I’m Shmacked, the Smithsonian Folkways of binge drinking, to return to Ann Arbor, record the drunken stupidity of Michigan’s most privileged for posterity

shmacked2015

A few weeks ago, The Center for Michigan, inspired in part by my experiences inside the University of Michigan emergency room on a football Saturday last year, published a series of insightful articles about game day binge drinking on Michigan’s college campuses. As we discussed here at the time, they didn’t just talk with university administrators and public health professionals, but they actually spent time among college students, documenting their alcohol-related pre and post-game activities, as well as the subsequent results. And, now, this weekend, during the big Michigan v. Michigan State game, there’s going to be another crew in Ann Arbor documenting our local binge drinking scene. Only, this time, the focus is going to be a little different. When the videographers from the company I’m Shmacked show up, their objective won’t be to shed light on the dangers and societal costs of binge drinking, but to both glorify and commoditize it. And U-M administrators, you can be sure, aren’t too happy about it.

Earlier this year, in a speech before U-M’s Greek Life community, U-M President Mark Schlissel said the following, referencing a 2012 video shoot on campus by this same company. “The value of (your) degrees,” he told them, “(won’t be determined by) the kids who receive the Rhodes Scholarships and the Fulbright Scholarships, and the famous professors… or the National Medal for the Arts that our faculty won this past week. It’s going to be the ‘Shmacked’ videos.” While I think he might have been overstating things a bit, it’s certainly the case that the narrative about this university is shifting. Just ask the editors of Playboy, who, a few months ago, pronounced the University of Michigan a top-ten party school.

I should add that I don’t have a problem with young people drinking and enjoying themselves. I drank to excess on occasion when I was younger, and I wouldn’t deny anyone that particular right of passage, as long as they can do so responsibly. What bothers me, though, is the glorification of stupidity, excess and privilege that exists alongside the drinking in these videos. It’s one thing to occasionally sit around and drink too much with your friends as you’re feeling your way along the path to adulthood. It’s another to say on camera that you’re objective is to get blackout drunk, and infer that it’s some kind of right afforded you by the fact that your parents are rich, which is pretty much the subtext that propels this series. [Someone in an earlier Shmacked video shot in Ann Arbor tells the video crew, “If you don’t go to Michigan, you’re a peasant!”] And it becomes doubly gross when you add the layer of commerce on top of it like the folks at I’m Shmacked have done with their line of “It’s a Movement” clothing. It’s apparently not enough to be a drunk, privileged white douchebag with your frat brothers. You now need to identify as part of a larger “movement” of young people who, like you, experience no consequences, which is really what this is about. It’s about the creation of self-obsessed, obnoxious army of Paris Hilton wannabes who can gleefully do what they want, when they want, with no ramifications.

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What these folks at I’m Shmacked are trying to create is essentially the equivalent of Girls Gone Wild for binge drinking. They’re leveraging the fact that drunken young people want to be on camera to essentially create free content that can then be commoditized on Youtube, etc. It’s gross. It’s dirty. And, in my opinion, it’s far more disgusting that the binge drinking itself. But, as long as drunk kids are willing to play along, it’s not going to stop.

Here, for those who aren’t familiar with their work, is the 2012 video I’m Shmacked produced on the campus of UM.

Lastly, here’s wishing all of my Ann Arbor friends good luck this weekend, navigating the circus of shitty celebrity chefs, exploitainment companies, ESPN personalities, and other parasitic creatures drawn to the white hot lightbulb that it Michigan’s resurgant football program.

[The announcement at the top of the page about the return of Shmacked to Ann Arbor comes via the company’s Twitter account.]

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10 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Posted October 15, 2015 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    If UM was smart, they’d somehow respond to every person who favorited that tweet from I’m Shmacked.

  2. Jean Henry
    Posted October 16, 2015 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    Thank you for wishing me luck this weekend but I won’t need it. Like most locals who choose to do so, I work my weekend around MI football games without any trouble. Tonight I’m going to see Juliette Binoche perform in Antigone as translated by Anne Carson. This same play sold out in Paris, London, and at BAM IN New York. I’ll hit the Farmers market Saturday to get supplies to put up green tomato salsa. Then two soccer games, a dinner party. Sunday morning we’re heading to Detroit to see old friends and go to Lisa Waud’s Flower House opening. Then more soccer and maybe a long dog walk by the river. I see U-M students so rarely that, when I do, it’s a novelty. people watching, nothing more. Hope you have a good weekend too. Har-who?

  3. Elliott
    Posted October 16, 2015 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    My guess is that UM will have a team of people on the street this Saturday looking to intervene wherever I’M Schmacked sets up their cameras. I doubt it will do any good, though. The time to do something was years ago when things began trending in this direction. Now it’s all damage control.

  4. Posted October 16, 2015 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    First, I’m rather impressed that the douchebag knew the word “peasant”. My favorite Kids in the Hall skit used that word as an insult, and I spent many years in the 90s also using it. Good times!

    Next, I’ve said before on this very blog–what are the consequences for these kids? There are none. The kids who trashed the ski lodge…whatever happened there? Did anyone see jail time? (I’m pretty sure they didn’t). Did they have to go and work in the kitchen and live in a small room and put up with Mrs. Garrett to make the money to pay for it? No, I’m sure not. We have a stone cold alcoholic in my family and one of the most frustrating things is that she has absolutely no consequences for her actions–her health is better than mine, she doesn’t get hangovers/vomiting, and people sort of cater to her during her binges. This kind of black out drink/no consequences thing scares the shit out of me.

    And Jean, I’m with you! Going to hot yoga on Saturday morning, then Pop-X, then having folks over for dinner on Saturday…won’t even think twice (or once) about the game.

  5. Eel
    Posted October 16, 2015 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    It says “tickets” on the image above. Do they sell tickets to their binge drinking events?

  6. Kim
    Posted October 16, 2015 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Have any universities successfully gone frat-free?

  7. Meta
    Posted October 16, 2015 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Speaking of fraternities, have you seen this headline yet?

    “Fraternities Hire Trent Lott To Lobby For Limiting Campus Sexual Assault Investigations”

    National fraternity and sorority groups have hired former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) to lobby for legislation that would prevent colleges from punishing certain students accused of sexual assault.

    Lott is among a group of lobbyists who have collected $140,000 from the “Safe Campus Coalition” so far this year, according to congressional disclosure filings. The coalition is made up of the National Panhellenic Conference, North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), Kappa Alpha Order, the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and the Sigma Nu fraternity.

    The lobbyists are helping the groups push for the Safe Campus Act, which would restrict colleges from punishing students for sexual assault unless the police are also involved. Other illegal behaviors — such as theft or physical assault — would not be held to this requirement. The proposal is uniformly opposed by advocacy and activist groups that work with rape victims.

    Read more:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/fraternities-trent-lott-campus-sexual-assault_561d63e4e4b028dd7ea57c9a

  8. 88
    Posted October 16, 2015 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    This is what happens when you start taking fewer in-state kids and more wealthy kids from the east coast.

  9. Taco Farts
    Posted October 16, 2015 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Kim, I don’t have time to read this right now, but you may find some answers:

    http://www.newsweek.com/inside-colleges-killed-frats-good-231346

    There are also smaller colleges that have frats, but just local, not national frats. I think in such cases both the size of the school and not being associated with national organizations can help quite a bit.

  10. Casper
    Posted October 16, 2015 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    I ask this in all seriousness. Have there been concussion lawsuits filed against universities by former football players? I know it’s becoming an issue in the pro world, but I’m not sure if it’s trickled down beyond that yet. If so, I wonder if we might see more schools moving away from the sport.

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