The film is anti-partisan, pro-pluralism and even has some frat-bro Zen. Its time the likes of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump learn from Linklaters reformed jocks

Every generation has a piece of fiction be it movie, television show or book that speaks so specifically to their time and place that it inspires them to play the Which one are you? game. This has been most frequently been applied to Sex and the City or Friends, the latter of which came back to our screens with a horrific forced whimper recently.

Among my particular group of stoned high school friends in 90s suburbia, however, Richard Linklaters Dazed and Confused was the pop art that most closely resembled our lives. There was no shortage of characters with whom to identify, but if you ask any man of my generation which Dazed character he was, Id bet you my best friends bong the answer would be Randall Pink Floyd (Jeremy London).

Its not a simple case of wish fulfillment, although Pink is a big-man-on-campus type, the starting quarterback of a successful high school football team, and the kind of guy women fight over. Instead, his relatability lies in his penchant for code switching. Even as the presumptive prom king, Pink feels equally at home with the jocks and the nerds. He parties with his football buddies but, as established in the early scenes, he has a weekly poker game with the nerds. When he has to cancel on them to attend a party, he suggests they come along without fear that his friendship with them could hurt his standing among the jocks.

These two groups do come into conflict, but only in Pinks mind. On the last day of his junior year, his coach asks him and his team-mates to voluntarily pledge to avoid alcohol and drugs over the summer. His team-mates are willing to sign the pledge just to get the old man off their backs, but Pink takes it to his nerd friends, who label it neo-McCarthyism and plant the seed of dissent in his mind. That seed blossoms in the films final scenes, when Pink throws the pledge form in his coachs face, telling him: I might play football, but I will never sign that. Its framed as a heroic act, with Linklater intimating that maturity comes by embracing our complexity.

Dazed
Dazed & Confused. Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext/Alphaville Films

For Everybody Wants Some!!, Linklaters spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused, the director has doubled down on that philosophy. The film features none of the characters from Dazed, but it expands its socially inclusive ethos into something resembling a potent, anti-partisan political statement. Its a redefinition of the tribalism that has dominated our political discourse in recent years, embracing humanitys tendency towards self-sorting but refuting the notion of a tribe as a closed system. Ultimately, it offers a zen-like frat bro philosophy, suggesting that the best way to have a good time is to spend time with people of different beliefs and interests.

When Jake Bradford (Blake Jenner) arrives at the fictional University of South Texas to play baseball, he is quickly initiated into the team. He and his team-mates live together, eat together, drink together, chase girls together, get in fights together, and, oh yeah, play a little ball together, too. Their de facto leader, Finn (Glen Powell), even goes so far as to call them a tribe, celebrating their pack mentality when they jump in to defend their least popular team-mate, who has wrongly picked a fight at their local bar.

As a modern-day viewer watching Linklaters depiction of 1982 college life, I found myself bracing for the inevitable conflict, especially when Jake falls for a theater girl. Surely, his team-mates none of whom are particularly bright will be threatened by Jakes mingling with another social group. But thats not what happens. Jake brings them to the party, and they embrace the novelty of being in an unusual environment with unlike-minded people. And thats not all: over the course of the film, they visit a disco, a country and western bar, and a punk rock club. They change their attire to fit in, but they dont change themselves. Theyre open to new experiences such as their first mosh pit and they rarely prejudge new acquaintances.

Linklaters script drops life lessons into the proceedings, bits of bro-Zen wisdom like Embrace your inner weird, man! and We all take turns being chumps. You just have to accept your chumpification and pass it on. Its easy to breeze over these aphorisms, but they dovetail effectively with the films political resonance. They ask us to let down our defenses and experience life with an open mind and heart.

Most political pundits and anyone with even a cursory knowledge of our political discourse recognize that our country has fallen victim to tribalism. We are geographically self-sorting into areas where people of similar races and income levels reside; we only watch the cable news station that aligns with our political perspective; we carefully curate our social media feeds to exclude those people who disagree with us; and when someone offers us a political perspective we dont understand, we too often shut them out rather than truly consider their point of view. This is the cause, not the symptom, of our political divisiveness, and its quickly getting to the point where we rarely meet someone who differs from us in any fundamental way.

Everybody Wants Some!! shows college life, when properly lived, as an ideal antidote to that ethos. It asks us to remember a time not too long ago when jocks could hang with nerds, nerds could hang with punks, and punks could hang with rednecks. When we could put aside our differences, as long as the beer was cold. This, more than anything, is the lesson Jake learns over the first three days of college. Perhaps its time the political class paid attention?

Read more: www.theguardian.com