No Carries, no Samanthas, no Charlottes, no Mirandas
My skin is tan, my hair fine
My hips invite you, my mouth like wine
Whose little girl am I? Anyone who has money to buy
What do they call me? My name is Sweet Thing
My name is Sweet Thing
—Nina Simone, “Four Women”
In most worlds, there are four kinds of girls. Depending when and where and what in the West you’re watching, you can choose with whom to ID. You can be: Meg, Jo, Beth, or Amy (Little Women); Dorothy, Sophia, Rose, or Blanche (Golden Girls); Stacey, Kristy, Mary Anne, or Claudia (The Babysitter’s Club); Sarah, Nancy, Rochelle, or Bonnie (The Craft); Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, or Samantha (Sex and the City); Hannah, Marnie, Shoshanna, or Jessa (Girls); Spencer, Emily, Hannah, or Aria (Pretty Little Liars).
Enlightenment feminism never tires of the quirkily individuated quartet. We want to believe in this matrix. We hope to feel that making different choices—what to do with our bodies, our hair—will free us and set us apart. In fact, it is having different choices that makes one girl different from the next. In (my) reality, most babes have such like-minded like-feathered besties that no cab driver, looking in the rear view mirror, can tell any real differences between us.
Spring Breakers—directed by Harmony Korine and starring Vanessa Hudgens as Brit, Ashley Benson as Candy, Rachel Korine as Cotty, Selena Gomez as Faith—is a story not of a girl group, but of a gang. Take the “all for one, one for all” motto of Foxfire, make it all for money, and bang, Korine’s fifth film implodes a century of fabulist foursomes. All four girls wear Starburst-hued bikinis, drive Vespas, drink beer. Three of them want the same thing, i.e. penis. Only the super-Christian, semi-naive Faith stands apart, and is—not coincidentally—the first to fall apart, and when just two girls are left, we can’t tell them apart.
This is one of the many strange accuracies of Spring Breakers. Already the most written-about cultural product of 2013, it’s a movie seemingly made to beg the subtext. Its characters, which also include the .gif-ready, Riff-Raff-inspired Alien (James Franco) and his inscrutable rival (Gucci Mane), are ciphers you cannot erase. You can only draw meanings. The meanings, mostly, are not comfortable. They’re not even that fun. Still, it’s hard to blame any interpretation on the director, Korine being a rad anti-ideologue who hasn’t read a book in a decade.
Instead we turn to our own desires. Breakers fires blanks at us; we fill them in. The un-individualism of Korine’s foursome is perhaps exactly what allows us to have unique, wide-ranging perspectives on their world. Or perhaps it’s his world, or ours.
Roll with us, all of us, as we remember Spring Breakers.