Disclaimer: Hello, my name is Caitlin Burns and I’ve lived my entire life stuck on the same sad shores and streets seen in Spring Breakers. This admittedly fluffy movie hits close to home. Almost every aspect of my life directly relates back to the tourism industry. I honestly think the reason my family wound up here is partly due to the “spring break forever” illusion, though it was indeed nice to grow up at a seaside motel. Before sitting down to write about this movie, seemingly on cue, some disembodied voice remarked at the egocentric meaninglessness of picking apart something as apparently surface-level as the art-house version of Girls Gone Wild. The wild irony in this is that Spring Breakers specifically exists to shed light on nihilism and social expectations urging us not to dig deep, thus to give in to the idea that “my dumb friends will think I’m boring and/or full of shit” is, at this point, inexcusable. If you find yourself rolling your eyes at the banality of dissecting pop cinema, fuck you. That’s all. Get ready to look at all my shit. Seriously, this is part ONE of THREE.
Rather than give you a play-by-play of the predictable plot, (read that here) or give you some sappy drivel about the state of the youth in this country, I feel it’s more my place to unearth meta-myths, iconography, astrology-laced sprinkles of Jung, purposely leaving it open-ended for your own additional analysis. And since I got trolled so hard for doubting the political innocence of Perfume’s latest music video, I’ll attempt to leave out the truly paranoid tidbits. I realize I’m fixating on the likely-not-even-present symbolism instead of the much-more-easily-hypable, delicious cinematography. I’ll be gathering some good shots to celebrate the excellent Florida Noir visuals once I can get my hands on a good torrent. (help a sis out plz) Anyhoo, onwards—
Peter, Pools, Power — how Spring Breakers unites spirituality and debauchery.
note the sideways cross necklace
- It’s never specified where the girls are from. It’s presumably some sad, land-locked liberal arts college, (though it was filmed at two waterfront campuses in Sarasota, just an hour south of St. Pete.) The destination, however, is a huge deal. Saint Petersburg: Floridian vacation headquarters, location of my harborside alma mater, founded in honor of the perpetually politically troubled Russian capital. The city’s namesake, Saint Peter, has an interesting back-story that eerily falls in line with the course of the movie.
- Peter (from Petros – an ancient word meaning ‘rock’ – as in, the ‘rock’ upon which the church was built) was a fisherman, later an Apostle of Jesus, eventually the leader of the Apostles, then the first Pope.
- The Liberation of Saint Peter is a story told in the Acts of the Apostles in which Saint Peter is rescued from prison by an angel. (angels/aliens, minor differences.)
- In the context of the Gnostic gospels, it’s described that Peter deeply despised Mary Magdalene. To quote his writings: “Make Mary leave us, for [all] females do not deserve life.” —to which Jesus replies “Well, I’ll just make her into a man.” In contemporary pop-religious stories, Peter is wholly blamed for creating patriarchy as we know it.
- The upside-down/satanic cross is formally referred to as Saint Peter’s Cross. “He requested this form of crucifixion as he felt he was unworthy to be crucified in the same manner that Jesus died.” (In multiple scenes Faith wears a sideways cross, as though she isn’t sure to align with Peter or Christ.)
- Basically, I’m arguing that in Spring Breakers, Saint Petersburg is intended to represent a city built on false/abusive male authority, filled with instances of naive intentions gone terribly awry. I don’t think that’s unreasonable to infer, it simply underlined how I already felt about Saint Petersburg.
jealous of these bitches
- Baptism — In one scene, the girls are draped on the edge of a pool, Faith is droning on about how they’re “finding themselves” in this mystical, magical Eden that is St. Pete. At the peak of her monologue she dips under the water. As she levitates beneath the surface for a split second, we can hear her friends making fun of her odd spiritual tone. They spit water at each other, sapping whatever holiness Faith had hoped to convey.
- I grew up in a pool at a beachside motel on Anna Maria island. Some days I would stay in the water so long, it would literally blind me. The chlorine and other toxic chemicals in pool water are extremely corrosive to your eyes, skin, and hair — definitely do not drink it. In Spring Breakers, though they’re along the shore, we never see them submerged in the Gulf of Mexico, only in a swimming pool. The purifying characteristics of water are lost when it’s just a cocktail of antibacterials and algae-growth inhibitors. Still, Faith convinces herself that their week-long chemical binge is a religious journey.
- Though I’ve mentioned it too often before in other analyses, it’s not fair to cast aside the obvious correlation between religion+water symbolism and Neptune/Poseidon, God of the Seas, ruler of the sign of Pisces. There’s uber-haute dreamy, delusional, hedonistic vibes throughout this whole experience. I mean, Spring Break falls right smack in the middle of the sun being in Pisces for a reason — that escapism is encouraged, and often desperately necessary. At the time of the release of this film, March 15th, 2013 — 5 major celestial bodies (Neptune, Mercury, Chiron, Venus and the Sun) were in Pisces. It’s like the solar system was telling us “have fun, just remember it’s not real!” (Pisces Rising/Aries Moon— I have to say the recent shift of this stellium from Pisces to Aries has felt fucking glorious.)
- So, Saint Peter denies females spiritual authority within the artificial constructs of the early church, — and somehow I’ve connected that to a deranged French director creating a film involving young Monarchs imbibing to the point of transcending power. As soon as you rid yourself of inhibition, you have power. Through chemicals Faith finds peace, Cottie encounters the physical consequences of hubris, Brit and Candy take the plunge to the ultimate depths of power, disgusting though they are.
- Each girl represents a different style of female power. Faith first displays a certain kind of power by putting up boundaries. Her innocence and (ugh, I didn’t want to say it) apparent virginity, are what allows her to get away unscathed from the misadventure, though it was her substance consumption that allowed her to get crazy for Jesus in the first place. There was no weakness in deciding to leave, it was her exercise of power, tears and all. I was shocked at how she so suddenly disappeared from the film. During the first half, she was the most interesting, well-developed character, then she was gone.
- Cottie is an interesting transitional character. I researched a bit, because “Cottie” is an odd name, especially compared to banal Faith, Brit and Candy. It is apparently derived from the french word “Côte” meaning coast, shore, riverbank, etc. The point at which water meets the land; where body and soul connect. Because of the physical damage to her body, the pain that no amount of intoxication could cure, she was unable to continue the spiritual power quest with Brit and Candy.
- The climax of the movie is Brit and Candy killing a lot of black gang members for no real reason at all. In unicorn-adorned ski masks and bikinis, no less. (Alien is dead. GET IN THE BOAT AND LEAVE, Y’ALL) This scene was viscerally awe-inducing, but it hurt deep inside. But that’s the point — in life, when you’re greeted with power-snatching opportunities, it usually is a morally corrupt and risk-filled idea to go forward and take your loot, but most of the time, we do it anyway. It’s how we become Gods.
To summarize these scattered views, what I took away from Spring Breakers was this: religious institutions encourage us to despise ourselves for our impulses, and it’s time we legitimized the idea that cleanliness is nowhere near godliness.
I hope you come back to see the additional perspectives. Next up will be Spring Breakers WTF pt. 2 : Britney, Bridges, Boredom. Get pumped about it. I suggest subscribing (check the sidebar!) or using Feedly to grab my RSS. Who knows— Maybe I’ll address race issues and describe my own St. Pete-based bad ideas.
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