Dazed and Confused takes place in a small southern town on the last day of school. As is tradition in the town, the rising seniors will haze the rising sophomores to initiate them into high school. The movie mainly follows two characters, Randall “Pink” Floyd and Mitch Kramer, throughout the events of the day. Pink is the star quarterback of the football team at Lee High, who has recently been feeling apathetic about playing football. To make matters worse, the football coach wants him to sign a paper pledging to not drink or do drugs. Pink’s friends, Don Dawson and Benny O’Donnell, are spending their day crafting paddles and getting ready to start “busting”, or paddling, the incoming freshman. Don and Benny,along with Fred O’Bannion, go to the junior high before school lets out and taunt the incoming freshman with a megaphone. Mitch Kramer, a younger brother of a rising senior, is singled out because his sister asked the senior males to go lightly on him. Luckily Mitch and his friends were able to get back home without getting busted, but Mitch was later spanked after his baseball game later in the night. Feeling sorry for him, Pink invites Mitch to hang out later in the night.
The incoming freshman girls did not get off lucky either. When school let out, the rising senior corralled them up and verbally berated them in the parking lot, made them do jumping jacks, and covered them in flower or other condiments. They made some wear dog collars or go propose to the rising senior men around them. The hazing ended with a quick run through the carwash while the freshman were in the truck bed.
Later in the night, everyone was planning on going to a party at Kevin Pickford’s house, but unfortunately his parents caught wind and the party was cancelled. Instead, everyone found themselves at a pool hall called the Emporium. Everyone is hanging out wasting time while the dead-beat long time graduate David Wooderson plans a back up party. During this time, Mitch buys a six pack and gains some confidence. He develops a plan to get back at O’Bannion for hazing him and he actually pulls it off.
Eventually, everyone makes it to the party in the woods where more debauchery takes place. It is here where each character finds some sort of resolution. Pink has a good talking to from Don which helps him decide what he wants to do about the pledge, and Mitch ends up getting the girl. The movie ends on an open note with Wooderson and Pink driving down the road on their way to Houston.
Thesis:Dazed and Confused uses Freudian symbolism and sex to describe the power struggle essential to the teenage coming of age experience.
Topic 1: Freudian phallic symbols represent power in the social dynamic. The paddles are something cherished by the seniors and feared by the freshman. It is a physical object representing the social power the seniors hold. When Mitch got his revenge on O’Bannion, O’Bannion’s paddle ended up shattered. In a metaphorical sense, his power over Mitch was lost.
Topic 2: This movie is rife with sexual overtones. The female freshman are told to suck on pacifiers and at one point, one of the seniors makes the girl open her mouth and asked if she swallowed or spit. The seniors call the freshman sluts and whores or put dog collars on their necks. The way the seniors respond to Mitch talking to a sophomore girl implicate that Mitch’s ability to “score” indicated he was more mature.
Topic 3: Coming of age relies on challenging authority to some degree. Pink’s whole subplot within the film relies on him deciding if he wants to sign the pledge. The growth obtained from doing what he truly felt was best would not have come if there was no power struggle to begin with. At an even simpler level, Mitch would not have had the night he did had he gone home when his mother wanted him to. You cant have growth without challenging some expectation or norm.