Thursday, March 26, 2015

Rite of Spring

Sean Hannity just can't resist running "exposes" on Spring Break.  It has become an obsession for him, probably because all those lewd clips help boost his ratings.  Each year, the Fox News pundit assembles a panel to "discuss" the raunchy behavior that has come to be identified with this rite of passage.

Kids flock to the warm beaches of the Gulf Coast for a week of debauchery that has been chronicled as far back as 1958, when Glendon Swarthout penned Where the Boys Are, which was quickly made into a movie starring George Hamilton, Dolores Hart, Yvette Mimieux and Paula Prentiss.  A couple years ago, Harmonie Korine turned this particular story on its head in Spring Breakers, making Hamilton's suave Ivy-leaguer into a two-bit drug dealer, played by James Franco, in a darkly amusing romp that left parents flabbergasted.

Fact of the matter, Spring Break hasn't changed much in all those years.  It has always been about sex, focusing on the male perspective with young women the object of their carnal desires.  But, to portray women as "weak victims," as Hannity does, is to do a disservice.  Neither Swarthout nor Korine did that.

Millions of kids partake in this annual ritual.  The vast majority see it for what it is -- a chance to blow off some steam before bearing down for final exams.  States and local governments have tried to curb activities over the years by raising drinking ages and applying other restrictions, but the kids still come, still drink, still have sex, still trash hotel rooms and beaches; and the local hotels and bars love it.  Spring Break took a once dead calendar period and made it into a cash cow.

From a historical perspective, it more or less coincides with the religious calendar leading up to Lent, and is seen pretty much in the same light.  However, Sean and his religious conservative brood don't believe "kids" should be exposed to such public debauchery, and that cities like Panama City Beach, Florida, which I know all too well, should rein in activities.  He is very proud of the fact that his past exposes have resulted in bars closing at 2 am instead of 4 am, but as he notes that doesn't stop the kids from keeping the party going on the beach or in the hotel rooms.

What is most absurd is the double standard that applies to young women and men.  The male panelists seem to think it is OK for "boys" to let off steam, but in their mind, "girls" should wear chastity belts, not skimpy little bikinis.  As a recent situation on the beaches of Panama City illustrated, cops were understandably worried when a video of a young woman, "totally naked," surrounded by a group of bare-chested young men, went viral.  The young woman was eventually located and everything was fine, but alarm bells sounded off all around the conservative blogosphere.

This represented any parent's worst fear, and Fox and other news networks quickly capitalized on the juicy story.  We all know Dolores Hart would never have put herself in a position like that!

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