Earlier this month in Philadelphia, a block party sponsored by a local radio station made national news when it got totally out of control, with residents claiming intoxicated teens so drunk that they couldn’t stand spilled from the free concert and into the streets, turning their neighborhood into a public toilet. Complainants blamed the debauchery on a lack of security and too few porta-potties, as well as on underage drinking. I blame it on a culture that celebrates a wild teen party like it’s some kind of rite of passage, and acts as if alcohol abuse is a critical element of “fun.”
Just Like the Movies
The wild teen party is so much a mainstay classic in the coming of age teen comedy movie that apparently some people confuse it for real life. As the Wild Teen Party trope goes, a normally responsible teen left home alone for the weekend invites a few friends over when lo and behold, someone pops in with a keg. Somehow, more and more people get invited, and pretty soon it spirals out of control. Before you know it, Aerosmith’s performing on a professionally lit sound stage in the backyard while the protagonist’s got the most popular girl in school up his bedroom, who’s professing her sincere affections because his badass party-throwing abilities have enabled her to see past his clean-cut-good-guy-albeit-slightly-rigid-exterior. Look at this! The nerdy kid really is cool, he just needed a little beer to loosen up.
Maybe the cops show up and maybe there’s a fire. Someone certainly gets sick and the protagonist gets caught and grounded in the end, but hey, everyone had fun and no one got hurt, not really. Which, in reality, is just not true.
For a great example, check out the ultimate Wild Teen Party movie Project X which came out in 2012 (not to be confused with the Project X of 1987, starring Mathew Broderick and some badass monkeys, which is maybe what confused me into turning it on in the first place). Project X has no real plot beyond the Wild Teen Party trope and ends as predictably as the rest of it (see above paragraph). While the protagonists getting grounded for behavior described by one film critic as “nihilistic, vile, venal, animalistic, avaricious, charmless, entitled, sub-Kardashian [and]stunningly irresponsible,” the movie dad gives his kid a sort of wistful look and says something to the effect of “How many people showed up?” Because in a universe where the Wild Teen Party exists, even dad’s impressed.
Then There’s Reality
In reality, no one’s impressed. For one, parties like this don’t really exist. When facsimiles do, they’re not really fun. I’ve been to out of control house parties. It’s no fun standing around in a room of wall-to-wall people you don’t know, unable to hear the person right next to you, having to Congo line to a bathroom and wait against a wall for 45 minutes only to find, when it’s your turn, that the toilet’s been stopped up with vomit, which (I imagine) is even less fun to discover if you live there. I’ve also lived in buildings where house parties have been held. You’re not cool to have to be repeatedly told by your neighbors to turn your shit down or to have the cops called on you for noise complaints. No one appreciates the mess you make of the hall.
The Opposite of Cool
Disrespecting your neighbors and terrorizing your community doesn’t make you cool; it makes you an asshole. This is what happens when large groups of people gather for the expressed purposes of getting super drunk: people behave like assholes. Property is damaged. People get arrested. People get hurt. Party-goers drive home drunk and kill themselves and others—and other terrible things you won’t see happen in the movies.
It’s one thing to think the Wild Teen Party looks cool when you’re a kid. But as an adult, if living out some version of The Hangover looks like a kickass way to spend the weekend before your nuptials, you just might not be mature enough to be getting married. Getting drunk and fucking someone in an alleyway, breaking shit and pissing on a neighbor’s car—call me a killjoy but this is not my idea of a good time. To me, you lack decency, let alone creativity, if you think it makes you cool to drink from red cups until you’re so wasted you can disregard the world around you. It’s actually what makes you basic, and maybe an alcoholic.
Let’s forgive teens for not knowing better, but let’s not forgive the adults that organize events like the one that went down in Philly, or the “creative” minds behind movies that glorify stupidity. As far as what happened in Philly, the venue cancelled further events with the radio station while, as of last Friday, residents are still trying to hold someone accountable for the clean up.
I say be an adult and clean up your shit. Literally.
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