During the hot summer months, kids all over the country pack their bags and head off for a few weeks of fun outdoor adventures at sleepaway camp.
In the 1980’s, sleepaway camp wasn’t an option for a lower middle-class family like mine. Latchkey kids spent the summer parked in front of the TV.
But don’t pity me! Thanks to the wonders of the VHS, I never felt bad missing out on camp. Instead I felt relieved! (With the exception of The Parent Trap (1961) when I developed a hope that I’d find my long-lost twin and reunite my divorced parents.)
Here’s everything I learned about summer camp from movies:
1. You Will Die!
Thanks to Friday the 13th franchise it was obvious that if Jason at Camp Crystal Lake didn’t kill you then he’d slaughter your sex-crazed counselors. The slasher film Sleepaway Camp (1983) focused on another revenge-oriented sociopath. Even poor Charlie Brown wasn’t safe. He and his gang were stuck in dangerous storms and suffered attacks by a gang of evil rafters in Race For Your Life Charlie Brown! (1970).
2. Your Counselors Will Suck!
Bill Murray starred as the wacky head counselor in Meatballs (1979). His pep talk centered on the fact that “all the really good-looking girls will still go out with the guys from Mohawk, ‘cause they got all the money.” Therefore, in the end whatever you do “doesn’t really matter.” In Wet Hot American Summer (could the title be any worse?) counselors were miserable weirdos who hated camp as much as the kids. Ernest Goes to Camp (1987) was set at a camp for juvenile delinquents with the bumbling character, Ernest P. Worrell in charge. Even cute Michael J. Fox and Nancy McKeon (Joe) were lousy counselors in Poison Ivy (1985), more focused on each other than the kids in their care. Movies like these made me miss school.
3. You Will Lose Your Virginity!
Maybe at the time, this point was a draw. But now, forget Jason and his creepy hockey mask for a minute. This is the REALLY scary stuff. Little Darlings (1980) starring Tatum O’Neil, Kristy McNichol and Matt Dillon focuses on a competition between the two young girls and who will lose their virginity first. Although I can’t fault them for chasing after the ever-hot Dillon, the race between the little girls to lose their virginity (while smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol) now gives me the shakes.
Forget fresh air and exercise. The TV kept me busy all summer and taught me some invaluable lessons. Is it any wonder that I’m scared to send my children to sleepaway camp? I wonder if these movies affected you too. Are there others that I missed?