Let’s broaden the slacker genre
ANNOUNCEMENT: help me write a movie
Ah, the beloved slacker film. I love slacker movies. If you read this blog, I suspect you may also have a soft spot for them in your cold, barren, overworked heart.
Do you have the feeling that movie slackers are all very similar—i.e. mostly White dudes? (NOTE: after additional audience submissions, I must admit there are more examples of Black male slackers than I thought. We’ll see if my sense still holds for other identities).
I started thinking about this after a few attempts to sell ad campaigns to clients who expressed fear of depicting Black or Latinx/o/a people taking it too easy, mindful of not feeding into the stereotype that they were “lazy.” While this sentiment comes from a good place, it’s telling about who gets “permission” to slack in our collective imagination and who doesn’t.
Which takes me back to slacker flicks. While there are exceptions (Cheech and Chong, Harold and Kumar, Friday, Half-Baked, possibly certain characters from White women-centered comedies I need to watch) most iconic, celebrated slackers in our media fit a very particular identity and experience.
Attempting a slacker film with a brand new archetype
I keep asking myself: who would America NEVER tolerate as a slacker? I feel it in my bones that if the Big Lebowski were recast with an immigrant, brown-skin mother with a poor upbringing, it would be charred into a blacklist with the rage from all corners of our society.
I haven’t thought about this more than the above. I’m not sure what the ultimate taboo slacker archetype would be, or if you could bring it to life in a way that feels supportive as opposed to a stereotype-laden attack (Birth of a Nation, anyone?). But I figure that taking this experiment on, and doing it publicly, is a great opportunity to:
Watch a ton of slacker movies, learn more about the archetype and genre conventions, and discuss them here with you
Reawaken my screenwriting muscle, which has atrophied over the last 5 years
First steps: diving into the slacker genre
I’ll be mainly focusing the next couple weeks-to-months on research and trying to flesh out the basic building blocks of what the story could be – main character, main foil, setting, “character arc” (if any), etc. As part of this, I’ll be doing periodic posts about seminal slacker films/characters, analyzing and discussing them here with you.
I haven’t quite figured out the format for these, but for now I’m thinking of dividing them into an opening that’s focused on what the film says about slacking/slackers in society, and a back half with analysis that’s a bit more technical, for those of you (if there are any) interested in specific screenwriting and filmmaking craft—plotting, visual techniques, etc.
Feel free to send suggestions of what you’d like to see (or not see!) in these posts.
How you can help
For now, my main need is help sourcing slacker movies! Here’s a running list I have. There’s no way I’ll get through all these before I start writing (nor should I) but I’m gonna try to watch a sizable portion. I’m specifically interested in any films I might not know about that depict non-White, non-male slackers. I’ve been googling a lot and haven’t found many at all. (NOTE: I sent out a call for help on social media before posting this, and you’ve already helped uncover a few gems—thank you!)
I also made a shorter list of what I’m dubbing “work-humper” films—inspirational movies that sell the story of people (especially non-White-or-male) pulling themselves up by the bootstraps through sheer grit and hard work. The Pursuit of Happyness, which I’ve already dunked on in this venue, is a perfect prototype. I’m interested in watching some of those as antitheses, to find conventions that we can subvert with our new slacker film.
Other than that, any initial ideas or thoughts you have burning in your heart about what slacker characters or settings you’d love to see are incredibly welcome.
So, when can we expect a draft?
Lol. I haven’t set any deadline or timeline, nor do I plan on doing so for now. I’ve been jazzed about this idea for a while and have faith that casual progress can get us somewhere good eventually.
It’s a slacker movie and this is a blog about liberating ourselves from workaholic attitudes—what did you expect?
I thank you in advance for your contributions, ideas, criticism, and company!
PS. If any of you out there are HIGHLY interested in screenwriting or filmmaking and this sounds like something you’d like to collaborate on more deeply, email me. Projects are always more enjoyable (and better) done with a buddy or two.