Horrible weather befits a month of horror
by Aidan Morgan
APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
— T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land
Spring break forever, bitches!
— Spring Breakers
About 10 years ago, back when I was a field producer at a local production company, I ended up on a working trip to Vegas on spring break. This was full-on party-town Vegas, balanced precisely between the twin traumas of September 11 and the housing crash. The city had just begun to reinvent itself as an adult-oriented playground — the grand experiment of a family-friendly Vegas strip had not paid off — and pleasure-starved students had flooded the Strip, hollering and gawping as they staggered from casino to casino, yard-long neon drinks welded to their hands.
It was probably one of the greatest moments in history for complete idiots.
I watched countless people wander the Strip, hypnotized by the sheer fact of being able to carry their drinks out to the sidewalk. I watched grey-faced men and women at breakfast buffets silently registering the extent of the previous night’s losses. I heard, but did not see, a man pull a gun on a bartender in the lobby of the hotel where I was staying.
I saw a man dislocate his own shoulder from dancing too hard at the World Flair Bartending Championships.
Let that sink in for a moment. Some guy got so excited at the sight of someone lighting drinks on fire that he produced stronger internal forces than his body could handle. In mid-gyration, his arm swung out too far, and his body dropped to the sidewalk. Friends hauled him away as he moaned in pain.
He was back a few minutes later, dancing like hell with the rest of his body.
Part of this is the cultural heritage of America, where it’s every young man’s god-given right to lose his shit at the sight of premium liquor. And of course, part of it is the hedonist echo chamber of the Strip on a Saturday night, which is an experience equivalent to having the plot of Blade Runner screamed at you by a thousand methed-out clowns. But I’m certain that the generator of all this Dionysian torque was the emergence of spring.
An objective look at history will tell you that early spring is the worst time of year. When the snow melts and the buds stir, homicides and horrors ensue. You want historic disasters? Try the Titanic sinking (April 15); Chernobyl (also April 15); BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (April 20); and the San Francisco earthquake (April 18). Oh, and Hitler was born on April 20.
More discomfiting is the rain of death brought down by humans in spring. The recent Boston Marathon bombings; the Columbine massacre (April 20); the Virginia Tech shootings (April 16); the Oklahoma City bombing (April 19); the Waco shootout; the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King (April 14 and 4, respectively); and the death of Kurt Cobain (April 5).
Is it any wonder that Marijuana Day lands on April 20? With these kinds of vibes going around, people need to mellow out.
(In fairness, April doesn’t hold a monopoly on terror. September-October’s accounts are squarely in the black, from September 11 to Canada’s own October Crisis. But still, April sucks.)
This murderous zeitgeist may be the greatest achievement of Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers. Four bored and desperate college students (mostly played by Disney starlets) strap on bikinis, hold up a convenience store and drive off for a week of debauchery in Florida. They fall in with a grille-mouthed gangster named Alien (played to oily perfection by James Franco) who involves them in further excess and general criminality. Things get weird and violent.
Korine filmed his actors against the backdrop of actual spring break celebrations. That’s the scary aspect of the film; in and around the actors, real people are dancing and swaying and boozing, trying to will an entire reality into existence: an infinitely tanned, toned and topless universe swaying under a permanent spring sun.
Spring Breakers will only shock the most naive and sheltered 21st century viewers, but it tells us something about a time of year marked by ecstasy and violence. Spring is the tortured adolescent of the seasons, and it puts us all in a surly, teenaged state of mind. The first warm day feels like milk on the skin, but it’s never quite enough; we get a little warmth, but want more from the ur-parent, the all-powerful sun that holds itself in reserve for half of the year and sweeps itself under the horizon every day. Spring promises new life, but drags us across a heap of mud and garbage to get it.
But then, just the other day, a moth wobbled by my head as I walked to the Safeway. That’s worth some dirt on my boots. And let’s not forget the Milky Way. That’s 40 flavours of hard ice cream to take the edge off the season.