Some people live to work, others work to live, while still others prefer to live lives of leisure. Since the Puritans, American culture and literature have been dominated by individuals who have valued hard work. However, shortly after its founding, America managed to produce the leisurely Rip Van Winkle, who, over time, has been followed by kindred spirits such as, for instance, Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau, Twain’s Huck Finn, Melville’s Bartleby, Jack Kerouac, Diane di Prima, the Hippies, and Christopher McCandless. With the rise of the Indie Film movement of the 1990s, so came the rise of the slacker film. Films such as Slacker (1991), Singles (1992), Wayne’s World (1992), Reality Bites (1994), Clerks (1994), Kicking and Screaming (1995), Mallrats (1995), Chasing Amy (1997), The Big Lebowski (1998), and Office Space (1999) filled theatres over the decade with characters who take an unorthodox view of work and stress the importance of leisure in life. This essay discusses two slacker films, Richard Linklater’s Slacker (1991) and Kevin Smith’s Clerks (1994), which defined the slacker phenomenon in the 1990s and constituted two important landmarks in American independent film. While many of us may find the slacker pathetic and annoying, this essay argues that there is much value to be found in this healthy counterculture. By offering their perspectives on issues such as the Puritan work ethic, work-incited self-importance, leisure versus idleness and human relationships, Linklater and Smith join the preceding generations of slackers, providing a much needed balance to the American obsession with work and success.
Ames, Mark. Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion: From Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine and Beyond. Brooklyn, NY: Soft Skull, 2005. Print.
Baumgarten, Marjorie. “Slack Where We Started: Richard Linklater and John Pierson Ponder Slacker and Its Aftermath.” Austinchronicle.com. Austin Chronicle 29 June 2001. Web. 20 Jan. 2014.
Berecz, John M. Character in Chief: Personality and Character of George W. Bush and Past Presidents. Atlanta, GA: Humanics Trade Group, 2001. Print.
Calvin, John. The Institutes of the Christian Religion. Trans. Henry Beveridge. Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1845. Web. 25 Jan. 2014. PDF file.
Canby, Vincent. “Some Texas Eccentrics and Aunt Hallie.” New York Times 22 Mar. 1991: C8. Print.
Clerks. Dir. Kevin Smith. Perf. Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mews, Kevin Smith and Marilyn Ghigliotti. 1994. Buena Vista, 2005. DVD.
Diran, Mita. “30 hours of working and still going strooong.” 14 Dec. 2013, 2:47 a.m. Tweet.
Ebert, Roger. Rev. of Clerks. RogerEbert.com. Reviews 4 Nov. 1994. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.
Gini, Al. The Importance of Being Lazy: In Praise of Play, Leisure, and Vacations. London: Routledge, 2003. Print.
Hodgkinson, Tom. The Freedom Manifesto. New York: Harper, 2006. Print.
Honoré, Carl. In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed. London: Harper, 2005. EPUB file.
Lutz, Tom. Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America. New York: Farrar, 2006. Print.
Macor, Alison. Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids. Austin: U of Texas P, 2010. Print.
National Film Preservation Board. National Film Registry Titles 1989-2013. 26 Sep. 2014. Web. 22 Nov. 2014.
Pieper, Joseph. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. Trans. Gerald Malsbary. South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s P, 1998. Print.
Robinson, Joe. “The Vanishing Vacation: Why You Need a Break.” Nationalgeographic. com. 2007. Web. 10 Jan. 2014.
Russell, Bertrand. The Conquest of Happiness. London: Allen & Unwin, 1932. Print.
Savlov, Marc. Rev. of Slacker (DVD Criterion Collection). Austinchronicle. com. Austin Chronicle 10 Sep. 2004. Web. 11 Jan. 2014.
Savlov, Marc. “Slack to the Future: Austin gets older; Slacker stays forever young.” Austinchronicle.com. Austin Chronicle 21 Jan. 2011. Web. 5 Jan. 2014.
Slacker. Dir. Richard Linklater. Perf. Richard Linklater, Rudy Basquez, Jean Caffeine and Jan Hockey. 1991. Criterion, 2004. DVD.
Smith, Chris. “Register Dogs.” New York Magazine 24 Oct. 1994: 50-53. Print.
Steiner, Susie. “Top Five Regrets of the Dying.” Guardian.com. Guardian 1 Feb. 2012. Web. 20 Jan. 2014.
Walters, Chris. “Slacker: Freedom’s Just Another Word for Nothing to Do.” Criterion.com. Criterion 13 Sep. 2004. Web. 10 Jan. 2014.