficult to view the assailants as anything but vicious thugs learning to inure themselves to violence and nurturing a culture of self-perpetuating and continuing cruelty. While the film was hailed by some in the '90s as one of the best comedies of that decade, now the obliviousness of the violence feels a bit too reminiscent of recent, anger-fueled mass killings at airports, schools, and nightclubs to be funny. The setting is 1976 suburban Houston, Texas, when drinking at 18 was legal, but those legal drinkers drive cars and commit vandalism. Expect to see 14-year-olds drink, as well. Marijuana is bought, sold, and smoked, and boys talk about the availability of promiscuous girls. Teens kiss. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and "hell."
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What's the story?
DAZED AND CONFUSED follows the activities of a group of Texas high schoolers on the last day of the school year as they cruise around town, drink, and fall in love. Mitch, the bullied freshman, takes revenge on the bully (Ben Affleck). The star quarterback, Randall "Pink" Floyd, is forced to choose between his allegiance to the team and his allegiance to his friends.
Is it any good?
Kids may be drawn to this movie, but be aware that there's lots of iffy, consequence-free behavior on display. A classic coming-of-age tale that paints an unapologetically rosy picture of high school in the 1970s, Dazed and Confused manages to thoroughly entertain without saying much besides, "Boy, those were the days." Though conflict arises when characters briefly contemplate what comes after the last day of school, the film does not let such serious moments complicate the good time they experience.
Dazed and Confused helped to kick off the nostalgic preoccupation with the 1970s that continues to plague pop culture. This is not to say that the film is an empty paean to the era of bell-bottoms and bongs. While Dazed and Confused is no doubt a '70s idyll, it owes its lasting popularity to spot-on depictions of timeless suburban rites of passage. The joy that Mitch experiences from transcending social barriers that seem etched in stone is contagious. With nearly every teenager on television caught up in a different brow-furrowing crisis each week, it's nice to be reminded that, on occasion, high school can be fun.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the deleterious effects of drug and alcohol use not depicted in the film. Where are Randall and Mitch likely to be five or 10 years after the close of this movie?
How often do high school kids party like this? What are the real-life consequences of this behavior?
What has changed since the 1970s in terms of the enforcement of drug laws and our knowledge of the long-term effects of drug and alcohol use?
- In theaters: September 24, 1993
- On DVD or streaming: July 1, 1998
- Cast: Jeremy London, Matthew McConaughey, Wiley Wiggins
- Director: Richard Linklater
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: pervasive, continuous teen drug and alcohol use and very strong language
- Last updated: March 16, 2020
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