Michael Hagan ’15
On September 12, students from colleges and universities across Rhode Island descended upon Roxy nightclub on Washington Street in downtown Providence to participate in the event that provided the lion’s share of footage for this video. The event and video, produced by social media upstart I’m Shmacked, featured primarily URI students. These Rhody Rams so generously volunteered their likenesses, livers, and such inspired quotations as “I’m fucked up as shit right now” and “Welcome to the Ocean State, bitch” in order that the good folks at I’m Shmacked could advance their brand and grow their profits.
The strange phenomenon that is I’m Shmacked leads one to wonder what is the greater suppressor of inhibition: alcohol or the camera? Something changes when the camera rolls. Parties become performances. Drinks more often end up poured over another’s head or chest than into the pourer’s mouth. People get louder; they address the camera instead of their peers. These parties don’t intensify organically; they are productions. Participants are putting on their best renditions of what has been first sold to them as the ideal form of a college party.
We Providence College students know a thing or two about partying. And yes, this has always been a revenue source for local package stores and bars. Students buy drinks, pay cover, and order buffalo chicken pizzas. There is a simple exchange of money for goods and services here. But what about business models like I’m Shmacked that capitalize on campus culture to build a profitable brand around exaggerated portrayals of college parties? How do students benefit from this exchange? How did the girl who passed out on Washington Street on September 12 benefit or stand to benefit? The same question applies to the University of Delaware Rugby Team, whose conduct during the Newark, Delaware stop in the I’m Shmacked tour led to the team’s five-year suspension four days earlier. These students made mistakes and suffered; I’m Shmacked indifferently reaped footage and profit. Friars know better than to allow themselves to be exploited like this, right?
In the past couple of days, a music video featuring recognizable and underage Providence College students filmed at a house on Pinehurst Avenue has been circulating via web link around the PC community. The video was picked up by popular website barstoolsports.com before being prudently locked from public view on YouTube. All aesthetic assessments of the song “Gone” aside, the video was made up of footage similar to material I’m Shmacked collects in order to advance its brand: students putting on a performance for a camera. The video was anything but original, participants acted against their better judgment, and I’m pleased for the sake of the students portrayed that it is, at least for the time being, “Gone” from the public eye.
I do not criticize the lyrical or performance ability of the song’s artist, but the fact of the matter is that the material of the video was tasteless. The video’s subjects were trying to conform to an abstraction. In the rush to live-up to this image of what pop-culture thinks our parties ought to be like, boundaries were crossed, inhibitions were lost, and clothes came off. But does this image really match PC? How does this video speak to the sense of camaraderie shared between partygoers at our small college with big school energy? It fails even to attempt to represent the sense of comfort and security amidst madness shared by revelers at what really are the best of PC parties. And what about the less glamorous though perhaps more enriching side of party culture? Sunday morning struggle-brunch in Ray, laughing about and learning from weekend antics, and helping out a friend who might not be having the best of nights are all parts of the PC social experience. But this video simply relies on the all too common glorification of male libido and objectifying portrayal of women in order to conform to somebody else’s brand. It captures none of the best parts of party culture at Providence College. It tests the degree of easiness with which sex and fear of missing out sell. PC students participating in the video misrepresent themselves and their school. The true PC social brand far exceeds what this video seeks to conform it to in order to break into a lucrative market. Let’s not sell out on that brand. If they were aware they were being filmed, the subjects of this video were far too eager to allow our campus culture to be misrepresented and exploited.
I’m glad the video is “Gone,” but it’s memory should remain as a lesson. Our social scene and campus culture is something that has been built up through decades. The fun-loving reputation of Providence College, try as some administrators may to suppress it, is rooted in friendship and campus camaraderie. Most other colleges and universities cannot make such a claim. This is a tradition we should be both proud and defensive of. We should not allow anything, be it I’m Shmacked or any other pop-culture influence, to undermine us.
Be safe, be yourself, and party on.