Perhaps only in America must high school seniors jump through so many hoops to get liquor. This is best exemplified in Superbad, where a group of seniors ends up with a couple of eccentric police officers, in late-night parties filled with illicit substances, and on a bus with a crazy person who smashes their bottle of vodka all because they aren’t able to just go into a liquor store and buy alcohol without being carded. Of course, Superbad exaggerates how difficult it actually is to buy liquor underage, and no teenager will in their right mind get a fake ID with “McLovin” as their first name, no last name, and 25 as their age when they look 15. Likewise, I know of few teenagers who end up getting drunk with police officers, pretending they’re 25 even though the cops know they aren’t because they’re visibly underage, and then go to arrest criminals and burn cars with them… and then to make it to a party just in time to impress their girl crushes, booze in hand.
However, Superbad underscores America’s unique age restrictions by making it all seem absurd. Indeed, it is absurd. As you graduate from high school, you’re able to vote, drive, and enlist in the military. You will be expected to pay taxes, and in September, you might even be going off to college. Even so, you’re not able to legally drink or smoke. You may be shipped abroad to fight in a war, yet back home, you can’t even enter a bar and order a beer unless you show up with a fake ID or find some other way to make the bartender believe you’re over 21. Heck, you might even be married and have kids and still not be able to legally drink or smoke.
Every other country in the West has a drinking and smoking lower than ours. Most of Europe’s drinking and smoking age is 18, and our neighbors up in Canada also have it at 18, or at most 19, depending on the province. The idea is that once you graduate high school and can vote, you are a legal adult, and should be treated as such. Of course, drinking and smoking aren’t healthy, but as legal adults, at age 18 or 19, you’re able to make that choice for yourself. Only in America is our drinking and smoking age a full three years after legal adulthood, so you may only legally sip on a cocktail when you’re in junior year at college.
While Superbad is indeed a classic teenage film, I suggest that it also has a deeper message. It begs us to reconsider just how nonsensical and puritanical our laws on alcohol are. While Superbad might make sense to the average American viewer, it doesn’t resonate in the same way with a European. While in America we make teenagers and young adults do stupid things to get alcohol, in most other developed countries, once you turn 18 you can simply go and buy yourself a can of beer. Of course, all the teenagers end up drinking, often to excess, in Superbad. The moral of the story: there are all of these rules about alcohol in America that don’t make sense, and even so, teenagers, like teenagers everywhere else in the world, will find a way to drink. Perhaps then it falls upon us to make laws that will not make popular activities illegal and to respect youth rights alongside the basic premise that a legal adult is just that, an adult capable of making decisions that may impact their health or others.
Link to Superbad trailer.