Varsity Blues: A Review
1990’s Football Movies at the Peak
Varsity Blues came out when I was in high school. The plot is simply about a guy who wants to get out of his hometown whose culture is completely dominated by high school football. It’s a straight-forward and predictable plot.
I didn’t play football in high school, and even though I lived in a suburb of Houston, I don’t have an undying love for high school football. I do enjoy a character fighting back against weird cultural norms as well as the late 90’s teen movie genre.
The Late 90's
For me, I never saw Varsity Blues in the 90’s. It was not a film my group of friends were into, but I loved films like it with this vibe of winning and overcoming the structural ills of society. Unlike Remember the Titans, Varsity Blues rarely comes up on TV, but I kept looking out. It has been much less popular.
I tried watching it back then, but I missed out on the opportunity. I kept looking out. I would check cable and later on-demand. I could buy or rent it, but I wasn’t going to pay a bunch of money for a movie I wasn’t even sure if it was good or not. As time went on, it became less about movie, and more about this delayed sort of gratification.
I continued to look in the cheap movies or libraries for years. It became an odd minor obsession, and I was okay with never seeing it. The fascination in the movie meant more to me.
I had really enjoyed James Van Der Beek in Dawson’s Creek, and I thought maybe his career would have taken off after this film.
Finally, the year is 2021, Varsity Blues comes to HBO Max. I watched it the next day. I couldn’t wait. Even though I have read the plot a few times, I still wanted to see the movie play out. The plot played out, and I had a great time.
I felt very satisfied. The 90’s style of movie shooting was very apparent. I even saw the more minor things like a dolly zoom here or there.
I saw other things too that I was surprised they dealt with, and I’d like to write about:
- They had a sex education class, but we all know, there would not be any such class in rural Texas, certainly not in high school.
- It failed the Bechdel test (it has two women, but that’s it), and I suppose that shouldn’t surprise anyone from the 90’s.
- In another note to women, it does address this myth that women can only escape bad places by having men as their heroes, but it could have gone further with the cheerleader trying to ride the locally famous quarterback to a future outside of the small town.
- It definitely highlighted how men love men and men stuff like football.
- The movie did highlight white privilege as the football players stole the police car. It made light of the police and their interaction with the players.
- There was one black character, and surprisingly, they addressed the issue of race in a short dialogue where he is used for his running skills but not given the glory of scoring points because he’s black.
- It was definitely a time capsule of how concussions were dealt with in football while lightly treading on the potential for mental health breakdowns.
Overall, the movie was solid. I would very much watch it again. I felt good at the end, and it satisfied that fantasy of everyone being able to triumph while vanquishing the personality cult of the coach. I’m glad I was finally able to enjoy it after all these years even though I suspect, I’ve been the only one dying to see it for 20+ years. Most likely, of all the thought that has been put towards the movie in the 21st century, I have a monopoly.
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