Viking Night: Dazed and Confused
By Bruce Hall
October 13, 2010
Most consumers have no problem loving a huge budget blockbuster. Movies that are meant to appeal to the widest possible audience usually do just that. But some films have a narrower vision, or simply contain more complex meaning than meets the eye. They aren't always art, and they aren't always even very successful. But for a devoted and eccentric few, they're the best entertainment money can buy. Once, beginning with Erik the Viking, a group of dedicated irregulars gathered weekly in a dingy dorm room to watch these films and discuss how what pleases the few might also appeal to the many. Time has separated the others in those discussions so that I alone remain to ponder the wider significance of cult cinema. But while the room is cleaner and I no longer have to skip class to do it, I still think of my far off friends whenever I hold Viking Night.
When I was a youngster growing up in suburban North Dallas, I had it pretty good. I enjoyed a comfortable middle class upbringing, I received the best education the public school system had to offer (which at that time was actually kind of good), and thanks to my environment, I had access to the sorts of adolescent hijinks that you usually only see in movies. Do you remember those John Hughes flicks from the '80s, where some kid would throw a wild party in his parents' 6,000 square foot house while they were in Europe? The place would get wrecked, nobody would call the police and somehow everything was back to normal when Mom and Dad got home? Well, these things really happened where I grew up. But despite those white collar surroundings, I can tell you that even in the most affluent parts of Texas there remains a rural aesthetic that unites even the most reluctant segments of culture from top to bottom. I have never owned a gun, driven a pickup or been to a rodeo, I don’t believe in the death penalty and I’d never send a six-year-old to a beauty pageant. But there really is something different about Texas, and I’m very proud to have grown up there. I just can’t help it.
I can also tell you that as a high school student in Texas, you have experiences that are somehow larger than life, but still pretty familiar to most kids across America. You drive for the first time. You fumble around with the opposite sex. You find creative ways to get beer. You hang around in video arcades – oops – I dated myself. Idle young boys engage themselves in petty vandalism and pointless acts of civil disobedience, such as trashing the school on the last day of class.
As a freshman you are often hazed relentlessly, although by my time it was mostly verbal. But being the Lone Star State, there were a handful of bonus features. Football was God, and so were the boys who played it. Good grades were encouraged, although intellectualism itself was looked upon with hostile suspicion. And there was always…always that one guy at the end of the block who graduated three years ago but still hung around the high school, prowling the streets in his tricked out Camaro Z28 and handing out beer at all the parties. In many ways I grew up inside a movie, and in many ways that make me glad my parents do not read this column, that movie was Dazed and Confused.