Oh, to be a slacker, settling into the haze of a mid-day bong rip, brain burnt to a crisp by the mind-numbing cycle of your corporate day job, with no ambition or goals whatsoever except figuring out what fast food establishment you’re going to frequent for dinner.
The Slacker is a himbo by choice. He knows there’s “more to life” than lazing at the beach perfecting his tan or binge-watching Netflix in his dank apartment, and yet “more to life” always seems to translate to some stuffy desk job or settling down. He’s not, you know, like, a fucking cog, man. He rejects society, selling out, and corporate bureaucracy. He’s really not looking for anything serious right now, if you’re looking for a boyfriend, or whatever. He is, in 2021 terms, just vibing.
Slacker cinema arguably peaked in the 1990s, when the distinctly Gen X archetype emerged in the form of male protagonists in movies like The Big Lebowski, Reality Bites, and Office Space, beginning with Richard Linklater’s 1990 feature Slacker. The genre dwindled towards the end of the 2000s, but got a makeover in the early 2010s when a crop of aimless women characters vibrating with millennial angst and insecurities would fill both big and small screens in the form of Bridesmaids, GIRLS, Broad City, Insecure, and Fleabag. But these were fuck-ups rather than slackers; women’s ambitions and dreams crushed by reality.
But not all slackers are alike. Some fancy themselves philosophers, some embrace their beautiful, little empty heads. Some spend their days ignoring Slack notifications, and others are busy surfing. Here is a handy guide to figure out what sort of slacker you’re dealing with, should you come across one in a movie, or think you actually are one. I promise I won’t tell your boss, bro.
The Beach Bum
The Beach Bum doesn’t understand why you stress out so much. Chiiiiiill, my man. You need to live in the moment, and take in mother nature as she intended: basking in the sun, with a cold beer in hand, slightly stoned at all times, toes in the sand. A tan, fit, beach blonde Cali bro, The Beach Bum makes slacking look good, a destiny bestowed upon him rather than a lifestyle choice fine-tuned on the ‘gram.
Vices: Having too much of a good time, will ditch plans with you to pursue the perfect wave, is truly committed to #vanlife, is constantly Instagramming earnest memes, always smells like sunblock, doesn’t believe in washing his hair, never has any idea what time it is and, like, why is that even important, anyway?
The Blueprint: Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Moondog in The Beach Bum
The Delinquent is a juvenile slacker, whose freedoms are squashed by the torturous experience of having to attend class. He’s a rough-around-the-edges class-cutter bad boy in a leather jacket who will beat your ass but probably doesn’t have the patience to finish a copy of Catcher in the Rye to save his life. He possesses an air of mystery, until you get close to him and realize it’s a smoke-screen for being sort of an idiot.
Vices: Frequently and rightfully points out half of what you learn in school isn’t applicable to real life, will flirt his way into getting you to do his homework for him, king of detention.
The Blueprint: Bender from The Breakfast Club, James Franco in Freaks and Geeks, Jordan Catalano in My So-Called Life
Not to be confused with the Beach Bum, who relishes the opportunity to get his Vitamin C anyway he can, the Stoner would be happy spending literally all day on the couch in his pajamas eating potato chips and snoozing. He learned a long time ago that being perpetually, mind-bogglingly high is preferable to whatever *gestures* this is, and so that’s how he’s going to be, every day, for the rest of his life.
Vices: Unclear how his bills are paid, always getting into stressful and physically dangerous scenarios that test the feel-good boundaries of his high, frequently thinks he’s had an epiphany worthy of a Nobel Prize but has actually just discovered how to plug the microwave back in, usually wants to be left alone.
The Blueprint: The Dude from The Big Lebowski, Harold and Kumar
The Philosopher Fuckboy
The Philosopher Fuckboy, like all slackers, goes with the flow. But he has his limits as to what constitutes a worthwhile flow. To start, a corporate day job is not for him; he has novels to half-assedly write, and guitars to noodle on endlessly without it cohering into a single, recognizable song. He’s a bohemian who thinks anyone who isn’t dedicating themselves to various intellectual pursuits is a robot. He eschews smartphones, television, pop music, and clingy chicks, which, according to his definition, is apparently every chick. One day, he swears to god, he’s just going to disappear from society all together and live off the grid.
Vices: Always eager to tell you that you’ve sold out, doesn’t understand why you “listen to this crap,” thinks backpacking around Europe is a personality, just “crashing here for a few days” is never a few days.
The Blueprint: Troy Dyer in Reality Bites, Kyle in Lady Bird
The Headbanger is first and foremost a mere worshipper at the feet of rock royalty, treating his favorite metal bands like Greek gods. He’s holding out hope that his band, who’ve spent the last several years banging around in his parents’ garage to the neighborhood’s disdain, will one day strike the record deal of a lifetime (or, at the very least, tickets to see Aerosmith live). For now, he positions himself as a hard-partying connoisseur of music, and nothing comes between him and music.
Vices: Doesn’t understand what a haircut is, thinks beer is a food group, has the sense of humor of a 12-year-old boy, is just a few years away from losing his hearing from standing in front of fried speakers all day.
The Blueprint: Wayne and Garth in Wayne’s World, Dewey Finn in School of Rock
While he doesn’t look like the prototypical “slacker type,” the buttoned-up Professional could not give less of a shit about his dead-end job and is merely here to collect a paycheck. He spends his days quietly dodging actual responsibilities, or ignoring them entirely when he does manage to get assigned a task. He had dreams of being something other than a middling office worker once, but they all seem silly in the dim neon light of his suburban office hell. No, he’s not coming to happy hour, Jessica. Sorry, nah, he can’t make the company barbecue, Rob. Why is that, you ask? Because he’d rather croak.
Vices: Has mastered the art of bullshitting that he’ll “be right on that immediately,” should probably get a new job but is frankly too lazy.
The Blueprint: Peter in Office Space, the Narrator of Fight Club, Shaun of the Shaun of the Dead