Buzzkill: How “Project X” is Killing Kids

(Warning: This article contains spoilers for the film Project X. Not that anything I could say would really spoil it.)

The movie Project X  has been getting headlines not for how good it is (it’s not) but rather for how many kids are throwing copycat parties with dangerous, and in one case, deadly consequences.

Produced by Todd Phillips (The Hangover), Project X  depicts a birthday party that spirals out of control, causing massive property damage, in a quiet suburban neighborhood in Pasadena, California. (The movie even has an apology to the Pasadena Police Department onscreen just before it begins.)

Right now, a lot more people may feel the filmmakers owe them more than just an apology. Teens inspired by the movie are throwing Project X parties trying to recapture the “fun” being had by the kids in the movie. I place fun in quotes because, while the party does indeed look fun, the police in riot gear flashbomb-grenading the kids later in the movie does not. I apparently have an ability to connect dots which these teens lack.

In the most recent development, a Houston teen was murdered at one of these parties, shot by an assailant who opened fire at the party “for no reason”, according to another partygoer. (See the link to the news article below.)

So the question becomes, as it always does, what responsibility the filmmakers of Project X  have to the people whose property is damaged or to people who have lost family or friends to the violent and out of control behavior at parties directly inspired by the content of their film.

This question is not new, it comes around every so often, just as it did several years back when a man was burned by someone emulating the criminal actions depicted in the movie The Money Train. This time, however, I think there is weight to the argument that writers Matt Drake and Michael Bacall and director Nima Nourizadeh, as well as Phillips, do bear some responsibility for these damages. Not because they’ve chosen to depict this scenario of the party spiraling out of control; movies depict stories, and sometimes stories are about things we wouldn’t want to happen in the real world. That’s not something we should hold against filmmakers, or storytellers of any kind. With that attitude, we’d lose a huge amount of our ability to tell stories of any kind, but comedies would be next to impossible. No. The problem here is their choice to end the film with a lame back peddle, showing us the horrible consequences of a party gone wrong, but then giving us reactions that sell the idea of how good the outcome is for those involved.

Party-promoting teen Costa is seen being interviewed on TV dressed like a suburban pimp. Birthday boy Thomas has a scene with his father, fishing out dad’s Mercedes from the pool no less, where dad can barely contain his glee that his loser son did something “cool”. There’s the walk of triumph through the school halls, being cheered like heroes for nearly getting everyone burned to death. And of course, in the end, Thomas gets the girl.

Yes, of course the movie has some little print captions that say the kids are up on charges or dealing with minor problems resulting from their foray into absolute bedlam. But still…that ending. It’s no wonder kids keep trying to recreate that legendary party, to give themselves that makeover into coolness that will get them the hottest girl in school and keep bullies from picking on them for all time. Who wouldn’t want that? And Project X gives it to them, despite the fact that’s the most unlikely scenario of all time.

Perhaps that’s the thing kids are most imitating: the irresponsibility of Phillips and company. Where the kids in the movie hand out alcohol and pills, the filmmakers themselves are the ultimate enablers, handing out an irresistible fantasy. And in this case, a deadly one.

As the neighbor in the film says, it’s time to shut this party down.

Read the article and watch video here.

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2 Responses

  1. This is ridicculous. Are you really blaming movie-makers for the actions of someone else’s children? That’ms like blamming the mortal combat game for a kid’s killing spree. It’s not the movies the tv shoes or the games, it’s called bad parenting. First off, any parent dumb enough to trust their teenage child for a whole wknd alone is an idiot. Second, you are the parent. You should dictate what your minor child watches and how often. You should be instilling common sense (which society is lacking lately) and the ability to distinquish reality from fantasy, and that nothing seen on screen should ever be replicated in real life.
    If we start blaming the entertainment industry for our failed parenting than we are going to ruin one of our country’s most importantimportant foundations:FREEDOM of speech. If we start demanding apologies from them for every little word or action we as a country no longer have that freedom of speech. We will be just another censored and monitored nation.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kim. Keep in mind that right of Freedom of Speech, which I also cherish, protects you from the threat of arrest, not the threat of financial backlash from your audience. I never suggested the makers of “Project X” should go to jail, their constitutional rights are not in question.

      I do, however, think they bear some responsibility for events that happened at parties DIRECTLY BASED ON their film, yes. And I think we, as an audience, have a right to ask filmmakers to consider what they might inspire when making their art.

      Again, though we disagree, I do thank you for your time and response.

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