Monday, December 02, 2013

CinemArchetype #26: The Stoner

A sub-phyla of both the Hanged Man and the Holy Fool, the Stoner is both wasting their life and found nirvana. As holy as the Dali Lama, as singular of purpose in their mission as the Pope, and as frozen at the yellow wood road's fork as Travis Bickle or the Scarecrow, cometh, in his fashion, the Stoner. As lost as their or any generation will allow, if we liberal arts undergraduated within the prescribed four years at college, we weren't one of them. Somehow that's the only marker I can find to determine the stoner vs. the merely stoned, because I of course made it out in four.

The stoner in Cabin in the Woods was our confirmation that this character was ready to step into the fray, to get a spotlight of his or her own, inspiring my 2012 thesis "A Stoner Shall Rise."

1. Shaggy-- Dude in Cabin in The Woods (2010)

The signifiers and signs of horror (masks, knives, corridors, POV steadicams, phone calls, Martin Balsam in PSYCHO-style unmaskings) are now so beyond cliche they don't even need to be tied to anything substantial having a stoned hipster gesture towards them with his thumb is enough. The hipster's thumb is the new black. CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012) has taken this idea farther than anyone yet this year, metatexually refracting the cliche of attractive high school seniors heading off to the woods for the weekend into Lovecraftian abstraction. And stoners are the inevitable fifth or seventh wheel in such youthful crews, and have been since obnoxious brother in the wheelchair in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1977) first appeared. But he was a goner, always a periphery, but now one shall rise among them. A stoner... shall rise... man and survive, or the past tense, survave, man. And instead of a fifth wheel, lo! The unicyclist.

Yes, horror has recognized in its target audience a common thread that runs counter to general programming, the insider realization that pot protects you from evil. All along we were right to be paranoid, man, and we need Mary Jane's plant power on our side. And as so often happens, this concept is literally true as recent studies show.

What is even more troubling is that the United States Government actually did a secret follow up-study on the Virginia findings, in the mid '90's. When it only served to confirm the results of the 1974 research, and showed that THC (one of the main active ingredient in cannabis – and the one the government loves to hate), when administered to mice, protected them against malignancy, true to form, our government attempted to bury the results. Fortunately, a draft copy of the study was leaked to the journal, AIDS Treatment News, and the media covered the story. An excellent article by Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML, covers this part of our shameful history. (more)

I can't really reveal what happens in THE CABIN IN THE WOODS since 'holy shit! no way! Really? O man!' reactions are so essential, but I will quote Gregory Cwik's article on it in the current issue ofAcidemic's Journal of Film and Media: "..after Halloween was labeled a morality play, its character's seemingly punished for acting immorally, smoking became a death sentence for horror characters. Instead, Whedon's pothead uses his bong as a weapon against the enemy. Maybe its a sign of changes to come." Maybe it is, if we kill enough old people first. You know the types: maybe the pot ban is good for that as so many of them die from being unable to keep food down after chemo. They refuse to smoke the pot that might help with that since it's 'the devil's weed' when all along it was their only true cure. Who's the real devil here, pops? Part of growing up should be the realization you can't believe a word Uncle Sam tells you. If you refused to read that memo, well, Darwinian nature shall take its course. Win-win. If you can't agree maybe you could stand to be higher.

2. Brigitte Fonda - Jackie Brown (1997)
When Sam Jackson's indelible character Ordell Robie in JACKIE BROWN critiques his little surfer girl's habit of being high, he says that shit fucks with your ambition, sitting around smoking pot and watching TV weakens your ambition, she says "Not if your ambition is to smoke pot and watch TV" absolutely goddamn right, sister. I sympathize with a poor recently paroled ex-con Robert De Niro in the film, caught up in her surfer girl stoner orbit, languidly staying super baked, unable to think clearly through a golden calf and green herb combo. I say this because I too have been caught up in such orbits, and Ordell too reminds me of her boyfriend (the chick I'm referring to). Damn man, writing sloppy, it's soo nice, and I can because, dig, you know, the topic.

3. Cheech and Chong, of course
I've never been a big fan, for their humor is way too dumb for me, but it is of its era. They are the groundbreakers, for the likes of Harold and Kumar, films like Half-Baked and How High? And on and on. I'm trying to remember where I know the girl above on the far right from, what other movie where I totally fell in love with her, back in the 70s. Man, brain cells, am I right?

4. Reincarnated (2012) Snoop Lion
(top 3 pictures are also from this film)
A mind that is at once endearingly straight-forward and fathomlessly guiling, it takes a certain forceful naivete to decide to convert to Rastafarianism and drop the dog in your name, switching whole phyla of the kingdom, dig, from a dog to a cat, the sphynx, the smiling sphynx. He hard a childhood, and it's toughened him like teflon; he's split the atomic difference between the clown/serious guy dichotomoy; he's both Chuck D. and Flava, if you will (I'm old school to the point I stopped listening to rap when Dre's "Chronic" dropped. Course by then I'd even graduated from boomerang academy, if you feel me, "fam.'") The funniest part is that during his holy pilgrimage he goes to record in Jamaica's legendary Trojan studios and it's all white hipsters!

5. James Franco as Saul Silver in Pineapple Express

Saul: I wish I had a job like that. Where I could just sit around and smoke weed all day
Dale Denton: Hey you do have that job. You do sit around and smoke weed all day.
Saul: Hey you're right. Hey thanks man.

He is my favorite of all the stoners on this list, for Franco captures what I can only call the John-ism of the full-time weedbro - not dumb so much as innocent, as if born anew each inhale in the healing reset button of the weed. His friendships in with Saul and Danny McBride reflect the traditional arc of the middle man weed guy - the otherwise normal upstanding broheims and the slightly townier main supplier who is the buffer in turn-usually-with the grower and/or criminal organization who supplies him. He'd be a fool to grow it himself with any frequency, and his pride in having made a new friend, his emotions-on-a-sleeve purity keep him a kind of perennial magic Christian.

6. Alan Alda and Lily Tomlin - Flirting with Disaster
So much...

Mel: You made LSD? Is that what you're saying?
Richard Schlichting: We made LSD.
Mary Schlichting: Yes, yes. We made acid.
Richard Schlichting: And we gave it out to people who needed it. You know that there are hundreds of pharmaceutical executives in this country... that are selling drugs, FDA approved drugs.
Mary Schlichting: On the open market.
Richard Schlichting: Over the counter with incredible side...
Mary Schlichting: Horrible side effects.
Richard Schlichting: Terrible side effects. And these people are not in jail.
Mary Schlichting: They're not in prison anywhere.
Richard Schlichting: They're, they're, they're in country clubs or playing golf. They're having drinks.
Mary Schlichting: They're running the country, Mel.

7. Jim Breuer, everyone - Half Baked (1998)
Course, man! Everyone but the character played by Dave Chapelle, who gives up weed for some animus-dominated straight edge girl who don't understand the value!

Gregory Hines, who understands the value: History of the World Part 1

8. Rory Cochrane in Dazed and Confused (1993)
"Behind every good man there is a woman, and that woman was Martha Washington, man, and everyday George would come home, she would have a big fat bowl waiting for him, man, when he come in the door, man, she was a hip, hip, hip lady, man."

9. Michael Caine - Children of Men (2006)
I love so much about this movie, including the careful and accurate attention to proper use of a flask (and why Clive Owen reminds me of me), but the whole "oh man, like no children are being born anymore, so why not kill ourselves." And meanwhile there's immigrant problems and overpopulation all at once? That seems foolish, and very very Catholic, having your "holy mother of God whom I adore I am so unworthy of your breast milk, ai Maria" nonsense, positing Catholicism against itself, as in we all live only for the mother and the child so if we can't have them, then surely it must be not a sin to suicide. But Michael Caine sees through it all as a very believable weed grower with a dying, crazy wife for whom he buys a suicide kit and later goes out in a literal and figurative blaze of glory -- pull my finga!

10. Jeff Bridges - The Big Lebowski (1998)
"Take 'er easy, dude. I know you will, too."

11. Brad Pitt - True Romance (1993)
Here the stoner is again in the Tarantino-scripted Tony Scott directed putter on the mapper and way to Pulp Fiction layer. Dig, but is there such a character in Pulp Fiction? No, man, by then the guy was onto harder stuff. That's that Roger Avery shit, the coke and heroin mix-up guy. Shit that movie was dope, though.
Wait, so Brad Pitt in True Romance, a pretty easy role to pull off -- he don't even stand, yo!
 "Get some cleaning products?"

12. Claude - Over the Edge (1979)
"... Give the darkness to Claude, let him smoke it and peer unafraid into Bosch folios; let Matt Dillon create modern indie junkie comovage cinema with Gus Van and Francis Ford; Motorcycle Boy, YOU Live! We... we belong dead. We who have burned so very brightly, Roy, but not to last, we will go now, into the beyond. And never before or since will the bus ride to juvenile hall seem like such a triumph, a march into Valhalla on the rays of a beautiful sun. One day, when the world is much righter."
Dude, what the hell was I on when I wrote that, man? Optimism.

How am I going to pull this all together? Do I need to? Even if you never tried it you have to admit that this list reflects a pretty peaceful bunch. Sure they throw slushies and cavort in the flames but they don't shoot unless first shot at, and in general they prefer to sit around and watch cartoons, which leaves them safely off the streets and out of the way of the hustle and bustle. Which is good, because there's no room at the top anymore -- too many damned people, climbing over each other like those zombies in World War Z. So forget it, man, forget it. Weed, man. It's the dead end on the road through life, but just how far do you need to drive man, before you realize you're still in the goddamned driveway? 


  1. Cool list of movies, there's some on here that I've missed like Flirting wit Disaster and Over the Edge. Highly recommend you check out Greg Araki's Smiley Face, one of THE best representations of a stoner EVER! So truthful at times it is scary, but also, extremely hilarious!

  2. Great list, and made me think about a couple movies I haven't thought about in years, including two of the only things I like in connection with Tarantino's name: Brad Pitt in the Tarantino-penned "True Romance" and Robert De Niro in "Jackie Brown."

    I really like De Niro in "Jackie Brown" when he tells Samuel L. Jackson that he killed Bridget Fonda. Jackson asks where she is (in the mall parking lot) and De Niro says, "i, um... I had to kill her" (or something like that).

    Funny stuff.


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